Sunday, March 09, 2008

Coming up with a flu plan - Avian flu related

LEXINGTON PARK, Md.—Interest in avian flu seems to have waned recently, but its threat is still present in several rural areas, principally in the Orient. A previously unknown and dangerous strain of the H5N1 bird flu has emerged from southern China and has spread from birds to people in Southeast Asia, marking a third wave of avian flu and rekindling fears of a global pandemic.

Medical researchers appear to be making progress toward producing vaccines and medications that may someday prevent and/or treat the disease, but it is unlikely that the United States or any other nation will be well prepared should there be an extensive outbreak of the disease in the near future.

Since avian flu will be spread throughout the population in many of the same ways that other strains of flu are spread, an experiment might be conducted during the current flu season that could lead to a set of measures to help contain the spread of avian flu should it become pandemic in the Unite d States.

This experiment could be conducted at relatively low expense by selecting two similar communities in Rhode Island for study, and encouraging the population of one of these communities to carry out a special anti-flu campaign while the population of the second community is asked to proceed through the flu season in its traditional manner.

Residents of the counter-flu community would be asked to voluntarily wear surgical masks throughout the one-month test period whenever they are outside of their homes, especially when they are in malls and other public sites or are using public transportation. If the experiment is sponsored by a governmental authority or by a private foundation or non-governmental organization, the surgical masks might be provided free at convenient locations or sold at reduced cost through pharmacies and other outlets.

The second phase of this experiment would consist of a campaign by local governments, institutions and businesses to disinfect door handles and other surfaces touched frequently by large numbers of workers, customers and others throughout working hours. Medical and public-health authorities would propose the most effective means of accomplishing this and, again, if government or non-governmental organizations are sponsoring the overall campaign, the appropriate materials might be made available at convenient locations at no cost or at reduced cost.

Businesses, schools, public-transportation facilities, libraries and other institutions would be encouraged to establish teams of personnel assigned and trained in the most effective techniques for disinfecting the surfaces that are touched frequently. Appropriate intervals for disinfecting these surfaces would be prescribed by the public-health authorities.

The third phase of this experiment would consist of providing an antiseptic hand lotion to any personnel desiring it. The lotion could be provided at various locations where free dispensers could be installed, in schools, at retail stores, mass-transit facilities and in restaurant and office restrooms. This hand-cleansing service is already available throughout the nation in grocery stores such as Whole Foods.

The fourth phase of the experiment would consist of regular reminders in the local newspaper and in prominently displayed posters throughout the city: “This is the flu season. Your fingers are quite likely to encounter millions of flu viruses. Don’t transmit these viruses to your eyes or nose, and wash your hands frequently.”

Although the statistics on cases of flu reported to hospitals and clinics are readily available, and may be sufficient to evaluate the effectiveness of this counter-flu campaign, it might be advisable to encourage any resident in the two cities who experiences unmistakable flu symptoms to provide this information to the public-health authorities.

If the Rhode Island counter-flu community turns out to have significantly fewer cases of flu over a typical flu season, a national plan for countering avian flu should incorporate these four procedures.

(Clayton Conger is a senior program analyst with Wyle Laboratories and a consultant to the Navy. For more stories, visit

Avian flu article source: Scripts Howard News Service

Posted by john T. on 03/09 at 05:47 AM
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Bird flu resurfaces in West Bengal

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A fresh outbreak of bird flu in poultry has been reported from West Bengal, officials said on Sunday, a month after authorities there said they had contained the virus.

The outbreak, the fifth in India since 2006, has been reported from two villages of Murshidabad district, officials said.

“We are worried that bird flu has returned to West Bengal because the outbreak seemed to be under control,” Anisur Rahaman, the state’s animal resources minister told Reuters on Sunday.

In January, the H5N1 virus affected 13 of the state’s 19 districts, including Murshidabad. The strain of the latest virus was still being tested, but Rahaman said preliminary checks have indicated the H5N1 strain.

More than 3.4 million birds were culled during the last outbreak, which the World Health Organization (WHO) described as the worst-ever in India.

India has not reported any human bird flu cases, but the earlier outbreaks had badly hit poultry businesses in West Bengal and had a limited effect on poultry sales elsewhere in the country.

The virus could have now resurfaced from infected backyard poultry saved from culling by villagers, Rahaman said.

“We are trying to find out the reasons, but it seems that villagers had hidden ducks and chickens during the previous culling operation,” Rahaman said by phone from Kolkata.

Bird flu story source: Reuters

Posted by john T. on 03/09 at 05:40 AM
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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Dead bird found in HK tests positive for H5N1

HONG KONG, March 8 (Xinhua)—An oriental magpie robin found dead earlier in Hong Kong has tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region said in a press release Friday.

“An oriental magpie robin was confirmed to be H5N1 positive after a series of laboratory tests,” said the Department.

The dead bird was collected on Feb. 29 near a management center in Tai Po Kau Nature Reserve in the northern district of New Territories, a government spokesman said, adding that the oriental magpie robin is a common resident in Hong Kong.

Bird flu story source: Xinhua

Posted by john T. on 03/08 at 01:17 PM
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Egyptian boy confirmed with bird flu, 47th case

CAIRO, March 8 (Reuters) - An 8-year-old boy in Fayoum province has contracted the bird flu virus after coming into contact with infected birds—the 47th case among humans in Egypt since 2006, the Health Ministry said on Saturday.

The boy, Abdel Hamid el-Sayed Youssef, was taken to a local hospital with a high temperature, difficulty breathing and a pulmonary inflammation, spokesman Abdel Rahman Shahine said in a statement.

He moved to a Cairo hospital on Friday and is being treated with Tamiflu, the standard treatment for humans, it said.

Avian flu story source: Reuters

Posted by john T. on 03/08 at 01:14 PM
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Vietnam bird flu outbreak spreads to Hanoi

Hanoi (dpa) - Bird flu has killed more than 2,000 ducks and chickens in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi, raising the number of provinces with avian influenza outbreaks this year to 10, an official said Friday.

More than 2,000 ducks and chickens were found dead at a farm in Hanoi’s outlying district of Soc Son between March 3 and 4, and tests Thursday showed they were positive for the H5N1 virus, according to Tran Manh Giang, head of the city’s animal health department.

“Most of the poultry at the farm were ducklings and chickens under 10 days old, and had thus not been vaccinated yet,” Giang said.

Giang said authorities had culled the remaining 1,660 chickens and ducks at the farm, disinfected the area, and banned the transport of poultry from the neighborhood.

“We are afraid the outbreak will expand to other farms in the district, in spite of the measures we have taken,” Giang said.

Bird flu outbreaks have been detected in 10 provinces since the beginning of this year, prompting local authorities to cull tens of thousands of ducks and chickens, according to the Agriculture Ministry’s Animal Health Department.

Bird flu story source: Bangkok Post

Posted by john T. on 03/08 at 01:11 PM
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Thursday, March 06, 2008

No sign of deadly mutation in Indonesian bird flu samples: WHO

JAKARTA (AFP) — Bird flu samples sent by the Indonesian government to the World Health Organization show no sign the virus has mutated into a deadly form transmissible between humans, a WHO official said Thursday.

Indonesia, the nation hardest hit by bird flu, sent 15 virus samples from two people who died of bird flu to WHO last month, the first such transfer since August 2007.

WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl confirmed in an email to AFP from the body’s Geneva headquarters that the samples had not shown any signs of mutation.

Scientists fear a human-to-human mutation of the virus would kick off a worldwide pandemic that could kill millions.

Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said the samples had been sent out of “goodwill.”

WHO had warned last year that Indonesia’s reluctance to share flu samples put its own population at risk because any vaccines developed would not be designed to combat Indonesian strains of the H5N1 virus.

Indonesia had halted sharing samples in December 2006, saying it feared multinational drug companies could use them to develop vaccines that were not affordable for poor countries.

In August last year, a sample of the bird flu virus that killed a woman on Bali was sent to a World Health Organization laboratory to allay fears that there had been a human-to-human transfer.

H5N1 is endemic across nearly all of Indonesia, where humans and poultry live in close contact. Of the 105 overall deaths reported since the disease emerged here, 11 have occurred this year.

Bird flu story source: AFP

Posted by john T. on 03/06 at 11:00 AM
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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Bird flu well entrenched in Asia: WHO

MANILA (AFP) — The bird flu virus is “firmly entrenched” in Asia and a pandemic among humans remains possible, a World Health Organization (WHO) expert warned Wednesday.

While Asian countries are more prepared to react to any outbreaks than before and have vaccine stockpiles, deaths and infections have continued, noted Takeshi Kasai, the WHO’s regional adviser in communicable disease surveillance and response unit.

“The virus has been firmly entrenched in this region, I’m afraid,” Kasai told reporters during an exercise to test the Philippines’ preparations against the disease.

“The virus itself keeps changing, so the risk of pandemic persists.”

Experts fear the virus, which is usually spread directly from birds to humans, could mutate into a form easily transmissible between people, sparking a deadly global pandemic.

Three people have died in China this year of bird flu while a boy and his father were admitted this week to a hospital in Indonesia on suspicion of having the disease.

Since the first human cases were reported in 2003, at least 200 people have died from the H5N1 virus around the world, the WHO said. Indonesia is the world’s worst-hit country, with 11 deaths so far this year.

Brunei, Singapore and the Philippines remain the only countries in the region where the flu, either in birds or humans, has not been detected.

Kasai praised China for being more transparent in reporting suspected cases.

“I think China now is very open and has been positively sharing information, including lab results,” he said.

China has been highly criticized in the past for withholding information relating to the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that ravished the region several years ago.

Avian influenza story source: AFP

Posted by john T. on 03/05 at 11:02 AM
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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Hundreds of chickens culled in Semarang, Indonesia, due to bird flu

JAKARTA, March 1 (Xinhua)—Hundreds of chickens in Krajan villa, Bringin subdistrict, Semarang District in Indonesia’s Central Java province, were culled due to bird flu (avian influenza) virus spreading in the area.

Around 400 chickens were burned and then buried in an attempt to curb bird flu virus, Antara news agency reported on Saturday.

The measure was taken following the death of tens of chickens earlier due to bird flu virus, the report said.

The report quoted head of the Semarang animal husbandry and fishery office Agus Purwoko Djati as saying that a rapid kit test conducted by officers of the Participatory Disease Surveillance Response team had confirmed that the chickens had died of bird flu.

To prevent the bird flu virus from spreading to wider areas, hundreds of chickens found surrounding the dead chickens were culled. Owners of the chickens received 10,000 rupiah (about 1.1 U.S. dollars) in compensation for each chicken that has to be killed.

Bird flu story source: Xinhua

Posted by john T. on 03/01 at 08:57 AM
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New bird flu cases found in Dominican Republic

HAVANA, Feb. 29 (Xinhua)—New cases of bird flu have been reported in the northeastern region of the Dominican Republic and thousands of birds were culled to prevent the spread of the virus, the country’s Agriculture Ministry said on Friday.

Precautionary measures have been taken, including the culling of chickens within a radius of five kilometers of the virus-hit area, since the cases were found earlier this week, news reports said.

This is the bird flu outburst in the country since December 2007.

The virus has dealt a heavy blow to chicken farms in the country since neighboring Haiti stopped imports of chicken and eggs from the Dominican Republic since the virus was found on chickens there.

Avian flu story source: Xinhua

Posted by john T. on 03/01 at 08:55 AM
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Bird flu discovered in dead goose (UK)

A dead goose has tested positive for the highly virulent H5N1 strain of bird flu, government scientists have said.

The remains of the bird were discovered around 1km (0.6m) from Abbotsbury Swannery in Dorset, where a number of swans have been found with the disease.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the Canada goose was the eleventh wild bird in the area to test positive for H5N1.

Restrictions on the movement of poultry have now been introduced in the area.

Defra said the decision was based on veterinary advice. Poultry keepers will not be able to move birds from their premises except under license.

A spokeswoman said that the latest case of bird flu was “not unexpected”.

She said H5N1 was active at a very low level among wild birds in the area, and there was no evidence of the virus in domestic poultry locally.

Regular surveillance was continuing, she added, with patrols looking for dead birds.

Poultry movements are restricted in a zone around Abbotsbury Swannery

A Wild Bird Monitoring Area is in place around the affected area, with keepers required to keep domestic poultry away from wild birds.

Owners have been urged to stay vigilant and report any signs of the disease.

Bird flu story source: BBC

Posted by john T. on 03/01 at 08:51 AM
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