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News Reports for January 31, 2012

by: NewsDiary

Sun Jan 29, 2012 at 12:28:36 PM EST


Reminder: Please do not post whole articles, just snippets and links, and do not post articles from the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Thanks!

China
•  Hong Kong: Update on cluster of Influenza A cases in Siu Lam Hospital (Link)

Costa Rica
•  AH1N1 Claims Fourth Victim (Link)

Egypt
•   Egypt to launch H5N1 campaign to stop disease's spread (Link)

India
•  Officials cull poultry in India after H5N1 confirmed (Link)
•  Tripura: Culling has started, but no estimate of number of birds to be culled (Link)

Japan
•  Japan suspends imports of Australian poultry products (Link)

Mexico
•  Swine flu spikes in Mexico after hiatus, government says cases are within normal range (Link)
•  With memories of the 2009 pandemic, Mexico braces for flu season (Link)

Sri Lanka
•  Puzzling death of chicken (Link)

United States
•  Biosecurity advisers who barred bird flu studies publication outline reasons (Link)
•  U.S. panel defends call to censor bird flu studies (Link)
•  NOAA: Declaration of 2011 Pinniped Unusual Mortality Event in the Northeast (Link)
•  MA: Tests confirm that 4 Westborough swans die of avian flu, but there is no risk to humans (Link)
•  MA: Swan carcasses found in Westboro, a few infected with avian flu (Link)
•  MA: Dolphins stranded continues on Cape Cod  (Link)
•  TX: On flu's front line: Season off to slow start, but it's not over, experts say (Link)

Research
•  Battle over H5N1 research continues in media, journals (Link)
•  Researchers identify key peptides that could lead to a universal vaccine for influenza (Link)

General
•  ProMED: Influenza activity continues to rise slowly in the WHO European Region due to A(H3N2) (Link)


•  H (Link)

NewsDiary :: News Reports for January 31, 2012

News for January 30, 2012 is here.


Thanks to all of the newshounds!
Special thanks to the newshound volunteers who translate international stories - thanks for keeping us all informed!

Other useful links:
WHO A(H1N1) Site
WHO H5N1 human case totals, last updated January 24, 2012
Charts and Graphs on H5N1 from WHO
Google Flu Trends
CDC Weekly Influenza Summary
Map of seasonal influenza in the U.S.
CIDPC (Canada) Weekly FluWatch
UK RCGP Weekly Data on Communicable and Respiratory Diseases
Flu Wiki Main Page

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ProMED: Influenza activity continues to rise slowly in the WHO European Region due to A(H3N2)
Summary:

Influenza activity continues to rise slowly in the WHO European Region due to A(H3N2)

• This issue is based on data for week 3/2012 reported by 46 Member States in the WHO European Region. Consultation rates for influenza-like illness (ILI) and acute respiratory infection (ARI) continue to be relatively low in most countries of the Region, but with many countries reporting increasing activity.

• 29 % of sentinel specimens tested positive for influenza, which is an increase over last week: 95% of these were influenza A.

• Of the 352 influenza A viruses from sentinel sources that were subtyped, 99 % were A(H3N2).

Current situation: week 3/2012

Trends in clinical activity were reported by 42 countries: 20 stable, 19 increasing and 3 decreasing. At the same time, ILI and ARI consultation rates remained at low levels in most countries of the WHO European Region. Similar to the previous week, consultation rates were highest in young children. Of the 41 countries reporting on the geographical spread of influenza: 12 reported no activity; 7 local activity; 18 sporadic activity; and 4 countries (Finland, Iceland, Italy and Spain) regional activity. Intensity was reported to be low in most countries reporting on this indicator, except for Bulgaria, Iceland, Italy and Spain, where influenza activity was at medium levels.

Much more here: http://beta.promedmail.org/dir...

 

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. --Unknown

     


US: On flu's front line: Season off to slow start, but it's not over, experts say (Texas)
It is never wise to deliver a final verdict on a given flu season until the summer. Influenza (in all of its strains) is an unpredictable bug, prone to surprise spikes and sudden mutations. So while the 2011-12 flu season has been slow to start, health care providers remain vigilant.

"Flu season lasts through March and April or even the beginning of May some years," said Kay Durilla, nursing program manager for the Abilene-Taylor County Public Health District. "We don't know how hard it's going to hit or when the peak's going to hit."

Based on numbers provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services, it's been a relatively stagnant year for influenza cases. For example, the rate of patients with influenza-like illness at reporting health care providers has hovered at around 3 percent since October, when flu season begins. By comparison, that rate peaked at 10 percent in the second week of February last year and nearly hit 14 percent at the height of the H1N1 scare in October 2009.

Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for State Health Services, stressed that these numbers are snapshots of influenza activity and don't encompass every flu case in the state. http://www.reporternews.com/ne...

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. --Unknown

     


Japan suspends imports of Australian poultry products
Japan has suspended imports of all Australian chicken meat and eggs after avian influenza was reported on a farm in Victoria. Up to 25,000 ducks have been destroyed on two farms north of Melbourne after the low pathogenic form of the disease was found last Friday, January 27th.

Now the Japanese Government has responded by not allowing any Australian poultry products, including meat and eggs, nor egg derived products, like cake and ice cream.

The move is despite efforts by Australian authorities to reassure consumers all poultry products, even from affected farms, are safe to eat and "the risk to human health is negligible."

Australia's Department of Agriculture's Biosecurity division says "Australian exporters of locally processed foods containing small amounts of egg products should first contact their buyer and confirm import conditions for Japan prior to export." Continued: http://www.abc.net.au/rural/ne...

(Note: IMO, Japan has gone a little hysterically overboard with that decision!)

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. --Unknown

     


Could Australia be importing & processing Indian chicken?
Definitely sounds hysterical, unless they are aware of some flow of poultry products through Australia from India (the path of raw materials into finished products is sometimes a long journey) No one has mentioned whether Indian, Indonesian and Bangladeshi poultry is banned anywhere - that's what I'd be doing!

[ Parent ]
CIDRAP: Officials cull poultry in India after H5N1 confirmed
Officials in the West Tripura district of India have culled chicks and ducks after H5N1 was confirmed in the region (Snip) The culling began after the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL) in Bhopal confirmed H5N1 following the deaths of 4,229 poultry from the disease (Snip)

Twelve rapid response teams culled poultry within 3 kilometers of the government-owned Lembucherra poultry farm in the district, which borders Bangladesh (Snip)  Neither the PTI nor the OIE report specified the number of birds culled, but the OIE report said the farm housed 12,385 poultry. http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidr...

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. --Unknown

     


Culling has started, but no estimate of number of birds to be culled
Bird flu in Tripura, Culling begins

   * January 28, 2012
   * By Sanjib Deb
Bird flu, or avian influenza, has resurfaced in Tripura barely within a month of declaring the country free from the disease and culling has started in villages within a 3-km radius of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research at Lambuchera in West Tripura district where it was first detected.

The culling has started from Friday morning and 14 centres have been set up in the nearby villages. In the duck firm of the ICAR alone 1,600 birds will be culled. [snip]
http://www.deccanchronicle.com...

"The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it."  Flannery O'Connor


[ Parent ]
CIDRAP: Battle over H5N1 research continues in media, journals
Jan 30, 2012 (CIDRAP News) - The battle over dissemination of controversial research on mutant H5N1 avian influenza viruses continued in a flurry of commentaries and media letters in recent days, covering the full range of issues from the potential public health benefits to scientific censorship and the risk of bioterrorist exploitation of the findings.

Over the weekend, the New York Times published a collection of letters by eight experts, keynoted by Dr. Thomas Inglesby, director of the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, who favors withholding details of the findings and halting any further research along the same lines.

The letters were preceded by several commentaries in medical journals last week from partisans on both sides, including Inglesby, and at least one writer somewhere in the middle. Continued: http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidr...  

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. --Unknown

     


ostriches or scientists
From the above article, I found this opinion of expert scientists to be unsettling:

Palese and Wang also contended that it would be very difficult for bioterrorists to safely generate a stock of dangerous flu virus using "raw sequence information." And even if such a virus were unleashed, existing antiviral drugs and "viable H5 vaccine candidates" would provide some defense against them, they wrote.

The first comment presumes bioterrorists are a bunch of poorly educated fanatics living in caves, without scientific education and training, adequate funds or sophisticated scientific equipment.  But there are numerous countries, sworn enemies of the US and other global powers, with ample funding, highly educated scientists and modern laboratories who might be willing to back such biological weapons research as a negotiating chip, and from there plenty of opportunities for terrorists to steal or purchase it on the black market.  Once the cat is out of the bag, he tends to stay out and reproduce. Besides I think that word "safely" is the key point:  the unwitting accidental escape of a highly lethal pandemic virus by untrained terrorists would be just as deadly to the world as if they did so on purpose.

The other comment regarding "existing antiviral drugs and viable H5 vaccine candidates" is beyond naive, bordering on purposely misleading. It is already known or at least highly suspected that the virus has begun to mutate away from tamiflu sensitivity in certain areas, and it is also well understood that with a mutagenic virus like H5N1 there are no viable H5 vaccine candidates available for mass production until the virus mutates into its final pandemic form.  So how can these "experts" proclaim something like that without blushing?

Always have a plan B.


[ Parent ]
China: Update on cluster of Influenza A cases in Siu Lam Hospital (Hong Kong)
(Snip) Regarding the earlier announcement on a female severe mentally handicapped ward in which some patients had been confirmed with Influenza A, the spokesperson of Siu Lam Hospital (SLH) made the following update today (January 31):

One more 31-year-old female patient in the ward had presented with fever and respiratory symptoms. Appropriate viral tests were arranged for the patient and the test results were positive for Influenza A. The patient concerned has been transferred to Tuen Mun Hospital for treatment under isolation and is in stable condition.

Admission to and discharge from the ward have been suspended. Restricted visiting to the ward has been imposed. Infection control measures have already been stepped up according to established guidelines. All other patients in the ward concerned are under close surveillance. (Snip) http://7thspace.com/headlines/...

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. --Unknown

     


US: Tests confirm that 4 Westborough swans die of avian flu, but there is no risk to humans (Massachusetts)
WESTBOROUGH, Mass. - State and federal wildlife officials say four of the 12 swans found dead at a Westborough pond recently have tested positive for avian influenza, but stress that there is no threat to humans.

(Snip) the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services collected the swan carcasses from Mill Pond in December after a resident reported seeing them floating near shore.

(Snip) four birds tested positive for a mild form of avian flu that's relatively common, and humans are not in danger of catching the disease. The remaining eight birds did not have avian influenza and tests could not determine a cause of death. http://www.therepublic.com/vie...

(Note: It would be nice if they would tell us what strain killed them!)

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. --Unknown

     


Swan carcasses found in Westboro, a few infected with avian flu
Reginald Zimmerman, spokesman for the Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, said the four birds tested positive for low-pathogenic avian influenza.

"That is fairly common in water fowl here," Mr. Zimmerman said. "This means they could have been exposed to it, or at the end of it, but I have to stress there is no human risk."

Mr. Zimmerman said the remaining eight birds tested came back negative for avian influenza and tests could not determine what caused their deaths.

Alan P. Silvestry, a Maynard Street resident, first noted many dead swans while he was walking the trail system that meanders around the water. The area is near the headwaters of the Assabet River, and is usually populated by Canada geese. He reported the deaths to the Division of Fisheries & Wildlife on Rabbit Hill Road, and investigators removed about a dozen carcasses for testing.

Mr. Zimmerman said no further testing will be done on the carcasses, and at this point, no further investigation will be done at Mill Pond.

http://www.telegram.com/articl...

Many articles covering this story, not one of them reports the strain so it has clearly not been released. I wonder why? I'm also very puzzled by the lack of concern over the 8 "negatives" in a mass die-off. Seems very cavalier, IMO.


[ Parent ]
US: Biosecurity advisers who barred bird flu studies publication outline reasons
Bird flu studies at the centre of a heated controversy pose a potential risk to public health of an "unusually high magnitude," the U.S. biosecurity experts who have advised against full publication of the studies said Tuesday.

The U.S. National Science Advisory Board on Biosecurity said emergence of an H5N1 flu virus capable of spreading easily from person to person would be an "unimaginable catastrophe" regardless of whether it was concocted by nature or in an laboratory. The comments are part of a statement from the 23-member group outlining, for the first time in published form, their rationale for advising the U.S. government to ask the journals Science and Nature to withhold key sections of the two studies.

The journals have tentatively agreed to publish only the findings, if a system can be established to share details of the methods used with researchers and public- health agents on a need-to-know basis.

"We do not believe that widespread dissemination of the methodology in this case is a responsible action," the NSABB members argued in a commentary published in the two journals.

(Snip)  

the NSABB is concerned the two laboratories that conducted the disputed studies have created H5N1 viruses - or hybrids containing some H5N1 genes - that bypass what have seem to have been natural barriers to its ability to spread easily in mammals. Continued: http://www.globalnews.ca/canad...  

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. --Unknown

     


Researchers identify key peptides that could lead to a universal vaccine for influenza
(Snip) The scientific collaboration used a research method known as "Human Viral Challenge Studies", where healthy volunteers are infected with influenza virus, and their immune responses closely monitored in an isolation unit.

These were important to the research, published online in Nature Medicine, as they allowed the healthy volunteers to be held in "sterile" isolation conditions and ensured they had no existing infections. The volunteers were then "challenged" with influenza virus, with blood samples being taken at regular intervals to observe how their immune systems responded to the viral infection.

Researchers discovered that the immune systems produced various types of T-cells (part of the immune system that kills both viral particles, and cells infected with viral particles). Notably, the T-cells responded to peptides associated with the internal structures of the influenza viruses.

Unlike the external structures of influenza virus, that mutates very rapidly and creates a new strain of virus most years, the internal structures change very slowly over a long period of time. These internal structures are found in all strains of influenza virus - thus, a vaccine that targets such peptides may provide immunity against all strains of influenza, including seasonal (yearly), avian (bird), and swine flu, for many years.

A vaccine against these peptides would activate the T-cell immune response - which is able to respond much more rapidly than vaccines that activate an antibody response.
Dr Tom Wilkinson, Senior Lecturer in Respiratory Medicine at the University of Southampton, who led the study, says: "Influenza is a virus that we know has a global impact, and the threat of further pandemics is a real one. Most influenza vaccines only protect us against known influenza strains by creating antibodies in the blood but the influenza virus has the ability to rapidly change itself and new strains can emerge which rapidly spread across the globe by escaping this immunity. Continued: http://medicalxpress.com/news/...  

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. --Unknown

     


Egypt to launch H5N1 campaign to stop disease's spread
Egypt recently announced plans to initiate a nationwide campaign to stop the spread of H5N1 avian influenza.

Egyptian officials provided scant information concerning the plan's details, but said that the campaign is scheduled to begin in a few weeks as part of a joint effort between the Health Ministry, the Agriculture Ministry and poultry producers, according to IRINNews.org.

"These measures are just a small part of a more general plan to curb the spread of the virus in our country," Saber Abdel Aziz, a senior official from the state-run General Organization for Veterinary Services, said, IRINNews.org reports. "We will also offer incentives to poultry growers to look for signs of illness in their animals, report sick ones, and practice bio-security."...

Amr Qandeel, the head of preventative medicine at the Health Ministry, attributed the rise in infection rates to the weakening of the government. Since the uprising began a year ago, Egypt has had three different health ministers. With police preoccupied by demonstrations, and sometimes chaos, in the streets, enforcing biosafety has not been a top priority.

http://vaccinenewsdaily.com/me...


Dolphins stranded continues on Cape Cod
BOSTON (AP) - Dozens of dolphins stranded on Cape Cod during the past few weeks have died in New England's second mass of marine mammal deaths in three months.

Since mid-January, 98 short-beaked common dolphins have stranded themselves on a 25-mile stretch of Cape Cod and 77 have died. Scientists are trying to figure out why.

They're also researching whether there's any link to a die-off this fall of 162 harbor seals
. They're carcasses were found between northern Massachusetts and Maine.

Scientists have determined the seal deaths were linked to an influenza virus similar to one found in birds. It had never been seen before in seals.

They say the initial indications are there's no connection between the dolphin and seal deaths, but it's too early to definitively rule it out.

http://www.wwlp.com/dpp/electi...


Declaration of 2011 Pinniped Unusual Mortality Event in the Northeast
During the Unusual Mortality Event investigation, Influenza A H3N8 was confirmed in five (5) harbor seals that stranded in New Hampshire in mid-September/early October 2011....

This particular virus subtype, while found in horses, birds, seals, and dogs, has not been detected in humans in recent decades. While the risk to humans from this virus is low (according to the Centers for Disease Control and National Wildlife Health Center), we want to remind people to keep a safe distance from seals they encounter on the beach and in the water and to keep their pets away from these animals. If they see an animal that looks sick, please report it to the NOAA stranding hotline or local stranding network member.

http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/he...


[ Parent ]
Swine flu spikes in Mexico after hiatus, government says cases are within normal range
Mexico's federal health secretary says swine flu cases in January have surpassed the number for all of 2011, a year when the virus barely appeared worldwide.

Salomon Chertorivski Woldenberg says there have been 1,623 cases of all strains of flu in Mexico so far in January, 90 percent of them H1N1. That's the version that originally was called swine flu when it caused pandemic that started in Mexico in 2009.

Chertorivski says 32 people have died from flu, 29 of them from H1N1.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/...


Sri Lanka: Puzzling death of chicken
The Department of Livestock and Animal Husbandry has investigated the death of a large number of chickens at a farm in the Bingiriya area in the Kurunegala district. It has been found that one of the dead chickens had bird flu symptoms. However it was not confirmed that the death was caused by bird flu.

http://www.dailynews.lk/2012/0...


Costa Rica: AH1N1 Claims Fourth Victim
A 30 year old man, who was hospitalized in serious condition in the San Juan de Dios hospital, has become the fourth victim AH1N1 flu victim of the year.

So far this year, one person has died from the seasonal influenza and three by the AH1N1 strain, as the ministerio de Salud prepares to increase measures to prevent further infections and deaths.

Confirmed are five more cases of the AH1N1, one of them in delicate condition at the San Juan de Dios...

In 2011, six people died from the virus, so it is worrisome than the year begins with four in the first month.

http://www.insidecostarica.com...


U.S. panel defends call to censor bird flu studies
By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO | Tue Jan 31, 2012

(Reuters) - A potentially deadlier form of the bird flu virus poses one of the gravest known threats to humans and justifies an unprecedented call to censor the research that produced it, a top U.S. biosecurity official said on Tuesday.

The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) set off a furious debate in the scientific and public health communities in December when it asked the journals Nature and Science to censor two studies on new strains of the H5N1 virus that may make it more easily transmissible in people.

"The potential of this pathogen, in theory, exceeds anything else I can imagine," Paul Keim, acting chair of the NSABB, told Reuters in an e-mail.

Keim explained his personal decision to support censorship in this case in a commentary published on Tuesday in mBio, the journal of the American Society for Microbiology. The panel also published an explanatory piece in Nature and Science.

The panel cited fears that mutant versions of the H5N1 virus created by scientists at Erasmus Medical College in the Netherlands and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, could accidentally escape the lab or be used as a devastating form of bioterrorism.

http://www.reuters.com/article...

United we stand: Divided we fall
www.flunewsnetwork.com


With memories of the 2009 pandemic, Mexico braces for flu season
Mexican authorities report a fresh outbreak of the swine flu that killed hundreds and virtually paralyzed this sprawling capital in 2009. But the number of cases fits the "normal" flu-season pattern and should not cause alarm, Health Minister Salomon Chertorivski Woldenberg said Tuesday.

Chertorivski said the H1N1 virus will continue to infect a growing number of Mexicans over the next month or so, but then should taper off. For the month of January, health officials have confirmed 1,456 cases of the virus, popularly known as swine flu. Of that number, 29 people have died from the disease, Chertorivski said, most suffering other health problems that made them vulnerable. Continued: http://latimesblogs.latimes.co...

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. --Unknown

     


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