Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Bird flu most likely to infect and kill young people

Ninety percent of the people infected with bird flu have been under the age of 40, and 60 percent of them have died, according to the latest analysis from the World Health Organization.

But the WHO researchers stressed their analysis did not suggest why this might be and noted there are several theories on why the H5N1 virus seems to attack younger people.

The H5N1 avian influenza virus has infected 272 people in 10 countries since it re-emerged in 2003. It has killed 166 of them.

It remains mostly a virus of birds and has killed or forced the culling of more than 200 million chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and other fowl.

But its occasional attack on a human being has researchers worried. They fear it could mutate into a form more like seasonal flu, in which case it would be spread around the world by people and could kill millions.

So WHO is watching it very carefully and keeping statistics on every case. This kind of work, called epidemiology, can help scientists understand diseases, who they infect and who is most in danger.

WHO's Weekly Epidemiological Record, published on its Web site at www.who.int, analyzes all laboratory-confirmed human cases of H5N1 infection reported between late November 2003 and late November 2006.

The analysis said the median age of people confirmed infected was 18 years old.


Monday, February 5, 2007

H5N1 strain claims first human victim in Africa

Monday, February 05, 2007

By Jeremy Laurance

The first human death from avian flu in west Africa was confirmed at the weekend in what experts said was a much more serious development than the spread of the virus to a turkey farm in Suffolk.

A 22-year-old woman from Lagos, Nigeria, who died on 16 January was infected with the H5N1 virus, the World Health Organisation confirmed

Professor Angus Nicoll, head of the avian flu division of the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, in Stockholm, said: "This [Nigeria] is the most populous country in Africa. It has got H5N1 in poultry and it must be a candidate for a pandemic to emerge. The most disturbing thing is that the possibility of the Nigerian government controlling this must be slim." ...

Professor Koos Van der Velden, chairman of the European Influenza Surveillance Scheme, said: "I sense the public is fed up with the all the warnings about H5N1, when they see the pandemic has not happened. But the threat is still there and the chances are higher that it will start in a part of the world which is most heavily populated and where the systems of government are weak."

Source: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/article2237910.ece

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Gov't Prepares for Bird-Flu Pandemic

Early signs suggest this year's record supply of flu vaccine could exceed demand, and the potential financial blow to the drug industry could diminish its interest in serving this market just as the U.S. government tries to prepare for a possible bird-flu pandemic. Public health officials and academics who met Thursday at a conference to discuss seasonal- and bird-flu preparation urged the government to commit billions of dollars more toward its bird-flu outbreak response plan. Some worry that without adequate financial incentives from the government, the drug industry may not make the up-front investments needed to ensure its readiness in the event of an emergency.

Johns Hopkins University Epidemiology professor John Bartlett told the conference that the government should make pandemic preparations a priority on the scale of the Apollo space mission of the 1960s. The conference was co-sponsored by several government agencies and drug companies, including GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Gilead Sciences Inc. Even if the government sets aside significant sums of money for bird-flu readiness, private companies such as Glaxo and Novartis AG could lose interest in vaccine development if they don't first see a robust market for their regular flu shots.

Manufacturers shipped an unprecedented 102 million doses of flu vaccine in recent months, largely in response to government policies aimed at encouraging more Americans to get the injections. The government's hope is that by making flu shots routine for more Americans, it will be easier to respond in the event of a bird-flu pandemic.

"We need to recognize that a strong public health response to seasonal influenza will enable a strong public response to pandemic influenza," said Chris Colwell, a director with the Biotechnology Industry Organization, which lobbies on behalf of biotech drug makers.

The Department of Health and Human Services wants to be able to provide enough vaccine for the entire U.S. population within six months of a bird flu outbreak - a goal that could take years to reach, according to the agency's secretary, Michael Leavitt.

In the meantime, the government has been encouraging manufacturers to ratchet up their production capabilities by increasing output of traditional flu shots.

Source: ABC News

Experts call for monitoring of cats, dogs for H5N1

The discovery of Avian influenza in cats and dogs has heightened concerns about a virus that experts had thought was basically infecting chickens, ducks and other fowl.

Health experts have called for closer monitoring of the H5N1 virus in domestic animals after Indonesian scientists detected it in stray cats near poultry markets in some parts of the country. They worry that if the virus adapts to mammals it could more easily spread among people. A survey by Chairul Anwar Nidom, a scientist at Airlangga University in Surabaya, found H5N1 antibodies in 20 percent of 500 stray cats near poultry markets in four areas in Java, including Jakarta, and one area in Sumatra where there had been recent human H5N1 cases or outbreaks of the disease in poultry.

The survey said the findings suggested the cats had probably been infected because they ate infected poultry. In another case, Gusti Ngurah Mahardika, a virologist at Udayana University, surveyed pigs and domestic animals in Bali between September and December last year and found the virus in two dogs and a cat. Although the cases in cats and dogs are not widespread, scientists are concerned.

Lo Winglok, an infectious disease expert in Hong Kong, said it's bad news whenever the H5N1 jumps species.

"With more species of mammals infected, that could be a sign that the virus is mutating to adapt to mammalian hosts. If they are adapting to mammals, they could be on the way to adapting to humans, to become a human virus," Lo warned.

Musni Suatmodjo, Indonesia's animal health director, said there had been reports about the virus in cats and pigs in Indonesia, but had no details.

"Informally, there's information that bird flu infection in cats was found in Bandung and Bali. We also found another case in pigs in Yogyakarta," he told Reuters.

Source:Reuters Jakarta

Monday, January 29, 2007

Flu Vaccine Mass Production Due to Begin By End of 2007

The China Post staff and agencies

The National Health Research Institute (NHRI) said yesterday that Taiwan has conducted successful animals tests on a vaccine that could protect people against a yet-to-emerge pandemic strain of bird flu.
Mass production of flu vaccine against the virulent H5N1 avian flu strain is expected to begin at the end of this year, Taiwan will produce between 60,000 and 80,000 doses of the vaccine per month from the end of this year.

Several other countries worldwide are working to develop vaccines that could be used against a pandemic flu strain.

The successful tests came after 17 months of research, starting from "ground zero" because the island did not have previous experience in the field before, said Pele Chong, who leads the vaccine development program at the NHRI.

If a pandemic bird flu strain emerges, experts have predicted it could take six months before inoculations such as the one Taiwan is developing could be adjusted to provide full protection.

However, vaccines that defend against the existing H5N1 bird flu virus are expected to provide a lesser degree of immunity. The virus remains hard for humans to catch, but experts fear it could mutate into a form that passes easily among people, potentially igniting a pandemic.

For Full Article: http://www.chinapost.com.tw/p_detail.asp?id=101246&GRP=A&onNews=

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Japan confirms fresh H5 bird flu outbreak

TOKYO - Japan on Thursday confirmed another case of H5 bird flu at a poultry farm in the southwestern prefecture of Miyazaki, a farm ministry official said.

Further tests were needed to confirm if the virus was H5N1, she added.

Tests had so far confirmed the presence of H5 subtype influenza at the farm, where more than 1,300 birds had died as of Wednesday.

Earlier this month, Japan suffered its first outbreak of H5N1 bird flu in poultry in more than three years.

No cases of human infection have been reported.

The Agriculture Ministry said in a statement that it had ordered poultry at the farm to be killed and the site to be disinfected. Movement of people and goods within a 10 km (6 miles) radius of the farm was to be restricted, it added.

Source: http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticleNew.asp?xfile=data/theworld/2007/January/theworld_January731.xml§ion=theworld&col=

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Egypt: Woman dies of bird flu

An Egyptian woman has died from bird flu overnight, bringing to 11 the number of people in the country to have succumbed to the lethal disease. Warda Eid Ahmed, 27, from Beni Sueif south of Cairo, was hospitalised on January 13 in Cairo before being diagnosed with H5N1 four days later.

"Eight of the 19 cases have been cured," health ministry spokesman Abdel Rahman Shahin said, quoted by the Mena news agency Saturday. "The cases which were detected early and treated quickly were all cured. The 11 deaths were victims discovered to be at an advanced stage of the disease," he added.

According to Shahin, the latest victim had undergone treatment with the anti-flu drug Tamiflu.

Source: http://www.albawaba.com/en/countries/Egypt/208608