Saturday, June 30, 2012

Heterologous interactions between NS1 proteins from different influenza A virus subtypes/strains



2012 Jun;55(6):507-15. Epub 2012 Jun 29.


Non-structural protein 1 (NS1) of the influenza virus plays a crucial role in modulating the host immune response and facilitating virus replication. The formation of a homodimer or an oligomer is necessary for NS1 to exert its function efficiently. In the present study, the NS1 protein from the A/Shantou/602/06(H3N2) virus (herein abbreviated as NS32) was found to interact with NS1 from A/Shantou/169/06(H1N1), A/Chicken/Guangdong/1/05(H5N1) and A/Quail/Hong Kong/G1/97(H9N2) (abbreviated as NS11, NS51 and NS92, respectively) viruses, although NS32 shares 17.4%-20.9% sequence diversity with NS11, NS51 and NS92. This indicates that the heterologous interactions between NS1 proteins from different influenza A virus subtypes/ strains may be a common event during co-infection.

[PubMed - in process]

China: Safety the priority for exports to HK


Agricultural products exported to Hong Kong are safe despite the fact that the mainland is facing increasing pressure to prevent and control animal diseases, a senior official said.

In recent years, there has been a string of major outbreaks of animal diseases worldwide, including China, such as foot-and-mouth disease, bird flu, and blue-ear disease, a highly pathogenic disease that can be fatal for pigs.

"No severe safety incidents have been registered for agricultural products supplied by the mainland to Hong Kong since the 1997 handover, due to the mainland's strict quality monitoring system," said Huang Guansheng, director of the department of supervision of animals and plants quarantine under the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

The monitoring system, set up by the top quality watchdog, covers the whole food chain, tracing agricultural products from the field in the mainland to the table in Hong Kong, Huang said.

"The safety rate of the food supplied by the mainland to Hong Kong is now 99.999 percent, so high that few countries and regions in the world have it," York Chow, Hong Kong's food and health chief, was quoted by the Guangzhou Daily as saying on Sunday.

Analysts believe that the shrinking local agriculture sector in Hong Kong is the main factor behind the gradual increase of food supplies from the mainland in recent years.

Most meat and vegetables in Hong Kong come from the mainland, said Chow, without providing specific figures.

Live pigs, cattle, sheep, birds, aquatic animals and fruit are some of the major agricultural products imported from the mainland, according to the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

"To ensure food safety, trade between the mainland and Hong Kong is only open to qualified suppliers registered with the administration," Huang said.

Since 2002, products exported to Hong Kong have been tested for about 44 varieties of banned and restricted drugs, as well as 47 kinds of toxic and harmful substances.

Yuen Cheung, president of the Hong Kong Imported Vegetables Wholesale Merchants Association, told China Central Television in January that vegetables from the mainland are abundant in quantity and cheap in price.

At the wet markets, retailers rarely state the origins of vegetables unless they were grown in Hong Kong. Local pork is so rare that consumers just assume that the pigs were imported from the mainland.


Mexico: Mexico bird flu contained to 10 farms

June 30, 2012
By Jean Guerrero

MEXICO CITY--Mexico's avian influenza virus in two municipalities of the central-western state of Jalisco has led to the loss of 870,000 chickens as of Friday but is thought to be contained in 10 poultry farms, the Agriculture Ministry's food-safety service said Friday.

The H7N3 virus, which doesn't affect humans, was detected in Mexico for the first time this month in Acatic and Tepatitlan, leading officials to take emergency measures such as quarantining farms, evaluating nearby ones and limiting the movement of live poultry to keep the virus from spreading.

So far, Mexico's food-safety service has done more than 4,209 laboratory tests with samples from more than 100 poultry farms and 15 free-range properties. Of the more than 6.12 million animals checked, roughly 1.7 million have been found sick.

Producers in farms free of the virus can continue sending their eggs anywhere in the country. The affected region is primarily a producer of eggs for domestic consumption, and the virus doesn't pass from infected animals to their eggs.

Indonesia: Lembang Early Bird Flu alert

June 30, 2012
West Java
In efforts to control bird flu, the government in collaboration with various stakeholders so that the goal can be directly conveyed to the public. One way is to declare the program a healthy market. Because the bird flu is not only about the farmers and the people around him, but also the vendors of poultry, poultry traders, and consumers.

For the government's appeal begins from breeders, sellers of live poultry, cutters, traders and consumers. Government gives the rules to them how the ways of prevention of bird flu. Starting from poultry care, hygiene, health, how to cut, to the processing means. It is intended to prevent the spread of bird flu disease or at least minimize its spread.

We've often heard people who are affected by bird flu and even to death, and also poultry that died suddenly had countless. This is because ketidaktanggapan public to appeal from the government. Though already widely reported in the media how to prevent it.

Breeders should regularly clean the bird cage and try to use such safety gloves and masks when in contact with poultry or when cleaning dirt or bird cages. As expressed by one farmer in the area of ​​Lembang, West Bandung regency, Dada (55).

"My house is always clean the coop regularly 3 days using a detergent, I also wear gloves and masks da fear of the bird flu virus," said the mustachioed man.

Until now in the District of Lembang, yet in cases of death from bird flu to both humans and animals to birds. But it would not hurt us watch and is always careful to keep us more secure. If we respond to calls from the government in preventing the spread of bird flu and implement the suggested rules, hopefully we can all avoid the bird flu disease. (Ririn / Lembang / KBB / PasarSehat)

Indo: Persons With Sym's #Bird Flu Must Not Go To Comm. Health Ctr: they have NO Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

June 29, 2012
Mukomuko (Bengkulu Reuters) - Stock protective equipment from the threat of bird flu since last month in Bengkulu empty, so the demand for equipment from the county / city in the area can not be met.

"About a month ago we asked for personal protective equipment (PPE) to the Department of Health bird flu Bengkulu, but the stock is empty," said Head of Communicable Disease and Environmental Health District Health Mukomuko, Riswandi Dani, in Mukomuko on Friday.

In fact, it proposes as many as 50 sets of PPE that bird flu to the central government but are not being met, and the Ministry of Health suggested that the APD was requested to the Department of Health Povinsi Bengkulu.

However, when it asks APD to the Health Office of Bengkulu was also another blank stock. As a result, health office Mukomuko have no items at all.

APD with a blank stock, if any residents who indicated the bird flu can not be penangganannya [handling; dealing with; taking care of] health center, but directly to the Health Office of Bengkulu or local public hospital.

In addition, if any cases of bird flu in the korbanya directly refer to the RSU M Yunus Bengkulu, the tools in the largest hospitals in the area are available.

However, the DHO shall perform their tasks for the monitoring of the disease in the field. If there are reports of people found the chickens died suddenly lowered it directly to the field staff.

In addition, he also appealed to residents if there are chickens died suddenly in large quantities please report to the local Animal Husbandry Department, he said. (FTO)

Vietnam: 95 Tons Rotten Pigs orig. from China; 70% Lang Son

(SKDS) - Keep in recent days, authorities in different localities have been discovered and seized several tons of internal organs, legs, pork beef, pork ... smell the stench, the object being transported for consumption. In addition, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is more local border areas are still neglected stage for food control "dirty" smuggled into the country. This information makes consumers more confused before the food problem "dirty", does not guarantee food safety ...

Central test, new local
At noon on 26/6, the market management team (Market Management) 4 Nghe An in collaboration with Quynh Luu district police found the car carry a 98K BKS carrying more than 1 ton 4834 animal organs smell the stench is stored 24 barrels of foam, each box weighs about 60kg. All the above are not the organ of origin, not quarantined, are transported from Bac Giang in southern consumption. Also on 26/6, interdisciplinary Hanoi forces detained two trucks carrying 5 tons of smuggled chickens are on the road Pháp Vân - Cầu Giẽ.. Two drivers had confessed chicken on lease from Quang Ninh to Hanoi (the place of delivery is Ha Vy poultry market, Thuong Tin) but can not provide proof of origin, certificate of quarantine of vet. Statistics from the Hanoi Market Management Department, within 10 days, QLTT forces have arrested more than 17 tons of smuggled chickens.

Lang Son, Vietnam (right on the border of China) Click on map to enlarge.

Inspection and seizure of meat "dirty" is being moved to the city.
The same day, the force function of Lao Cai province have seized more than 450kg and 470kg organs pigs' feet were in the area smelled rotten TP.Lao Cai. Total meat "dirty" is a recruiter in the province purchased from China to take on domestic consumption. In Lang Son, Pham Van Dong, Deputy Director, Department of Animal Health said the force function of Lang Son province has seized nearly 95 tons in rotten pigs originating from China.

To address the meat "dirty", chicken smuggled are flooded inland illegally, MARD has established working groups by the Deputy Minister Diep Kinh Tan led the organization to check the trade in livestock, poultry, especially trafficking in prohibited substances and meat "dirty" in some inland localities. However, speaking at the Steering Committee meeting to prevent bird flu recently, Deputy Minister Diep Kinh Tan was burning when incompressible actual evidence from inspections in Lang Son Province, the delegation has 70% of meat is "dirty", rotten meat is smuggled into our country through this area, 70% of livestock was banned from this entry. But when MARD strengthen epidemic prevention, the Lang Son as well as some new local coast guard military poultry, meat collection sites "rotten" to ... report!

Indifferent to PRRS

The festering meat food safety issues "dirty" rotten meat "hot" each day, the PRRS is showing signs of spreading. Pham Van Dong, Deputy Director of Veterinary Department, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said that the country has eight provinces PRRS is Bac Lieu, Bac Ninh, Dong Nai, Quang Ninh, Lang Son, Dien Bien, Hanoi and Binh Duong. Animal Health Department warned PRRS risk of further spread of the Red River Delta region and the Southeast is very high. However, Deputy Minister Diep Kinh Tan said the inspection team to check in 6/8 provinces epidemic is almost not on the government. "If the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development does not go over, the local manager will float, leaving the epidemic" - Deputy Qin urgent.

At present, many localities such as Dien Bien, Lang Son and Quang Ninh, Bac Ninh, contracting authorities almost white to the Veterinary Department, the Securities veterinary white people in the vaccine inoculation epidemic. Therefore, the month-long services that were not controlled, whereas if injected outbreak enclosure thoroughly after 15 days is only possible to control the disease.

Vietnam: Sellers and Buyers are very apathetic to #Bird Flu #H5N1

saturday, june 30, 2012

While in some neighboring provinces, the people and the government is trying to put out the service level, is now in Hanoi, it seems that the warning authorities not to be real with people, so the sellers and buyers have very apathetic ...

After nearly two years of "quiet", beginning in 2012, bird flu has come back to speed quickly spread. As of early April this year, more than 12 provinces and cities on a large scale outbreak, many can not control the outbreak.

While in some neighboring provinces, the people and governments at all levels are increasing their efforts stamping out, is now in Hanoi, apparently warning of the authorities is not really to be with people, so that both sellers and buyers have very apathetic ...

To appear in Pudong Work - Kim Lien Ward (Dong Da, Hanoi) we witnessed the chicken "cage" is displayed for sale and slaughter blatantly on the sidewalk for pedestrians challenges relevant agencies and local administration. When there are buyers, sellers cut out cantering information embedded into the pot of boiling water birds is poorly disguised. All stages plucked, slaughter ... is done on a porous lid placed right on the sidewalk. While trading location, poultry slaughter is near the offices of People's Committees of wards, but not in sight. How to staff the prompts. That showed laxity, ignorance of wards to the safety, health and lives of people?

At the same time that the loose in the management of the government as well as shortcomings in coordination with relevant agencies to prevent and combat avian influenza.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Nature News: Congressman criticizes US handling of H5N1 papers

An influential member of the US Congress remains dissatisfied with the government’s handling of two research papers on mutant forms of avian influenza, and is threatening legislation to control the controversial research.

Jim Sensenbrenner (Republican, Wisconsin) today said that the lack of a cohesive policy for handling risky research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal agencies could necessitate new laws, a situation that researchers have been trying to avoid. “I prefer not to pursue legislation on this issue, with the hopes the scientific community can create its own approach. But failing a consequential … policy, Congressional action could be required,” Sensenbrenner told Nature in a statement.

The second of the controversial papers showing that H5N1, or ‘bird flu’, can spread through the air between mammals was published last week, providing some closure to the months-long debate about the work and whether its publication would result in the proliferation of dangerous viruses and increased risk of an accidental or intentional release. Sensenbrenner says not enough work has been done to ensure that such controversies don’t arise again.

On 21 June, NIH director Francis Collins responded to some pointed questions issued by Sensenbrenner’s office after a 29–30 March meeting when the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB)reversed its initial opposition to the publication of the papers, in light of some manuscript revisions and the addition of data. Sensenbrenner, who is the vice-chairman of the Congressional committee on science and technology and sits on a subcommittee on terrorism and homeland security, had requested details on the provenance of a new government policy on reporting and overseeing ‘dual-use research of concern’ (DURC), research that could conceivably be put to nefarious ends.

This policy had been issued, hastily it seemed, on the first day of the NSABB’s March meeting. Collins’s response (found here) states that the 29 March policy was an “interagency effort, involving 15 federal departments and agencies and multiple entities from the Executive Office of the President.” Collins asserts that policy applies to all US departments and agencies that fund or conduct life-science research and that compliance is mandatory.

Sensenbrenner tells Nature that the NIH’s response isn’t particularly comforting.

“I am still unsatisfied with how the H5N1 issue was handled. Being unprepared for this situation was wholly unacceptable. I also am unconvinced that the recently-released DURC policy will sufficiently balance the critical interests at stake. Rather than a system of review, the new policy seems to be little more than a registration requirement for a limited number of projects dealing with specific pathogens. And while NIH has assured me that compliance is mandatory, the actual text of the policy states that Federal Departments and Agencies ‘should implement’ the enumerated actions, which raises the question of whether Federal Agencies will interpret compliance as discretionary.”

Sensenbrenner adds that he hopes the science community can quickly devise an approach to DURC.

Yesterday, 26 June, we reported that Anthony Fauci, head of the NIH institute that funded the flu research, is planning to release a more detailed plan — the United States Government Policy for Local Institutional Oversight of Dual Use Research of Concern — will likely be available for public comment within the coming weeks. Nevertheless, a self-imposed moratorium on research with mutant flu strains appears likely to lift before that policy would take effect. More high-risk papers are likely to be published under the current oversight system, which has proved inadequate for handling them.

Update: Correction made. Dr. Fauci is not the one responsible for releasing the policy.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Egypt Major General Dr. Salim Osama Statement on #H5N1 #Birdflu


Because of the loose security in the recent rampant smuggling of animals, especially across the southern border with Sudan and across the Arab borders through Libya, and as this phenomenon is extremely dangerous to livestock in the Arab Republic of Egypt, as these animals are not subject to any tests veterinary, which may expose wealth Hayaniya in Egypt for Asabj and what the most and the most dangerous, has begun the General Authority for Veterinary Services in coordination with the border guards military intelligence and police forces to develop security plans to combat this dangerous phenomenon, which destroys our wealth of animal and cause heavy losses to breeders, also developed the plan ambitious future to ensure control of the disease coming to Egypt and are concentrated in: First, work on the maintenance and modernization of veterinary quarantines, which is currently working in different governorates.

Second, work to increase the capacity of veterinary Ahadjrbh championships.
Third, work on grooves Anchaoua to the border, especially in the areas of Abu Simbel south of Aswan, Safaga Red Sea Governorate and Suez in Suez, in order to facilitate the import of live animals from African countries, particularly Ethiopia and Sudan.
Fourth, to start immediately in the development of a scientific plan to develop and modernize Majarz in various provinces in accordance with international standards.
President of the General Authority for Veterinary Services.

Avian Influenza A Virus in Wild Birds in Highly Urbanized Areas


Avian influenza virus (AIV) surveillance studies in wild birds are usually conducted in rural areas and nature reserves. Less is known of avian influenza virus prevalence in wild birds located in densely populated urban areas, while these birds are more likely to be in close contact with humans. Influenza virus prevalence was investigated in 6059 wild birds sampled in cities in the Netherlands between 2006 and 2009, and compared with parallel AIV surveillance data from low urbanized areas in the Netherlands. Viral prevalence varied with the level of urbanization, with highest prevalence in low urbanized areas. Within cities virus was detected in 0.5% of birds, while seroprevalence exceeded 50%. Ring recoveries of urban wild birds sampled for virus detection demonstrated that most birds were sighted within the same city, while few were sighted in other cities or migrated up to 2659 km away from the sample location in the Netherlands. Here we show that urban birds were infected with AIVs and that urban birds were not separated completely from populations of long-distance migrants. The latter suggests that wild birds in cities may play a role in the introduction of AIVs into cities. Thus, urban bird populations should not be excluded as a human-animal interface for influenza viruses.

-Click on Title for Full Research Article -
PLoS One
Josanne H. Verhagen1, Vincent J. Munster2, Frank Majoor3, Pascal Lexmond1, Oanh Vuong1, Job B. G. Stumpel1¤, Guus F. Rimmelzwaan1, Albert D. M. E. Osterhaus1, Martin Schutten1, Roy Slaterus3, Ron A. M. Fouchier1*
1 National Influenza Center and Department of Virology, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 2 Laboratory of Virology, Division of Intramural Research, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Hamilton, Montana, United States of America, 3 Sovon Dutch Centre for Field Ornithology, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Vietnam: H5N1 flu spread through the air?

Google Translation:

Wednesday, 06/27/2012 23:51

Research by scientists Netherlands and the U.S. found the H5N1 bird flu virus has been genetically modified and can easily spread from person to person through the air. This has raised concerns about the global H5N1 flu pandemic

According to reports published in scientific journals, a virologist at the Medical Center Erasmus University - Netherlands has done research on influenza A/H5N1 virus. Accordingly, the H5N1 bird flu virus has mutated and become a dangerous new strain, not only among poultry, it is also capable of spreading among mammals (including humans) through air gas. With this research, scientists fear the virus strain changes may occur in the natural environment.

A patient being treated for influenza A/H5N1

New flu strains, more dangerous

Together, another study on avian flu was announced by U.S. scientists shows that H5N1 virus can also be combined with other common seasonal flu strains to spread from person to person. This study has also created a strain of H5N1 influenza can spread through the air after combining with H1N1 flu strain.

Appeared in Vietnam since 2003, so far, 123 cases of influenza A/H5N1 in 40 provinces and city.Including 61 deaths in 30 localities. From early 2012 until now, the country has recorded four people infected with H5N1 flu, including two deaths.[See our 2012 Worldwide Cases Map on the right side bar] To date, the incidence and death from this strain is largely due to direct contact or indirectly with infected poultry.

According to Nguyen Van Binh, Director of Preventive Health - Ministry of Health, influenza surveillance activities are carried out regularly and has not recorded any cases of A/H5N1 flu spread from person to person in our country.

Mr. Binh said that the virus is possible to spread from person to person through the air. It is through droplets of respiratory secretions of infected birds or breathing air containing dust from bird droppings. In addition, this virus can spread through ingestion and contact with equipment or objects infected. People can also become infected by direct contact with infected poultry breeding, transportation, slaughtering and processing, poultry diseases and poultry products may be cooked or processed unhygienic.

Flu hazard when combined

Dr. Nguyen Hong Ha, deputy director of Tropical Diseases Hospital central concern: "If the virus is able to air and the wider diffusion than saliva ejected. One of the measures to prevent spread of flu is to wear a mask while limiting exposure to risk of infection through droplets of saliva.However, when this virus was mixed in the air, most likely risk is higher ".

According to epidemiologists, what the world is now the main concern is the risk of genetically modified H5N1 virus by recombination with other viruses transmitted from human to human or to become a global pandemic. In it, particularly concerns about the ability to combine with H1N1 flu strain H5N1.

Dr. Ha said that although highly toxic, but not everyone has the ability to sense with H5N1 infection that depends on the location of each person. Indeed, infectious influenza virus
H5N1 is very different. Many persons exposed to influenza A/H5N1 virus but very few cases.Currently, it is unclear what factors increase susceptibility to the virus.

Mr. Nguyen Van Binh said the combination of the virus is very common story, especially influenza virus. "There is a new strain of influenza can only occur for several months. This combination is considered the "nature" of the influenza virus, so the vaccine production to keep pace with the change of strain is very difficult "- Mr. Binh seen.

Experts recommend that epidemiological though this time not a seasonal flu but H5N1 avian influenza has appeared almost year-round with small outbreaks in many localities. This is a permanent threat to human health, by the majority of cases of influenza in humans is related to bird flu.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Indonesia: Wild Bird Can Recover from Bird Flu

JUNE 26, 2012

Researchers from the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, Prof. Ron Fouchier, a mutation in the journal Science describes the dangerous H5N1 bird flu virus. These new findings indicate the H5N1 virus easily transmitted to humans through the air.

According to LIPI researcher, Dr. David M. Prawiradilaga, in Indonesia there has been no news about the development of virus mutations.

"Depending on weather and environmental conditions. Conditions also affect bird health," said Dewi told VIVAnews on Tuesday, June 26, 2012.

David explains the impact of bird flu virus in wild birds and farm differently. Wild birds are still heterogeneous, while the farms have been selected so that the birds are relatively similar.

Based on "Research on Wild Bird Avian Influenza of 2007 Up In 2010" made Goddess, wild birds are more resistant to attack the bird flu virus. The resistance of the bird breeding judged inferior to wild birds. Bird farms have gone through the selection process for commodity trading.

Wild birds can heal itself from the attack of bird flu. His endurance forged stronger in the wild. But, this does not mean hitting all wild birds. There is also a wild bird that his endurance can not do self-healing.

David has not been able to provide data on paper in detail. Research on bird flu is still on the waiting list for the research could be released to the public.

Vietnam: The 11th Conference, provincial Party Executive Committee XII

DBP - The 11th Conference, provincial Party Executive Committee XII takes place in 2 days 26 and 27/6. Comrades: Lo Mai Trinh, member of Party Central Committee, Secretary of Provincial Party Committee Nguyen Thanh Tung, Deputy Secretary of Provincial Party Committee, Chairman of Provincial People's Council chaired the meeting.

The first working day (26/6), the participants focused comments on the draft report on the performance of tasks the first 6 months and key tasks the last 6 months.

Most participants agreed the issues raised in the report, and drill down analysis of the pluses and minuses in the process direction and development of socio - economic, ensure QP - AN.

The participants said that in difficult conditions due to inflation and disease of cattle, poultry outbreaks, but GDP growth was estimated to be 10.05% over the same period in 2011 was a success.

However, economic growth, but less stable. In the development of agriculture and forestry are still many potential risks to life, psychological farmers as PRRS, avian flu; the planning and planting, protection, contracting forest and forest land, especially in poor districts under Resolution 30a still confused....
-click on Title for full article-

Vietnam: Vinh Long vaccinated more than 1.7 million doses of bird flu vaccine

Implementing vaccination campaign vaccine bird flu in 2012, from the beginning of the year, the veterinary station seven districts in the province of Vinh Long has the military been vaccinated more than 1.7 million doses of vaccine for poultry.

In the total vaccinated poultry, chickens were injected over 370,100 doses of 34% above plan and 1.37 million ducks and 88% planned dose. According to the veterinary sector, the flu vaccination of poultry is still later than planned. The reason the supply of vaccine from the slow route, the management and shot the duck on the forum also difficult.

For the prevention of bird flu in the province with high efficiency, coupled with the current propaganda promoting awareness to farmers, strengthen the management of the duck, veterinary also directed the provincial medical and veterinary stations of the district - the city strengthen vaccination monitoring and ensure poultry is properly and fully injected dose.

Nature News: Freeze on mutant-flu research set to thaw

But some fear that if more labs work on the viruses, the risk of accidental release will multiply.
If you thought that the controversy was over, think again. Last week’s publication of the second of two papers describing how to make mammalian-transmissible forms of the H5N1 avian influenza virus merely closes one chapter of a smouldering debate about the risks of the research. That debate seems certain to reignite in the coming months once researchers lift a voluntary moratorium on the work.
-click on title for full article-

H7 in Mexican poultry, Indonesian H5N1 vaccine, Hong Kong eases flu alert, flu vaccine seizures

Jun 25, 2012

Large H7 outbreaks strike Mexican poultry
Animal health officials in Mexico are investigating three low-pathogenic H7 avian influenza outbreaks at commercial layer farms in the country's central Jalisco state, according to a Jun 22 report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). More lab tests are under way to more fully characterize the virus's subtype and pathogenicity. The birds showed clinical signs, including gasping, lethargy, drooping wings, and fever. The outbreaks began Jun 13, sickening 587,160 birds and killing 211,242 of more than 1 million susceptible poultry. In one of the outbreaks 60,000 birds were culled as a control measure. Investigators are working to determine the extent of the problem, the source of the outbreak, and if any other pathogens are involved. The outbreaks are the first known occurrence of avian flu in Mexico, according to the report.
Jun 22 OIE report

Indonesia begins H5N1 vaccine production
Indonesia's health minister said the country has started producing its own supply of vaccine against the H5N1 virus, Bernama, Malaysia's national news agency, reported today. Nafsiah Mboi told Xinhua, China's national news agency, that so far several thousand vaccine doses have been produced, with more than 50,000 needed for stockpiling in the event of an H5N1 pandemic in Indonesia or to assist other countries where outbreaks are occurring. She said the vaccine is being produced in Bandung, the capital of West Java province. Indonesia leads the world with the highest number of confirmed human H5N1 infections and deaths—189 cases, of which 157 were fatal. In a 2007 protest against developing countries' poor access to drugs and vaccines against H5N1, it temporarily stopped sharing virus samples. Since then, global health officials and the countries themselves have developed plans for the countries to start producing their own vaccine, and in 2011 the World Health Assembly approved a working group's final virus-sharing agreement that improved the flow of the countermeasures to poorer countries.
Jun 25 Bernama story

Hong Kong steps down flu response level
Hong Kong health authorities have lowered the region's influenza response level from "serious" to "alert," 21 days after a boy from China who was hospitalized in the area was diagnosed as having an H5N1 infection, according to a Jun 22 press release from the Hong Kong government. On Jun 1, Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection (CHP) raised the flu response level, boosting surveillance and investigating the source of the boy's infection. Officials placed the boy's close contacts under quarantine, and no more cases were detected. The CHP has classified the case as an imported sporadic infection. The boy is still hospitalized in serious condition. Earlier reports said he was in a pediatric intensive care unit at Princess Margaret Hospital undergoing treatment for obstructive hydrocephalus.
Jun 22 Hong Kong government press release

New Zealand study: Febrile seizures more common after Fluvax
A New Zealand study in Vaccine of the 2010 and 2011 flu seasons found that fever was more common after children received Fluvax, the vaccine linked to febrile convulsions in Australian children, compared with other vaccines. The researchers conducted telephone surveys of parents of children who received 4,088 doses of flu vaccine, and the response rate was 99%. Vaccines offered in New Zealand varied between 2010 and 2011. Fluvax, made by CSL, was not offered in 2011, based on febrile seizures identified in 2010 among young Australian children. The New Zealand team found a risk for febrile convulsions of 35 per 10,000 doses in children ages 6 months to 8 years within 24 hours of receiving Fluvax. No convulsions were reported following 3,223 doses of the other vaccines. Investigators noted that febrile events within 24 hours of vaccination were more common following Fluvax, and to a lesser extent, Influvac, the vaccine made by Solvay. The findings are in line with other smaller studies investigating fevers following Fluvax administration, though rates in Australian studies were higher. The study also found that the rate of febrile reactions in Pacific Islanders to be one third that of children of European origin.
July Vaccine abstract

Debate over H5N1 fatality rate flares again

In the latest chapter in an ongoing debate over the true case-fatality ratio (CFR) for human H5N1 influenza infections, a group of leading flu experts has written a Science article rejecting the idea that millions of H5N1 infections have gone undetected.

The debate was sparked by the controversy over publication of two studies involving lab-created H5N1 viruses with airborne transmissibility (both of which have now been published in full). Some proponents of publishing the full details of the studies argued that the true H5N1 case-fatality ratio (CFR) is probably much lower than the nearly 60% observed in confirmed cases, because in their view many mild or asymptomatic cases have likely been missed.

In February, Science published a meta-analysis by a team from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City who said that on the basis of seroprevalence studies, the infection rate in populations exposed to H5N1 could be 1% to 2%, which would probably translate into millions of infections globally. The authors were Taia T. Wang, PhD, Michael K. Parides, PhD, and Peter Palese, PhD.

In the article published today, flu experts write that Wang and colleagues "overinterpret the results of seroprevalence studies and take too little account of underlying uncertainties. Although the true risk of death from H5N1 infection will likely be lower than the 60% of reported laboratory-confirmed cases, there is little evidence of millions of missed infections."

The article is accompanied by a response from the Mount Sinai group, who observe that the combined rural population of countries where H5N1 outbreaks occur is about 1 billion and assert that the tests used in seroprevalence studies probably miss many cases.

The first author of the article published today is Maria D. Van Kerkhove, PhD, and the senior author is Neil M. Ferguson, D Phil, both of the Medical Research Council Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modeling at Imperial College London. Several other widely known flu experts are co-authors.

The main way to detect asymptomatic or subclinical cases is to conduct seroprevalence studies, looking for H5N1 antibodies in people who weren't sick but may have been exposed to the virus, such as contacts of confirmed case-patients, poultry cullers, or residents of an area where poultry outbreaks occurred. In nearly all such studies conducted since 2003, few people tested positive, if any.

The Van Kerkhove article says that H5N1 cases in both the numerator and denominator of the CFR are undoubtedly being missed, since in some disease-related deaths the cause remains undetermined and some sick people never seek medical care. But it notes that in a recent systematic review by Van Kerkhove and others, most studies found no seropositive individuals, and the seropositive rate in the rest was less than 3%.

That review and others have pointed up the limitations of seroprevalence studies and cautioned against overinterpreting low levels of seroprevalnece as signaling actual infection, the authors write. They note that findings are clouded by a lack of standardized serologic assays, variable criteria for seropositivity, and cross-reactions in people who have been exposed to seasonal flu or vaccines.

"Populations with no known exposure to highly pathogenic H5N1 viruses also manifest low, but detectable, levels of seroprevalnece, and it is unwise to infer aymptomatic H5N1 infection on the basis of such low levels of seroprevalence," Van Kerkhove and colleagues write.

For these reasons and others, the article says, the suggestion by the Mount Sinai group that millions of H5N1 infections may have gone undetected "represents an incautious overinterpretation of limited and uncertain data."

Even if the true number of infections were 60 times as great as the official number, the authors add, "natural H5N1 viruses would still be 100 times as lethal as the 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus. The precautionary principle dictates that we continue to assume that natural H5N1 infection in humans carries a high risk of death."

In a short response to the Van Kerkhove article, Wang and Palese of Mount Sinai write that four of the countries that have H5N1 outbreaks—Vietnam, Indonesia, Egypt, and China—have a total rural populaton of about 1 billion, and each year, "some fraction of those people is exposed to H5N1," with studies suggesting 1% to 3% have been infected.

"Recent reports of human antibodies or of T cells specific for H5N1 viruses support the 1 to 3% rate of infection or provide evidence for infections without detectable antibodies," Wang and Palese write. "Over the many decades that H5N1 viruses have been circulating in poultry, millions of people have likely been infected."

Further, they assert that serologic tests used in seroprevalence studies are more likely to underestimate than overestimate the number of positives: "The lack of sensitivity of H5N1 seroassays is well documented, as is the short period in which serum H5N1 antibodies can be detected in infected individuals. The high rate of false negative results from serum-based assays is exemplified by the rate of only ~70% seropositive findings from patients with polymerase chain reaction–confirmed H5N1 disease—and this is under the best of circumstances, when the time of infection is known."

Finally, Wang and Palese dismiss as "arbitrary" the statement that if H5N1 infections were underestimated by a factor of 60, the virus would still be 100 times as lethal as the 2009 H1N1 virus.

Jun 22, 2102 (CIDRAP News) –Robert Roos * News Editor

Van Kerkhove MD, Riley S, Lipsitch M, et al. Comment on "Seroprevalence for H5N1 influenza virus infections in humans: meta-analysis." Science 2012 Jun 22;336(6088) [Full text]

Wang TT, Palese P. Response to comment on "Seroprevalence for H5N1 influenza infections in humans: meta-analysis." Science 2012 Jun 22; 336(6088):1506 [Full text]

Wang TT, Parides M, Palese P. Seroevidence for H5N1 influenza infections in humans: meta-analysis. Science 2012 Mar 23;335(6075):1463 [Full text]

See also:

Feb 24 CIDRAP News story "Debate on H5N1 death rate and missed cases continues"

Feb 9 CIDRAP News story "Undetected H5N1 cases seem few, but questions persist"

Africa: Workshop in Gambia with FAO, USAID, FVI, RESOLAB on threat posed by HPAI #H5N1 #Birdflu

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A four-day sub-regional workshop on the management of equipment and basic metrology in veterinary laboratories commenced Monday at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in Kololi. The synergy is being executed by the Ministry of Agriculture, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the France Veterinary International (FVI).

Speaking on behalf of the minister of Agriculture, the head of veterinary services, Dr. Kebba Daffeh said The Gambia has been a key partner in West and Central Africa Network of Diagnostic Veterinary Laboratories (RESOLAB) since its launching in Bamako, Mali, in December 2007 by FAO and partners.

That network, he said was launched with the objective of improving the technical capacity of all nations’ veterinary diagnostic laboratories in the region through training, logistics and technical support, exchange of technicians and transparent sharing of information within a sustainable framework in response to the then emerging threat posed by Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza.

Dr. Daffeh observes that given the limited structural and operational capacity of their veterinary services in the sub region to effectively deal with Avian Influenza and other trans-boundary animal diseases, particularly in the area of laboratory diagnosis, strengthening laboratory diagnostic capabilities is considered as a very important component.

For his part, the FAO country representative in The Gambia Dr. Babagana Ahmadu, said the incursion of highly pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 in Africa in early 2006 has attracted the attention of the international community on the weaknesses of Africa’s veterinary services and therefore promoted the launching of formal veterinary diagnostic networks as a mean to standardise laboratory testing methods, pool resources, streamline communications and share information.

For three years now based on RESOLAB and EARLN annual coordination meetings’ recommendations, FAO and its partners have supported these two networks to produce and implement a specific roadmap for strengthening laboratory quality system,” he stated.


The FAO local boss said the four-day training is meant to improve each participant’s skills in developing and implementing an equipment management programme that meets the requirement of the internationally recognised ISO 17025 standard for diagnostic laboratories.

He expressed hope that at the end of the training, participants would be in a position to develop and apply basic laboratory equipment maintenance and calibration programmes adapted to suit their laboratory environment and needs.

Swine Flu Deaths May Have Been 15 Times Higher Than Reported

The estimate shows the difficulty in tracking the effect of a pandemic as it’s unfolding, Cecile Viboud of the National Institutes of Health and Lone Simonsen of George Washington University wrote in an editorial. The WHO, which was criticized for exaggerating the H1N1 threat, said during the outbreak that the toll would end up being “unquestionably higher” than that reported to it by national authorities.

“Laboratory-confirmed deaths are gross underestimates of influenza-related mortality because of the lack of routine laboratory tests and difficulties in identification of influenza-related deaths,” they wrote.
Researchers led by Fatimah Dawood at the Atlanta-based CDC’s influenza division developed a mathematical model using data from 12 countries on flu cases that were diagnosed by a patient’s symptoms alone, and not by a laboratory test. They hypothesized that the risk of death is higher in some countries than others.
“The study underscores the significant human toll of an influenza pandemic,” Dawood and colleagues said in an e-mailed statement. “We hope that this work can be used not only to improve influenza disease burden modeling globally, but to improve the public health response during future pandemics in parts of the world that suffer more deaths.”

Eighty percent of the deaths were probably in people younger than 65 years, the authors wrote.

To contact the reporter on this story: Simeon Bennett in Geneva at

-click on title for full article-
By Simeon Bennett - Jun 25, 2012 6:30 PM ET

Estimated global mortality associated with the first 12 months of 2009 pandemic influenza A H1N1 virus circulation: a modelling study

Publication, 26 June 2012



18,500 laboratory-confirmed deaths caused by the 2009 pandemic influenza A H1N1 were reported worldwide for the period April, 2009, to August, 2010.

This number is likely to be only a fraction of the true number of the deaths associated with 2009 pandemic influenza A H1N1.

We aimed to estimate the global number of deaths during the first 12 months of virus circulation in each country.


We calculated crude respiratory mortality rates associated with the 2009 pandemic influenza A H1N1 strain by age (0—17 years, 18—64 years, and >64 years) using the cumulative (12 months) virus-associated symptomatic attack rates from 12 countries and symptomatic case fatality ratios (sCFR) from five high-income countries. To adjust crude mortality rates for differences between countries in risk of death from influenza, we developed a respiratory mortality multiplier equal to the ratio of the median lower respiratory tract infection mortality rate in each WHO region mortality stratum to the median in countries with very low mortality. We calculated cardiovascular disease mortality rates associated with 2009 pandemic influenza A H1N1 infection with the ratio of excess deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases during the pandemic in five countries and multiplied these values by the crude respiratory disease mortality rate associated with the virus. Respiratory and cardiovascular mortality rates associated with 2009 pandemic influenza A H1N1 were multiplied by age to calculate the number of associated deaths.


We estimate that globally there were 201 200 respiratory deaths (range 105 700—395 600) with an additional 83 300 cardiovascular deaths (46 000—179 900) associated with 2009 pandemic influenza A H1N1. 80% of the respiratory and cardiovascular deaths were in people younger than 65 years and 59% occurred in southeast Asia and Africa.


Our estimate of respiratory and cardiovascular mortality associated with the 2009 pandemic influenza A H1N1 was 15 times higher than reported laboratory-confirmed deaths. Although no estimates of sCFRs were available from Africa and southeast Asia, a disproportionate number of estimated pandemic deaths might have occurred in these regions. Therefore, efforts to prevent influenza need to effectively target these regions in future pandemics.



Monday, June 25, 2012

Video Interview: Ostrich Bird Flu Creates Uncertainty for Farmers S. Africa

June 25 (Bloomberg) -- Piet Kleyn, chief executive officer of the South African Office Business Chamber, speaks with Bloomberg's Mike Cohen about the impact of the bird-flu outbreak on the country's ostrich-farming industry. Ranger Gerebe, manager of the Cango ostrich show farm, also speaks.

[click on the title for the link to the interview]

The Evolution of Bird Flu, and the Race to Keep Up

No one knows the probability that H5N1 would reassort with a human flu. All researchers know is that a hybrid between H5N1 and a human flu has not been discovered — yet.

“We really don’t talk about it, because so little is known about the probability of it,” said Dr. Smith.

This ignorance is nothing new when it comes to flu. In a commentary in Science, Dr. Lipsitch and his colleagues point out just how often flu evolution delivers us unpleasant surprises. Resistance to antiviral drugs like Tamiflu, for example, arose without warning.

Dr. Lipsitch doesn’t take much comfort from the fact that the engineered viruses are relatively mild in ferrets. The scientists can’t explain why their viruses are mild, and if they escape they might evolve further, becoming both easily spread and quite deadly.

-click on title for full article-

Indonesia strives to have sufficient bird flu vaccine

2012-06-25 13:44:57

Indonesian Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi said on Monday the country was attempting to produce bird flu vaccine to a sufficient level when the pandemic takes place.

The minister said that although the H5N1 virus attack had eased recently, the country needed to remain alert on the dangers as it has killed seven people this year in Indonesia.

Minister Nafsiah said that Indonesia needed over 50,000 units vaccine to be used when pandemic occurred and to help other countries.

"The process of production has been done in Bandung (the capital of West Java province). We must be ready when pandemic take place. We need over 50,000 units vaccines for it and to assist foreign countries," she said at the parliament building.

The minister said that thousands of vaccines had been produced so far.

Bird flu had attacked Indonesia, the hardest, since 2005, and then the attacks eased significantly. But, it has reemerged since last year, killing nine people in 2011.

Concerns on the bird flu attacks appear in the region following the reports of the death on the viruses in Indonesia, Cambodia, China and Vietnam.

Dead bird tested H5N1-positive in Hong Kong

2012-06-25 18:27:41

A dead scaly-breasted munia found in northern Hong Kong has tested positive for the H5N1 avian influenza virus, the city government said in a statement on Monday.

The bird was found on June 18. The scaly-breasted munia is a common resident bird in Hong Kong.

A spokesman for the city's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said the department would continue to conduct inspections of poultry farms to ensure that proper precautions against avian influenza have been implemented.

He also reminded people to observe good personal hygiene. "They should avoid personal contact with wild birds or live poultry and clean their hands thoroughly after coming into contact with them," he said.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

EU - Ban on poultry from Thailand lifted


This will have little effect on Brazilian poultry exports as the Middle East is their main market.

The end of the ban could cut prices for consumers at a time when they have been hard hit by inflation in other foodstuffs.

These are some of the main conclusions coming out of a new report from Rabobank " The Return of Thai Raw Chicken - Global players need to change strategy."

The restrictions on one of the world's major poultry exporters followed an outbreak of bird flu in the country in 2003.

Japan also stopped importing Thai raw poultry and is widely expected to lift its own restrictions. Brazil is set to be particularly hard hit as it is currently the major supplier to both Japan and Europe.

The 2003 ban saw the poultry sector in Thailand lose 350,000 tonnes of export volume out of a total of 500,000 tonnes and suffer from years of overcapacity.

However, in recent years the industry has shifted its strategic focus to cooked processed poultry meat, for which exports were allowed.

This strategy was so successful that the industry once again reached full capacity in 2010/2011, resulting in a first wave of investments.

The re-opening of the EU and Japanese markets could see Thailand's raw chicken production grow by 20 per cent by 2015.

The EU and Japan have long favoured Thai products for their high quality and low prices.

"Thailand's return to the market will lead to a new wave of investment in the Thai poultry industry as it might offer new growth opportunities," said Nan-Dirk Mulder of Rabobank Food and Agribusiness Research and Advisory.

In the EU, an expected influx of 92,000 tonnes of chicken on to the market is expected to significantly increase price competition between suppliers of raw chicken from Thailand and Brazil, and to a lesser extent Argentina, with consequently lower prices.

The EU market for fresh meat - and the local players involved in it - will be relatively unaffected because labeling standards make importing fresh meat economically unviable.

In Japan, the return of Thailand to the market will give traders more options to source products, again to the detriment of Brazil.

Japanese imports of Thai raw chicken are set to reach up to 150,000 tonnes within a few years, with imports from Brazil falling from 350,000 tonnes to 250,000 tonnes and lower prices all round, Rabobank believes.
Meanwhile, despite the boost from the lifting of the EU ban, Thailand needs to focus on reducing risks in the industry, Rabobank says.

The bird flu outbreak starkly illustrated the risks of being mostly focused on raw meat and the increased proportion of cooked meat products will help in the event that bird flu returns to Thailand, a country where the disease is endemic, according to the Rabobank report.

Currently, its export profile is 95 per cent cooked meat to five per cent raw meat which will move to 70 per cent cooked to 30 per cent raw if it can regain its position in Japan and the EU.

But a recurrence of bird flu and subsequent import bans from the EU and Japan could mean the industry will have 20 per cent overcapacity at a stroke.

"A well-balanced approach to dealing with the constantly present possibility of an avian influenza outbreak is the base for a strong international position," said Mulder.

"An ongoing emphasis on biosecurity will be key."

To lower its risk, Rabobank believes the Thai poultry industry could: