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News Reports for December 27, 2012

by: NewsDiary

Tue Dec 25, 2012 at 19:08:31 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!

• Bangladesh slaughters 1.5 lakh birds over avian flu (Link)

• New Foundland: Senior citizens home closed to family and visitors due to influenza illness (Link)

• New strain of avian flu kills thousands of ducks in Java (Link)

• Ministry: Swine flu death toll reaches 4 in West Bank (Link)

United Kingdom
• Northern Ireland tops festive flu league (Link)

Saudi Arabia
• Health Ministry accused of neglecting swine flu child (Link)

United States
• KY: Flu cases on the rise in Greene County (Link)
• MI: Flu cases spike in Kent County - far outpacing last year's tally (Link)
• MT: Health watch: Flu and pertussis in the Flathead (Link)
• NC: Flu spike limits visitors at Duke hospitals (Link)
• NC: State sees record number of deaths from flu  (Link)
• OK: First Oklahoma flu death this season reported in Tulsa County (Link)
• PA: Some Still Getting Sick Despite Getting Flu Vaccine (Link)
• TX: Lubbock Flu Numbers on the Rise (Link)
• UT: Utah experiencing widespread flu activity, according to CDC (Link)
• WA: Flu spreading through Washington, already blamed for three deaths (Link)

• CIDRAP: Experts differ on HHS select-agent proposal for H5N1 (Link)

NewsDiary :: News Reports for December 27, 2012

News for December 26, 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 December 17, 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

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US: Some Still Getting Sick Despite Getting Flu Vaccine (Pennsylvania)
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - The flu vaccine is designed to protect against the most commonly circulating strains of the virus expected in a given season. For instance, this year's protects against two types of Influenza A - one from California and one from Australia - and a type of Influenza B originating from Wisconsin.

Unfortunately, nothing is perfect, and doctors at St. Clair Hospital have been seeing cases of the flu. "Probably 10 patients a day at least and those are confirmed with viral swabs," (Snip) "and some people have said they've even gotten a flu shot."

Circulating flu viruses and the vaccine change every year. And because there are so many strains of the flu, it would be hard to design a vaccine to cover them all. The vaccines work by priming your immune system to fight off specific proteins on the surface of specific viruses.

"I mean, nothing is 100 percent. Even though they've had the flu shot, there are various strains that are not protected," says Dr. Ludkiewicz. (Snip) In general, the flu shot is about 60 percent effective in adults ages 18 to 64.


The CDC says this year's vaccine is a 90 percent match to the circulating strains. In other words, 10 percent of what's out there is not a match. Continued: http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com...

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


US: Flu spike limits visitors at Duke hospitals (North Carolina)
DURHAM - Due to a sharp rise in influenza infections across the Triangle, all Duke University Health System hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers began restricting patient visits Wednesday afternoon.

Visitors to hospital and ambulatory surgery patients will be limited to immediate family or designated caregivers age 18 and older, and who have no fever, cough or other flu-like symptoms.

The restrictions are part of a multi-step approach to protect patients and prevent the spread of influenza at Duke University Hospital, Durham Regional and Duke Raleigh hospitals, as well as the Duke Ambulatory Surgical Center and the James E. Davis Ambulatory Surgical Center.


Emergency rooms, urgent care centers and clinics will seek opportunities to physically segregate potential flu patients if facility designs allow.

Restrictions will be reviewed as the state's influenza outbreak abates.

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


US: State sees record number of deaths from flu (North Carolina)
Flu activity across North Carolina is at the highest levels recorded in the past decade, according to State Health Director Laura Gerald.

Twelve flu-related deaths already have been reported in North Carolina.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is encouraging all North Carolinians to take time out of their holiday activities to get their annual flu vaccination.

"It is very unusual for us to see this many deaths so early in the flu season," Gerald said. "This year's vaccine is well-matched to the strains of flu we are seeing in North Carolina, so we strongly recommend that anyone over 6 months old be vaccinated."

Flu outbreaks have been reported in schools and long-term care facilities across the state. The flu season in the United States got off to its earliest start in nearly a decade, and the effects have been felt in neighboring Moore County.

"The flu activity we're seeing at Moore Regional, as well as at FirstHealth's other hospitals, mirrors what the state is reporting," said Emily Sloan, assistant director of public relations for FirstHealth of the Carolinas, in a story earlier this month. "Flu rates typically start to increase in January, so we're seeing a rise about a month earlier than previous years."

FirstHealth announced Dec. 11 that it was imposing visitor restrictions at Moore Regional, Montgomery Memorial in Troy, and Richmond Memorial in Rockingham:

• Visitors are limited to immediate family.


FirstHealth announced last month that its employees had until the end of the year to get a flu vaccine or be fired.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the primary flu strain circulating this year tends to make people sicker than with other types, and it is particularly hard on the elderly. Continued: http://www.yourdailyjournal.co...

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


Palestine: Ministry - Swine flu death toll reaches 4 in West Bank
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Another Palestinian has died of swine flu, bringing the death to four from the H1N1 virus in the West Bank (Snip).

Some 160 people have the virus, which has spread in the northern cities of the West Bank, particularly in Jenin (Snip).

The ministry has qualified teams to treat the virus across the West Bank (Snip).

Al-Ramlawi urged ill people, especially those with low immunity, to go to hospital and take the necessary antibiotics. http://www.maannews.net/eng/Vi...  

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


Bangladesh slaughters 1.5 lakh birds over avian flu
Dhaka, Dec 27: Bangladesh's livestock authorities are slaughtering around 150,000 chickens at a giant poultry farm near Dhaka after the worst outbreak of avian flu in five years (Snip)

The deadly H5N1 strain of flu was detected at Bay Agro farm at Gazipur, 40 km north of Dhaka, on Monday after dozens of chickens died (Snip)

"There are about 150,000 chickens at the farm. We have already killed and destroyed 120,000 chickens and we will kill the rest today (Wednesday)," livestock department director Mosaddeq Hossain told AFP, adding it was the worst bird flu outbreak in five years.

Bangladesh was hit by bird flu in February 2007, when over one million birds were slaughtered on thousands of farms. Since then the flu has entrenched in the country, seriously ravaging one of the world's largest poultry industries.


The latest outbreak is the 23rd to be recorded this year. Even before the new mass slaughter, a total of 107,252 chickens had been destroyed in 22 farms, (Snip).

The country has also reported six confirmed human cases of bird flu since May 2008, but the government's health department said all have recovered. http://www.thehindubusinesslin...  

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


CIDRAP: Experts differ on HHS select-agent proposal for H5N1
Dec 26, 2012 (CIDRAP News) - Some professional groups and scientists think it's a good idea to classify highly pathogenic avian (HPAI) H5N1 influenza viruses as "select agents" requiring special research precautions, while others say the step is unnecessary and would impede research, according to comments they have filed with the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

For example, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), a physician organization, says H5N1 viruses should be in the select agent category, whereas the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) argues against the idea, noting that circulating H5N1 viruses have poor transmissibility in humans.

Several vaccine manufacturers recommend that the attenuated H5N1 strains used to make vaccines should not be included in any select agent designation, because that could slow vaccine development if an H5N1 strain gained greater human transmissibility.

Aside from the select agent question, the IDSA and some scientists suggest that H5N1 vaccination should be required for lab workers who handle H5N1 strains that can spread among mammals.

In mid-October HHS asked the public to comment on whether H5N1 should be designated an HHS special agent, which means that labs handling it would have to register with the agency and meet special requirements for physical security and personnel screening and training.

The department also asked for comments on whether special safety and containment measures are needed for research involving H5N1 strains with increased transmissibility in mammals. The request followed the publication earlier this year of two controversial studies describing genetically modified H5 strains that were capable of aerosol transmission in ferrets.

Officials originally had set a Dec 17 deadline for commenting, but last week they extended the deadline to Jan 31, 2013.

Because of the threat they pose to poultry, HPAI H5N1 viruses are already listed as select agents in the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Select Agent Program. But the viruses are not on HHS's select agent list.

HHS's request for comments followed a determination by a federal interagency committee that H5N1 viruses may pose a severe threat to human health and safety. The finding came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Intragovernmental Select Agents and Toxins Technical Advisory Committee (ISATTAC), which includes members from various HHS and USDA agencies and the departments of Homeland Security and Defense.

The committee considered the findings concerning the transmissibility of genetically modified H5N1 viruses among ferrets, along with the virus's virulence and the low level of immunity in the population.

The comments submitted have been posted on an HHS Web site.

IDSA favors designation
In comments dated Dec 14, the IDSA said circulating H5N1 strains don't pose a severe threat to public health because they don't readily spread among humans, but H5N1 strains with increased mammalian transmissibility do pose such a threat, making select agent designation appropriate.

"It is crucial that extensive biosafety and biosecurity measures be taken to prevent accidental release or an act of bioterrorism," IDSA President David A. Relman, MD, wrote in the comments. Noting that the USDA already regulates H5N1 as a select agent, he said an HHS designation would ensure that the impact on human health is considered.

Relman also recommended that HHS consider "more extensive" biosafety and biosecurity requirements for work with H5N1 strains that have been lab-modified to increase their pathogenicity or transmissibility. Research on such strains is currently done in enhanced biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) conditions, according to previous reports.

In particular, Relman suggested that researchers who work with H5N1 strains that have increased transmissibility should receive an H5N1 vaccine when available.

Continued with much more, plus links: http://www.topix.com/health/av...

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


UK: Northern Ireland tops festive flu league
One in five people here has been struck with flu over the Christmas holidays - with Northern Ireland reporting higher rates than anywhere else in the UK.

Health experts yesterday said approximately 19,700 people per 100,000 reported flu-like symptoms last week - almost double the number of reported cases in London.


"The data are very preliminary and flu levels are still very low but overall the results suggest that the region most affected by flu is Northern Ireland with 19,700 per 100,000." The scientists say there is no explanation for Northern Ireland topping the chart.

Last week the highest rates of flu were reported in the 0-18 age group, although the researchers running flusurvey.org.uk pointed out this category had the lowest sample size of all the age groups (14%). Continued: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co...

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


Lubbock Flu Numbers on the Rise
December 27, 2012
Lubbock, Texas:  Walk-in clinics have been swamped all day long, leaving some patients waiting close to two hours.  Beckie Brawley with the Lubbock Health Department said last week over 200 people in Lubbock were reported to show symptoms of the flu, including fever, chills, muscle aches and extreme fatigue.  We are in the first weeks of flu season which ranges from mid-December to mid-March.  Since flu numbers are on the rise, Brawley says it's hard to determine whether or not we are in the peek of the flu season.

"I am opposed to any form of tyranny over the mind of man."  Thomas Jefferson

Indonesia: New strain of avian flu kills thousands of ducks in Java
Posted on 27 December 2012

JAKARTA (Dec 27, 2012): Thousands of ducks in Yogyakarta, Central Java and East Java have been killed by a new strain of the H5N1 avian flu virus over the last four months, a research and laboratory test conducted by the Veterinary Center (BBVet) in Yogyakarta has confirmed.

BBVet epidemiologist Putut Djoko Purnomo said there were suspicions that the new avian flu strain was also attacking other species of birds, including thousands of chickens, in Yogyakarta.

"There have been reports of sudden chicken deaths, but we are still examining if they were caused by the new virus," Putut was quoted as saying by the English daily, The Jakarta Post, on Thursday.

He said the new strain was identified as H5N1 clade 2.3, which reportedly only attacks ducks.

It is described as more malignant than H5N1 clade 2.1, which had been killing chickens. The initial attack of this new virus in three provinces was noted in September 2012.

So far, 113,700 ducks have reportedly died because of the virus in the three provinces - Yogyakarta, Central Java and East Java - over the last four months.

Some 64,000 ducks died in Central Java, 45,000 in East Java and 4,700 in Yogyakarta. As a preventive measure, Putut has suggested that farmers use disinfectant, cull infected birds and monitor bird traffic.

Fumigation, he said, would not have significant results. Indonesia, according to Putut, does not yet have the vaccine for the new virus, which was first found in Nepal in 2010 and was later spread by migratory birds to India, China and Japan.

It spread throughout Asia and finally reached Indonesia by the end of this year.


United we stand: Divided we fall

Utah experiencing widespread flu activity, according to CDC

By Jennifer StaggDecember 26th, 2012 @ 10:10pm
WEST VALLEY CITY - A lot of people might have put off going to get checked out until after Christmas, so clinics like St Mark's Primary Care in West Valley were hopping today. No one wants to be sick on Christmas and a lot of people were.


KSL asked their Facebook fans to recount their holiday flu stories, and the answers came by the hundreds.


According to the Centers for Disease Control Website, flu activity in Utah is considered "widespread", the highest level. Utah and Colorado are the only western states currently at that level. All of those parties are making it spread like wildfire.


Flu season hasn't even technically peaked yet, so it's likely going to get worse before it gets better. And it's not just flu going around-- there are also a lot of strep and sinus infections out there.

In memory of pogge: Peace, order and good government, eh?
[If we want it, we'll have to work at it.]

Canada: Senior citizens home closed to family and visitors due to influenza illness (New Foundland)
The Pentecostal Senior Citizens Home in Clarke's Beach is closed to all family and visitors until further notice due to an increase in Influenza illness, Eastern Health says.

Immediate family members requiring any further information are asked to call (709) 786-2993.

The public is also reminded not to visit any health-care facility if they feel ill or are experiencing flu-like or gastrointestinal symptoms. Continued: http://www.thetelegram.com/New...

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


US: Flu cases on the rise in Greene County (Kentucky)
SPRINGFIELD -- At the Family Medical Walk-In Clinic on south Campbell in Springfield, it comes as no surprise to the medical staff that flu cases are on the rise. "We are seeing quite a bit. Virtually everyday we have positive influenza," said Darlene Heikkila, a physician assistant at the clinic.

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department started tracking the first cases of the season four weeks ago. In the initial week, there were nine confirmed influenza cases. Last week--the fourth week of counting--there were 61.  For the season, there are a total of 140 cases as of December 22.

"Last year, we saw our first real activity in mid-February and this year we're seeing it in mid-December. So it's really starting about two months earlier than last year," explained Mike Brothers, a spokesman for the health department.


Another trend this winter, the flu is hitting young people the hardest. "Five to 14-year-olds had a really big spike a couple weeks ago, and now we're seeing the highest increase in this most recent week were people in their teens and 20," said Brothers. Continued: http://articles.ky3.com/2012-1...

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


Saudi Arabia: Health Ministry accused of neglecting swine flu child
RAFHA - Residents of the northeast governorate of Rafha buried on Monday a girl who died from swine flu and was reportedly confined for several days without receiving any medication to treat her condition.

Ghala Khaleef Al-Shammari died at Rafha Central Hospital and her father Khaleef Al-Shammari said he tried hard to save his daughter's life, but to no avail. (Snip) "All my efforts were ignored by the Health Ministry."

Director of Rafha Central Hospital Ayyad Al-Maeeli said Ghala came to the hospital suffering from respiratory problems, but medical examinations showed she had pneumonia, a possible symptom of swine flu. He said: "The necessary tests were conducted to diagnose that she had the disease and the girl was connected to a ventilator.

"The results of the tests were communicated to many hospitals but none of them were willing to accept her, even though approval was given to transport her by air ambulance."

The director said the doctor treating Ghala was in constant contact with a consultant at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh.

The father said his daughter's suffering began on the first day of December as she started suffering from high temperatures and a constant cough. (Snip) "She was given medicine by Rafha hospital but there was no improvement in her condition".

"We took her again to the hospital where she was admitted. "Her condition deteriorated and the doctors decided to connect her to a ventilator."

Al-Shammari said he tried his best to find a bed for his daughter at one of the advanced Health Ministry hospitals, but did not have any success. (Snip) "My daughter died without receiving any advanced medical services."

The father said he contacted the National Guard Hospital at Riyadh's King Abdulaziz Medical City and many other hospitals in the capital and other cities, but none of them were willing to accept his daughter.

Al-Shammari said as a precautionary measure he got his other children checked and they were all safe.

He denied claims specialists from Rafha Health Affairs had visited their home to check other members of the family. He said he had no idea if other students in the school where his daughter went to were tested for swine flu.


Ghala's uncle Majed Saadi Al-Shammari asked the Health Ministry to justify why Ghala was not transported to any advanced hospital in the Kingdom like similar cases. "We hear about victims of traffic accidents being airlifted by air ambulance. "Why was this not the case for our daughter?"

The uncle criticized a health official who reportedly said Ghala's condition was normal and did not need much attention.

"We have seen cases not as serious as Ghala's being given utmost care, but our daughter died in our hands without anyone giving us a helping hand."

Saud Al-Shammari, another relative, said another girl from the family with similar symptoms was airlifted to the central hospital in Dammam about six months ago, but the hospital refused to accept her. "Before we could turn back, the girl died right at the door of the hospital."

(Note: IMO, this is very suspicious! I'm wondering if this could be suspected or confirmed cases of the new coronavirus (SARS) that has recently been found in the middle east. That would explain why all the other hospitals refused to take the little girl and why a hospital refused to treat the other girl 6 months ago. The symptoms are cough, breathing difficulties, and fever. I have to ask, "Is the Saudi govenment hiding cases of the new coronavirus?" JMO This is a link to the CDC website with info on the new virus: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/no... )

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


US: First Oklahoma flu death this season reported in Tulsa County
A person in Tulsa County is the first person to die from flu-related illness since the start of Oklahoma's flu season. The person was between 19 and 64 years old. This was the only information released by the state Health Department.

Last week, 21 people in Oklahoma were hospitalized because of the flu. There have been 75 residents reported hospitalized because of the flu since Sept. 30, the start of the flu season.

Nationwide, flu activity is continuing to increase as the U.S. sees an early flu season.... Continued: http://newsok.com/first-oklaho...

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


Flu spreading through Washington, already blamed for three deaths

DECEMBER 27, 2012 · 11:22 AM

Flu activity is picking up across our state and the nation. Influenza can be serious and tragically, a Pierce County child is the first reported person in the state whose death has been linked to the flu this season. The flu-related deaths of two King County adults were also reported within the past two weeks.

The Pierce County child was a boy under 12 years old. In King County, a man in his 80s and a woman in her 70s were lab-confirmed as flu deaths earlier this month. "Any death from a preventable illness is upsetting, and it's especially heartbreaking when a child dies," said Secretary of Health Mary Selecky. "These deaths are a somber reminder that flu is serious and makes thousands sick in our state each year. With flu season picking up, it's important to remember that we can protect ourselves and our loved ones with a flu shot."

Laboratory-confirmed flu deaths are reportable in Washington, though many flu-related deaths may go unreported because they're not lab-confirmed or tested for influenza.

Flu seasons are unpredictable and can be severe. In the United States over a recent 30-year period, the flu was linked to thousands of deaths each year - ranging from 3,000 to 49,000.

A person can spread flu before they know they're sick and up to seven days after. Children can spread it for even longer

It's also important to stay away from others for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.

In memory of pogge: Peace, order and good government, eh?
[If we want it, we'll have to work at it.]

Health watch: Flu and pertussis in the Flathead

Posted: Dec 27, 2012 9:30 AM by Tara Oster - KAJ News
Updated: Dec 27, 2012 10:46 AM

KALISPELL - Lots of folks will be heading back to the Flathead soon after the holidays, and may be bringing some nasty bugs with them.

"The states around us; many of them are seeing an increase in flu activity right now, so it wouldn't be unexpected for us to see an increase after the holiday season," Flathead City-County Community Health Services Director Jody White explained.

Statistics show that 52 people have been officially diagnosed with the flu this year, which is about on par with last year. Health officials also say that so far, one person has been hospitalized in the Flathead for flu. Nine people had cases severe enough to require hospitalization last year.

Meanwhile, the local health department is still diagnosing new cases of pertussis, with 60 cases being seen so far in the Flathead. But officials are hopeful there will be a decline in January.

In memory of pogge: Peace, order and good government, eh?
[If we want it, we'll have to work at it.]

U.S. Flu cases spike in Kent County - far outpacing last year's tally
December 27, 2012

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - The flu season is off to a rough start in Kent County.

Health officials already have confirmed 112 cases - compared with only five cases at this time last year, the Kent County Health Department reported Thursday, Dec. 27.


"While it's too early to tell how severe our season might be, there's no doubt that we've seen more cases already this year than we typically do," said James Haveman, director of the Michigan Department of Community Health.

The state health department laboratories have confirmed 149 influenza cases so far, compared with four cases at this time in 2011. Additional cases have been confirmed at labs throughout the state.

full article


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