Apr 14, 2005 (CIDRAP News) –Vietnamese officials today announced that three more human cases of H5N1 influenza have occurred since April 2 and said the virus appears to be changing into a less virulent, faster-spreading form.One of the patients, a 21-year-old woman from the northern province of Quang Ninh, is co-infected with HIV and H5N1, Reuters news service reported today. She was hospitalized in late March with fever and coughing, Nguyen Van Thich, head of the Center for Preventive Medicine in Quang Ninh, told Reuters. He described the woman as having no fever and being in stable condition.The World Health Organization (WHO) said it was seeking more information on her case from Vietnam.”There are possible public-health implications, including the potential in any person with immunodeficiency to display greater virus excretion and more chronic infection,” said Peter Cordingley, spokesman for the WHO’s Western Pacific Regional Office in Manila, as reported by Agence France-Presse (AFP). “We need to study such patients carefully and encourage Vietnamese clinicians to do so and share their findings.”The WHO said the Vietnamese government had notified it of eight confirmed H5N1 cases, although it is not clear whether the woman from Quang Ninh was among them. Two cases mentioned in a WHO news release today involve people from the northern provinces of Hung Yen and Ha Tay who are still alive, the WHO announced, without giving any other details about the patients.”The other six cases are thought to have been detected prior to 2 April,” the WHO news release said. “WHO is seeking further details from the authorities on (these) six cases.”The numbers bring Vietnam’s unofficial tally to 41 cases from 18 cities and provinces since the current outbreak began in mid-December. Of those cases, 16 people have died and 6 remain under medical care, the WHO said.Dr. Nguyen Tran Hien, director of Vietnam’s National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, was quoted in state media today as saying that tests on the H5N1 virus show it is changing. Recent tests indicate its virulence has decreased but it is spreading more quickly, according to his remarks as reported by Reuters.Some samples of the virus have been sent for more testing in the United States, Hien added. Final results are expected later this month.Despite the continued human cases of H5N1 flu, the Vietnamese agriculture ministry reported that poultry outbreaks have greatly declined. The only reported outbreaks are in the southern province of Tra Vinh, in the Mekong Delta, the Reuters story noted.See also: WHO news releasehttp://www.who.int/csr/don/2005_04_14/en/
Everybody wants their own breakout original drama series, and TNT is hoping The Alienist is theirs. Not that they haven’t had good original shows before, but none of them have reached the heights of HBO’s, AMC’s, or FX’s efforts. The Alienist certainly has all the right ingredients to pull it off: the promise of a twisty mystery, gruesome crime scenes and lovingly detailed period sets. Most importantly, it has Cary Fukunaga, who directed the first season of HBO’s True Detective. You know, the good one. Solely judging by the one episode we’ve seen so far, The Alienist doesn’t look like it’ll quite reach those highs, but it could still turn in some thrills if the rest of the series is handled right.Right away, this show lets you know it’s not messing around. The first image of the hour is a child’s severed hand. A short time later, when a New York Times illustrator sent by the titular alienist (a sort of proto-psychologist) arrives to get a sketch of the body, we get a close-up of empty eye sockets. As the illustrator, John Moore, stops himself from vomiting and sketches the body, we’re shown the whole bloody scene. The message is clear: This is a show that won’t shy away from the grisly details. TNT may not be able to get away with quite as much as HBO, but they’re going to get as close to that line as humanly possible. But then this scene turns out to be almost completely unnecessary. The drawing turns out to be useless to alienist Dr. Kreizler, as Moore “idealized” the body. Fine, whatever. The reason Kreizler has taken such an interest in the case is that it’s similar to another murder he dealt with recently. This boy was found wearing a girl’s dress. Kreizler recalls a young trans kid (he doesn’t use the term, but it’s implied) who was found murdered and mutilated in much the same way.Douglas Smith, Daniel Brühl (Photo by Kata Vermes, Via TNT)The show takes great care to differentiate the two victims. Kreizler has a rather evolved view on gender expression for the time. In a scene with the first victim’s mother, where he justifies exhuming her dead child’s corpse, he assures her that her “son” wanted to wear dresses because that’s who “he” was. (Look, it’s the 1860s there’s a limit to how progressive you can make a character.) The victim we saw at the beginning of the episode was dressed that way because he was forced into sex work. I’ve not read the 1994 book this series is based on, but some limited research suggests this is an effort to update the original work’s views on gender, which is a noble effort. It’s at least trying to handle subjects like child prostitution and gender expression with a little more nuance and sensitivity. It doesn’t always succeed, mostly due to the clunky dialog and sensational close-ups of corpses, but the show is at least aware that there are pitfalls to avoid.The setting and worldbuilding does the premiere episode a lot of favors. 19th Century New York is lovingly recreated and shot. Every inch of the set is packed with detail to the point where you could almost tell a story with no characters at all. The city is clearly transitioning from the Colonial city of old to the metropolis it is today, and the march of progress threatens to trample its most vulnerable citizens. The premiere’s best scenes are the ones that don’t move the mystery along at all, but show you more of the city. Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt shuts down the brothel the boy worked at, and it reopens an hour later right across the street. The police officer overseeing the closure/move is only disappointed that the moving expenses were taken out of his bribe. The show does so much right when it comes to making you feel like you’ve gone back in time. As terrible and corrupt as this old New York is, it’s enough to make you want to stay there. Even when the story doesn’t hold up its end of the bargain just yet.Photo by Kata Vermes via TNTThe problem is that at some point, it doesn’t matter how pretty your watercolors are if you’re using them to paint by numbers. The story itself is no different from the countless other serial killer mysteries out there. From the very beginning, you know exactly how this episode is going to play out. The dialog is blunt and expository, with nothing to draw you into the mystery. The production design is doing all the work here. The storytelling is so concerned with making sure no one gets lost that it forgets to go anywhere. One hour in, there’s no forward momentum or anything that lets us get invested in this particular serial killer story. When the credits rolled, I wished it had left us with a clue, or some idea of what we were looking for. Something that makes us say, “I can’t wait until they investigate that next week.” There isn’t even any old-timey forensics or outdated psychology to hook us with the procedural aspect of what the alienist does. A lot of this might come down to the struggles of a pilot episode. It has to introduce the world, the characters and the story, and rarely has time to give any of those things the attention they need. The most promising story portion of the show was the end credits teaser for what’s to come. The teaser promises that we will get to the good stuff soon. The killer will turn out to be a person of privilege, probably protected by the corrupt cops. That could make for a gripping mystery. If only we got some kind of clue or step in that direction during the actual episode.The actors all do admirable jobs with what they’re given. Luke Evans’ performance has an almost self-deprecating feel to it that makes his role as audience surrogate much more fun to watch than it would otherwise be. Daniel Bruhl’s Kreizler has a charming brilliance that never comes across as obnoxious or arrogant. His final monologue of the hour is basically the same “to catch him I must become him” speech you’ve heard in every serial killer movie and TV show ever made, but he’s selling the hell out of it. Dakota Fanning is given very little to do, but she makes the most out of every scene she’s in. She’s almost better when she isn’t talking because then she doesn’t have to wrestle with awkward dialog and can just act. I really hope the show gives her more and better things to do as it goes on.Dakota Fanning (Photo by Kata Vermes, via TNT)The Alienist may have stalled in its first episode, but there’s plenty of indication that it could turn into a compelling mystery. The actors are great, the characters at least show signs of becoming interesting, and the show is shot so beautifully, you know there’s some considerable talent behind the camera. At this point, we can reasonably hope that its story problems are the result of a pilot having to do too much in a short amount of time. If the 10-episode series makes good on the promises of its teaser, there could be a serial killer mystery worth obsessing over here. It has the setting, it has the cast, all it needs is for the writing to hold up its end. Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.