World Health Organization’s latest update tracks where H5N1, or bird flu, has been reported around the world. So far, 207 people have been infected and 115 of those have died.
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Executives at Embrex know first hand that fear of avian influenza, or bird flu, is quite real. The fact that ABC TV is airing a movie (“Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America”) Tuesday night only makes the threat of a pandemic seem even more real, even if as some critics charge it is sensationalizing the threat.
Embrex (www.embrex.com )inoculates poultry against a variety of threats on a global basis, and when the company disclosed its earnings Monday after the markets close it issued a warning about future earnings. Because of growing worries about the bird flu, people are eating less chicken. Therefore there is less demand for Embrex services.
“Because of the impact outbreaks of avian influenza have had on poultry consumption in a number of countries around the world, the first quarter of 2006 has been an extremely difficult one for the poultry industry both in the U.S. because of exports, and overseas,” Embrex Chief Executive Officer Randall Marcuson said in a statement.
Embrex (Nasdaq: EMBX) did grow revenues 4 percent to $13.2 million over the same quarter a year ago and also improved its profits to $909,000, or 11 cents a share, from $610,000 or 8 cents. The improvement came in part doe to cost and expense reduction efforts, Marcuson said.
The company also won U.S. regulatory approval of a new vaccine (Inovocox) and certification of its new North Carolina production plant in April. However, Marcuson said the flu scare continues to threaten future sales.
“For the balance of 2006, given the uncertainty facing the industry around avian influenza, we are reluctant to provide any guidance concerning our performance, but we will continue focusing on cost and expense containment, demonstrating Inovocox to producers in the U.S., and pushing forward, internationally, especially in Brazil and Mexico,” he explained.
The ABC movie — heavily promoted with plenty of scenes depicting stacked bodies — has led a number of health organizations to publish facts and information online about the bird flu threat.
For example, Health and Human Services has updated its bird flu web site (www.pandemicflu.gov/news/birdfluinamerica.html ) with a viewers’ guide devoted strictly to the movie and questions it is likely to generate.
“The film does depict scenarios that could unfold should a severe pandemic ever develop, including limited availability of antivirals and vaccines as well as the potential for disruption of supplies, medicines and other essential services,” the site warns.
“The film also illustrates the expected months-long delay in developing an effective vaccine against a pandemic strain of influenza once it emerges. This is why, at the President’s request, the Congress approved funding for the Department of Health and Human Services to make significant financial investments to improve the technology for vaccine development and to build up our domestic vaccine production capacity, to ensure more rapid availability of vaccine for the population in a pandemic.”
(GlaxoSmithKline was among a handful of pharmaceutical firms that won more than $1 billion in contracts last week to prepare for vaccine production if needed.)
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To this point, 207 people have been infected and 115 people have died from bird flu with cases reported in 48 countries.
The government keeps reminded us that no bird flu cases have been reported in the U.S. But the fear is there – and astute governments at all levels are preparing contingency plans.
Just in case.