With a resurgence of bird flu and Chinese scientists so far unable to track down the H7N9 influenza virus’ animal host, people are preparing for a possible pandemic by buying face masks and hand sanitizers. That makes some sense.
Chinese authorities are struggling to identify the source and mode of transmission of the virus, which has sickened 77 people and killed 16 so far, mostly in China’s eastern provinces. There is no evidence that H7N9 is spreading easily among people but humans also have no natural immunity so vaccine would make the most sense. Sinovac Biotech Ltd., the first company to get regulatory approval for a swine flu shot in 2009, says it is preparing to make a vaccine for the new virus and they could have a first batch of the ready for commercial use in late July, if needed.
But it will be expensive due to demand. So what about the poor people? The government is encouraging them – along with apparently expendable old people who believe in that Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine stuff, to buy a popular herb called ban lan gen, or blue root, hoping that traditional remedies will ward off the latest bird flu virus. Well, it will in some cases, that is what the placebo effect is.
“Chinese people associate ban lan gen with anti-virus,” Shen Jiangang, assistant director for research at the University of Hong Kong’s school of Chinese medicine, told Bloomberg News. Indeed, it can relieve bacterial conjunctivitis in eye drops and has an antiviral effect in test tubes, it just doesn’t work against the flu that anyone has ever seen. But ‘antiviral’ seems to be good enough. “So when they hear about bird flu, they immediately think it might be effective to protect themselves although there is no experimental evidence.”
It’s a Communist dictatorship, you have 500 million people to gain experimental evidence on. What are they going to do, sue you if it doesn’t work?