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Zoonotic Bird Flu News - from 24 Feb 2017



 New H5N2 avian flu infection confirmed in Tainan [Focus Taiwan News Channel, 26 Feb. 2017]

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Taipei, Feb. 26 (CNA) A chicken farm in Houbi District of Tainan City was confirmed to have been infected with the highly pathogenic avian flu virus H5N2 Sunday and 24,586 chickens were culled, officials of the city's Animal Health and Protection Office said.

It said the owner of the farm reported abnormal deaths of chickens on Feb. 23, and investigation and testing found that some of the 11-week-old chickens were infected with the avian flu virus.

As of Sunday, 48 poultry farms across the country have been confirmed to have contracted H5N2 virus, leading quarantine officials to destroy a total of 397,502 birds, according to the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine under the Council of Agriculture,

Earlier that day, 14,222 chickens on three farms in Yunlin County, 5,098 ducks at a Hualien County farm and 498 turkeys at a farm in Chiayi County were culled to contain H5N2 infection.

No new cases of more virulent outbreak of H5N6 virus, which could be transmitted to humans, were reported on Sunday, as the number of infected farms remained at 11 where 26,000 birds were culled, said the bureau.

These farms were mostly in the southern Taiwan city and counties of Yunlin, Chiayi and Tainan, the bureau noted, urging local governments to step up inspections of poultry farms as the island is still under the influence of a cold air mass.

(By Yang Szu-jui and S.C. Chang)



 Derbyshire still high risk area for bird flu [Buxton Advertiser, 26 Feb. 2017]

by LUCY BAL L

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A screen shot from the interactive map from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which shows the high risk areas for bird flu.

The county will remain on high alert for bird flu until at least the end of April, government officials say.

Restrictions were meant to be lifted at the end of February however a new map from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs shows wetland areas across the county are still considered to be high risk.

H5N8, or avian flu, is spread from wild birds, as well as from infected kept birds, which is why people who keep poultry are currently required to take action to try to avoid contact between poultry and wild birds – either direct, bird-to-bird contact, or indirect contact via the environment, where disease can be spread through things like contaminated bird droppings.

Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens said: “Effective disease control will always be our priority. H5N8 continues to circulate in wild birds and we must all continue to do everything we can to reduce the risk of disease. All keepers across the country must follow strict mandatory disease prevention measures.

“Based on clear scientific evidence, the risk from wild birds is too high in some areas of England to rely on biosecurity measures alone. That’s why we are requiring birds in Higher Risk Areas to be housed or protected from wild bird contact by netting.

“We believe this is the best approach to control disease, protect birds’ welfare and ensure consumers can buy free range products. As with any disease control measures these will be kept under review based on the latest situation and up-to-date scientific advice.”

The risk of disease across the country remains high and measures are likely to be in place until at least the end of April.

Keepers in higher risk areas must continue to keep birds housed or netted. This is because, based on extensive scientific advice, DEFRA believe the risk from wild birds in these areas to be higher.

These areas are close to large bodies of water where wild waterfowl congregate.

To see what areas are considered to be high risk use use the government’s interactive map. ☞ Interactive map  



 Bird flu in poultry farm in Pokhara alarms officials [The Kathmandu Post, 26 Feb. 2017]

by LAL PRASAD SHARMA

Feb 26, 2017- The H5N1 influenza virus has been detected in a poultry farm in Pokhara-18, Kaski, raising alarm bells of a possible outbreak.

The bird flu virus was detected in dead fowls at the poultry farm belonging to Mina Pariyar of Khaltemasina in Pokhara. The District Livestock Services Office (DLSO) confirmed the virus in the poultry farm after laboratory tests. Samples sent to the Regional Veterinary Laboratory after Pariyar reported death of a duck on February 17, tested positive.

Dr Kedar Raj Pandey, chief of the laboratory, said the sample was later sent to the Central Veterinary Laboratory in Kathmandu for confirmation. At least 17 ducks and 11 chickens have died in the farm so far.

The local administration has declared Khaltemasina area “bird flu infected area”.
The District Bird Flu Control Coordination Committee has imposed a ban on the trade and transport of fowls and poultry products for 42 days.

A rapid response team from Kathmandu, led by Dr Abadhesh Jha, arrived in Pokhara on Saturday to cull infected fowls.

Thagendra Prasad Aryal, information officer at the DLSO, said domesticated birds within 500 metres periphery of Khaltemasina were being culled. “Monitoring and sample testing have been carried out in other parts of Pokhara as well. Authorities are on high alert,” he added.

The H5N1 virus was detected in various poultry farms at Batulechaur, Simpani, Birauta and Sedibagar of Pokhara in January 2013.



 Bird flu detected in Pokhara [Anna Note (satire) (press release) (blog), 26 Feb. 2017]

by Anna Note

POKHARA- Bird flu has been detected at Khalte in Pokhara, said the Kaski District Livestock Services Office (DLSO).

The avian-flu virus has been detected in the sample taken from ducks raised by local resident Mina Pariyar, confirmed the Central Veterinary Laboratory.

Following the incident, the area covering Khahare Khola to the east, Bhagawati Marga to the west, Khaltemasina Pitched Road to the north and the area within the perimeter of up to 500 meters of the incident area to the south has been declared emergency zone by the meeting of the District Natural Disaster Relief Committee held on Saturday under the chairmanship of Chief District Officer Hari Prasad Mainali.

The emergency will come into effect from Saturday till 42 days.

The meeting has also banned the sale of poultry products within the affected area and urged meat traders and poultry farmers to keep high alert.

Likewise, 256 chickens and 41 ducks raised by 24 households within the emergency zone have been killed while 67 kilograms poultry feeds have been destroyed, said vet at the DLSO Dr Thagendra Prasad Aryal.



 As bird flu outbreaks become more common in China and elsewhere, scientists debate the underlying cause [South China Morning Post, 26 Feb. 2017]

by Stephen Chen

Experts argue whether blame for spread of virus lies with factory farming or live poultry markets

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The answer to whether industrial-scale poultry farming is responsible for bird flu differs depending on who you ask – a virologist or a geographer.

In a book published last month, Stephen Hinchliffe, a professor of human geography at the University of Exeter in Britain, argues that mass livestock production is driving molecular changes in diseases that could lead to human pandemics.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the world raised more than 21 billion chickens in 2014, up from 19 billion in 2011, or about three fowls for every person on the planet. The bulk of that production came from the United States, China and Europe.

Rapidly rising global poultry numbers, along with selective breeding and production techniques that have dramatically altered the physiology of chickens and other poultry, have made the planet more “infectable”, Hinchliffe and three co-authors argue in their book, Pathological Lives: Disease, Space and Biopolitics.

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A combination of factors ranging from virus evolution to economics places humans and animals at risk, they say.

But other researchers say poultry farms are just victims. The biggest culprits in the spread of bird flu viruses, they say, were the live poultry markets in China and Southeast Asia, which should be reformed if not eliminated.

More than 90 people on the mainland have died in the latest seasonal outbreak of H7N9 bird flu. Taiwan has also began culling hundreds of thousands of domestic birds to contain the spread.

Hinchliffe argues that the bird flu crisis stems from “our economies and modes of organising life”.

“We question the sustainability and security of the kinds of intensive protein production that are being rolled out across the planet,” Hinchliffe said.

Some current forms of bird flu can infect people. Some scientists warn that the current “swarm” of flu viruses in circulation are cause for heightened concern.

“Avian flu has been around for a long time, circulating in wild birds without being too much of an issue. But as inexpensively produced protein-rich diets become a worldwide norm, poultry populations, growth rates and metabolisms have changed accordingly,” Hinchliffe said.

Economic considerations were driving selective breeding, feed and dietary supplements, and sometimes the inappropriate use of pharmacueticals, especially antibiotics.

“Raising a bird to market weight takes a third of the time it did 30 or so years ago, with the result that disease tolerance is often compromised,” he said.

“Between that and sheer numbers, flock densities and global connectivity, humans have created a new set of conditions for viral selection and evolution.

“As any epidemiologist will tell you, a microbe can only become deadly or pathogenic if there are the right environmental and host conditions.

“Bird numbers and altered bodies have, in short, made the planet more ‘infectable’,” Hinchliffe said.

Dr Chen Quanjiao, associate researcher of bird flu epidemiology at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, disagreed.

The detection rate of bird flu at poultry farms was usually “very low”, she said. Farmers regularly jabbed birds with vaccines and erected nets to fence out wild species.

The outbreak of bird flu happened in live poultry markets where birds from different places were kept in the same cages, sometimes for days, which gave the virus a chance to mutate and spread to humans.

“Hong Kong has implemented a very effective method to regulate its live poultry market. If other places in China and Asia can follow Hong Kong’s practice, we can significantly reduce the risk,” Chen said.



 Fayoum sees 2017's first confirmed death from bird flu in Egypt [International-Ahram Online, 25 Feb. 2017]

A 48-year-old man tested positive for the virus after he was admitted to Fayoum’s General Hospital with a cold and a fever

Egypt's first death from the bird flu virus in 2017 has been reported in Upper Egypt’s Fayoum governorate, state news agency MENA reported on Saturday.

A 48-year-old man tested positive for the virus after he was admitted to Fayoum’s General Hospital with a cold and a fever.

The patient was moved to El-Abassiya Fever Hospital, where he succumbed to the virus, deputy health minister in Fayoum Hesham El-Shenawy told MENA.

Blood samples were taken from the victim’s families and those with whom he interacted to ensure they are not infected.

The victim worked at a duck farm, veterinary health deputy minister Moussa Soliman told MENA, adding that safety regulations are being implemented at the farm to ensure no more infections occur.

Bird flu first appeared in Egypt in 2006, with most cases identified in rural areas, where villagers tend to raise poultry in their homes, increasing potential exposure to the virus.



 First 2017 death from bird flu in Fayoum: Health Ministry [Egypt Independent, 25 Feb. 2017]

Al-Masry Al-Youm

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A 48-year-old Egyptian man has died from the H5N1 strain of bird flu, the Health Ministry said on Saturday, the first victim of the virus this year.

The head of Fayoum Heath Directorate Hisham al-Shennawy said Saturday that the victim died while receiving treatment at Abbassia Hospital for Fevers in Cairo.

He added that the victim is a laborer from Tawfikia village near Sinnuris city. He had been earlier admitted to the city’s general hospital suffering from a high fever and flu symptoms.

The man was transferred to Fayoum Chest Diseases Hospital where medical samples were collected and sent to the central labs of the Health Ministry. Results showed that he was infected with bird flu, upon which he was transferred to Abbassia Hospital for Fevers where he died.

Samples from relatives and close family members of the deceased laborer are being examined to find out if any of them have been infected, Shennawy said in a statement.

The Directorate of Veterinary Medicine in the governorate found that the man was working in a duck farm with some birds that were infected. The infected birds have been killed, while health ones have been vaccined.

The highly pathogenic form of H5N1 bird flu first infected humans in 1997 in Hong Kong. It has since spread from Asia to Europe and Africa and has become entrenched in the poultry populations in some countries, causing millions of poultry infections and several hundred human deaths.

There have been 356 human cases of avian influenza A(H5N1) reported in Egypt between
March 9, 2006 and September 30, 2016. Of those, 121 were fatal, resulting in a case–fatality rate of 34 percent, the World Health Organization (WHO) said last year.

A total of 10 cases were reported during the period from January 1, 2016 to September 30, 2016, leading to 4 deaths and giving a case–fatality rate of 40 percent for that period.



 Bird flu detected in Pokhara [Republica, 25 Feb. 2017]

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POKHARA, Feb 25: Bird flu which is also known as avian influenza has been detected in Pokha.

The avian influenza was confirmed following the test carried out on dead ducks at Khaltemashina in Sub Metropolitan City-18, veterinary office, Kaski told Republica Online.

According to Thagendra Prasad Aryal, veterinary surgeon, a test was conducted on the dead ducks kept by Mina Pariyar after they started dying. The test conducted showed H5N1 virus.

He further said that precaution has been taken not to let the virus further spread. Rapid rescue teams from the center and local level have been mobilized in the virus-hit area.

All the ducks and hens will be culled at Khaltemashina, Aryal said.



 Birdflu detected in Pokhara [The Kathmandu Post, 25 Feb. 2017]

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Feb 25, 2017- A fresh strain of bird flu case has been detected in Pokhara.

The bird flu causative virus was detected and confirmed while testing the chickens and ducks of one Mina Pariyar of Khaltemasini-18, Pokhara.

Local authority has declared Khaltemasini and its vicinity as infected zone and called on concerned stakeholders to halt the transportation and distribution of birds.

After Pariyar complained the deaths of her 11 local chickens and 17 ducks, the sample were sent to regional veterinary laboratories for test on February 17. The test detected the presence of H5N1 virus.

Birdflu was first detected in Nepal in 2009.



 Bird flu terror grips Pokhara farmers, consumers [Himalayan Times, 25 Feb. 2017]

by BHARAT KOIRALA

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Ducks are seen at a farm belonging to local Mina Pariyar in Khalte, Pokhara-17 of Kaski district on Saturday, February 25, 2017. Photo: Bharat Koirala
POKHARA: A duck at local Mina Pariyar’s farm in Khalte, Pokhara-17 died all of a sudden on February 17.

The Regional Veterinary Laboratory examined the case: just to prove that the fowl was infected with the HPAI and H5N1 viruses, popularly known as the bird flu.

From February 17 till today, 16 other ducks and eight chickens from the same farm also succumbed to the similar symptoms.

After the incident, poultry farmers and consumers in the city have been rendered panic-stricken.

Dr Kedar Raj Pandey of the RVL said more than 300 human beings, 100 chickens and 200 ducks are suspected to have been infected by the virus.

Meanwhile, a meeting of the Bird Flu Control Technical Committee presided over by the Kaski Chief District Officer Hari Prasad Mainali on Friday evening decided to prohibit transactions at the farm of Pariyar and the surrounding within a 200-metre radius for next 42 days.

The meeting also decided to kill all birds domesticated in the area and bury them safely.

Likewise, all the locals would go through a medical examination, following the decision.

Meanwhile, the District Livestock Service Office Chief Purushottam Tripathi said consumers could protect themselves from the virus by cooking the meat well; and farmers by adopting safety measures while working.

On the other hand, the price of chickens has significantly dropped in Pokhara. While it was traded at Rs 400 per kg on Friday, the price has been reduced by Rs 40 per kg.



 Bird flu outbreak at Northumberland farm [ITV News, 25 Feb. 2017]

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The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer has confirmed H5N8 avian flu at a farm near Haltwhistle. Credit: PA

There has been an outbreak of bird flu at a farm in Northumberland.

The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer has confirmed H5N8 avian flu in a small flock of chickens at a farm near Haltwhistle.

A 3km Protection Zone and a 10km Surveillance Zone have been put in place around the infected premises to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

The flock contains about 35 birds. A number have died and the remaining live birds at the premises are being humanely culled. A full investigation is under way to determine the source of the infection.

Public Health England advises that the risk to public health from the virus is very low and the Food Standards Agency is clear that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.



 Farms in Yunlin, Yilan infected with avian flu [Focus Taiwan News Channel, 25 Feb. 2017]



Taipei, Feb. 25 (CNA) Taiwan reported six cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N2 virus in Yunlin and Yilan counties on Saturday, the second day after the Council of Agriculture (COA) lifted a ban on the transport and slaughter of poultry to contain the spread of bird flu.

The COA said five chicken farms in Yunlin County and one duck farm in Yilan were confirmed to have been infected with H5N2, but no cases of the H5N6 virus were reported.

The 5,265 ducks at the Yilan farm and 20,519 chickens at two farms in Yunlin were culled. More than 15,300 chickens at three farms in Yunlin will be culled on Sunday.

According to COA data, 46 poultry farms in Taiwan have been confirmed to be infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza, and 353,098 birds have been culled so far this year.

The council said that was relatively mild when compared to the most serious avian flu outbreak in Taiwan in recent years in 2015, when 4.44 million poultry at 870 farms in Taiwan were culled in the first two months of that year.

The COA imposed a seven-day ban on the transport and slaughter of poultry on Feb. 17 to combat the spread of the H5N6 virus and decided to let it expire on Thursday at midnight rather than extend it, arguing that the outbreak was under control.

Eleven farms have been infected with the H5N6 virus, and around 26,000 poultry were culled, the COA said.

The infections currently are confined to Hualien, Yunlin, Chiayi and Tainan, the COA said, adding that the situation is "within a controllable range."

(By Chen Cheng-wei and Lilian Wu)



 Nigeria: Govt Plans Urgent Relief for Poultry Industry - Osinbajo [AllAfrica.com, 24 Feb. 2017]

Acting President Yemi Osinbajo on Friday promised that the Federal Government is planning urgent relief to poultry farmers in the country to save the industry from collapse.

He gave the indication during his second meeting in the week with representatives of the poultry industry at the Presidential Villa.

The intervention is part of an urgent effort by the federal government to address challenges in the agricultural sub-sector in line with its policy on self-sufficiency in food production.

The poultry industry has had to contend with a number of challenges including an outbreak of Avian Influenza which affected almost four million birds in 2015.

It also suffered non-allocation of Foreign Exchange for the importation of needed machinery and other critical inputs, and high production costs in the industry.

At the Friday meeting relevant ministers and agency heads came together to fashion out how to bail-out the ailing poultry industry.

"The poultry industry is a local industry that needs to be protected urgently," Mr. Osinbajo said at the meeting where specific measures were tabled and considered on how the federal government could be of help.



 H5N1 hits Vietnam again as 7 European nations report more H5N8 [CIDRAP, 24 Feb. 2017]

by Lisa Schnirring

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JanetandPhil / Flickr cc

In the latest avian influenza developments, Vietnam reported another highly pathogenic H5N1 outbreak as seven European countries reported more H5N8 outbreaks in both poultry and wild birds, according to official reports, most of them from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

Vietnam's latest H5N1 outbreak began on Feb 14, striking backyard birds in An Giang province in the southern part of the country. The virus killed 30 poultry, and authorities culled the remaining 50 birds. The outbreak is the fifth involving H5N1 in Vietnam this year.

Elsewhere, France—the country hardest hit by H5N8 along with other avian flu strains—reported 68 new outbreaks in poultry and 13 more detections in wild birds, according to separate reports from the OIE.

The latest farm outbreaks occurred in southwestern France and had start dates ranging from Feb 1 to Feb 20. The facilities collectively housed 33,568 susceptible birds. Officials have been doing preemptive culling in Landes department to curb the spread of the virus. Officials also reported 13 more detections of H5N8 in 24 wild birds found sick or dead, most of them swans, across a wide area of France between Feb 3 and Feb 19.

Hungary reported 19 more H5N8 outbreaks in poultry, 13 at farms and 6 involving backyard birds. The outbreaks began from Dec 23 to Feb 18 and affected eight different counties across a wide part of the country. The virus killed 13,258 of 455,528 susceptible birds, and the rest were destroyed as part of the outbreak response.

Other European countries also reporting more H5N8 outbreaks include:

• Bulgaria reported one more outbreak in backyard poultry, an event that began on Feb 22 in Kardzhali province in the south, killing 25 of 62 birds.

• Croatia reported H5N8 in three mute swans found dead on Feb 14 in Sisak-Moslavina County in the central part of the country.

• Italy reported two more outbreaks, one that began on Feb 21 at a turkey farm housing nearly 20,000 birds in Lombardy region in the north and the other in a wild duck found sick on Dec 26 in a nature park in Veneto region, also in the north.

• Slovakia reported one more H5N8 detection, involving a greylag goose found dead on Feb 21 in a lake in Bratislava region.

UK officials reported an H5N8 outbreak at a small farm housing 35 chickens near the town of Haltwhistle in Northumberland, according to a report today from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).



 Bird flu confirmed at Northumberland poultry farm [FarmersWeekly, 24 Feb. 2017]

by Jake Davies

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Defra has confirmed a further case of H5N8 avian flu in a small flock of chickens at a farm near Haltwhistle in Northumberland.

UK chief veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens said a 3km protection zone and a 10km surveillance zone had been put in place around the infected premises to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

The flock contained about 35 birds. A number had died from the disease and the remaining live birds are being humanely culled. A full investigation is under way to determine the source of the infection.

The case is the first to be confirmed in commercial poultry since 23,000 birds were culled at Banham Poultry’s farm at Redgrave, near Diss on the Suffolk/Norfolk border 10 days ago.

It comes just a day after the chief vet said that biosecurity had been an issue in all nine previous domestic cases in the UK over the past few months.

Risk level

Speaking at the NFU conference, Mr Gibbens said that no part of England was low risk and that it was imperative that poultry keepers realised that the area differentiation is between high and higher.

“For those who are outside the higher risk areas the onus has been placed on poultry keepers to assess their own risk level and make a responsible decision as to whether or not to allow their poultry access to the range after 28 February.”

Charles Bourns, newly elected Chairman of Copa and Cogeca’s Poultry and Eggs working party and NFU poultry board member, said the Northumberland outbreak underlined the gravity of the chief vet’s comments.

“There is clearly no such thing as a low risk area at the moment. We have been remarkably lucky in the number of cases we have had compared with other countries in Europe, such as Hungary, Germany and France,” he added.



 Bird flu confirmed in Haltwhistle chicken flock [BBC News, 24 Feb. 2017]

Bird flu has been confirmed among a small flock of chickens at a Northumberland farm.

A 3km (1.8-mile) protection zone and a 10km (six-mile) surveillance zone have been put in place around the infected property near Haltwhistle after the H5N8 avian flu outbreak was confirmed.

The flock contains about 35 birds, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

A number have died with the remaining birds being euthanised.

An investigation is under way to determine the source of the infection.

Public Health England advises the risk to public health from the virus is "very low" while the Food Standards Agency says bird flu does not pose a food safety risk in the UK.



 Avian flu outbreak has health officials advising watchfulness after business trips to China [Columbus Business Firs, 24 Feb. 2017]

by Carrie Ghose

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Columbus Public Health is urging flu-prevention practices on business travel to China and asking Central Ohio employers to monitor the health of travelers returning from the country amid an outbreak of a deadly avian flu strain with a 40 percent mortality rate.

“This is a much more virulent flu,” said Dr. Mysheika Roberts, the agency's medical director and assistant health commissioner.

“Several of our Fortune 500 companies here have business in China,” Roberts said. Universities, hospitals, manufacturers and others also likely have employees traveling on business. Columbus Public Health also is asking chambers of commerce to relay the message.

There are no confirmed U.S. cases of the strain known as H7N9, but the number of cases in China leaped by about 300 over the past month to 424 as of Feb. 20, she said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises "usual caution" with travel to China, and public health officials in Columbus and Franklin County have asked hospitals and physician practices to enhance surveillance of respiratory illness and ask if patients have traveled to China. The virus is spread most often through contact with birds, although there are rare human-to-human transmissions.

“Not to be alarmist: CDC is not suggesting that anyone not travel to China,” Roberts said. “They are suggesting you don’t interact with any birds that are live or dead.”

That includes avoiding markets that sell poultry or other birds, and even extends to food: Make sure chicken or other poultry is thoroughly cooked – and no runny eggs.

All the usual flu precautions apply, she said. Wash hands often; avoid touching surfaces that could have bird droppings; don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth; cover sneezes or coughs with something other than your hand; and avoid hugs or sharing dishes with sick people.

Upon returning, Roberts said, “Seek medical attention immediately for any respiratory symptoms,” and tell the doctor about recent travel to China.



 Bird flu detected on three more farms in Yunlin County [Focus Taiwan News Channel, 24 Feb. 2017]

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Taipei, Feb. 24 (CNA) Bird flu has been detected in two chicken farms and a goose farm in Yunlin County, bringing the total number of infected farms there to 25, animal quarantine authorities said Friday.

The three farms, home to a combined 18,000 chickens and 750 geese, were confirmed as being hit by the H5 subtype of the avian influenza virus, with the exact strains yet to be identified, said Liao Pei-chih (廖培志), head of Yunlin's Animal and Plant Disease Control Center.

It was the first bird flu case involving geese reported in the county this year, Liao said.

The three new cases were reported on the same day as a nationwide ban on the slaughter and transportation of poultry was lifted after experts concluded that the bird flu outbreak in Taiwan had slowed down over the past week.

The ban was imposed Feb. 17 in an effort to contain the spread of bird flu, particularly the highly pathogenic H5N6 virus transmittable to humans.

Other avian flu virus strains identified on Taiwan farms have been N5N2 and H5N8.

(By Yeh Tzu-kang and Y.F. Low)



 Yunlin reports bird flu infection hours after ban lift [China Post, 24 Feb. 2017]

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TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Hours after a ban on poultry slaughter and shipping was lifted on Friday, the Yunlin County Government said two farms had reported that its birds tested positive for H5 flu infection.

Around 18,000 chickens and 750 geese were culled in the afternoon and authorities are investigating how the avian flu had spread.

Liao Pei-chih (廖培志), head of Yunlin's Animal and Plant Disease Control Center, said that as of Friday, 25 poultry farms in the county had reported outbreaks of the H5 strain, with chicken farms making up the majority.

He said that Friday's test results were the first instance of bird flu infection in geese.

The infected geese reportedly exhibited a loss of appetite and reduced egg production, Liao said, urging authorities to act on the reports and investigate the situation.

Liao said that 25 poultry farms with confirmed outbreaks were spread out and not concentrated in a single area of Yunlin.

He urged farm owners to continue proper management and to carry out influenza precautionary measures such as disinfection.



 COA dismisses concerns as more avian flu cases emerge [Focus Taiwan News Channel, 24 Feb. 2017]

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Taipei, Feb. 24 (CNA) The Council of Agriculture (COA) said Friday the public should not be too concerned after reports emerged that duck farms in eastern Taiwan were confirmed to have been infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza.

Two duck farms in Hualien in eastern Taiwan were confirmed to have been infected with the H5N6 avian flu virus, while a duck farm in Yilan was found to have been hit with the H5 subtype of the virus.

The findings came after the COA lifted a seven-day ban on the slaughter and transportation of poultry that it imposed on Feb. 17 to contain the spread of bird flu, particularly the H5N6 virus, which can be transmitted to poultry and humans as well.

COA deputy chief Huang Chin-cheng (黃金城) contended that the new cases should not be taken to mean that the decision to allow the ban to end was incorrect.

Asked if the COA will impose another ban, Huang said there was no such plan unless the virus spreads to chickens, and there is an all-out outbreak.

If only a smattering of farms are affected, the COA will continue its present practice of culling and disinfection.

Huang explained that the seven-day ban was imposed to cut the risk of the avian flu virus spreading among chicken farms, as chickens quickly show symptoms of being infected.

As for ducks, Huang said the COA announced a separate quarantine measure when it allowed the ban run out at midnight Thursday, requiring ducks to be tested and found free of disease before they can be sent to a slaughterhouse.

The problem with ducks, he said, is that they do not show any symptoms of being infected with avian flu, meaning all 3,000 duck farms in Taiwan have to be tested to pinpoint where infections have occurred.

The testing of those farms will be completed by May 31, according to the COA.

Huang said new cases are to be "expected." "It is not possible that we'll have no new cases.

There will be more cases in the future, especially ducks or wild birds."

(By Yang Shu-min and Lilian Wu)



 Outbreak of bird flu confirmed at Northumberland farm [The Northern Echo (registration), 24 Feb. 2017]

by Tony Kearney

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OUTBREAK: Bird flu has been confirmed on a farm near Haltwhistle in Northumberland

A PROTECTION zone has been set up around a North-East farm after officials confirmed that bird flu had been found in a flock of chickens.

The H5N8 strain of avian flu has been confirmed among chickens at a farm near Haltwhistle in Northumberland.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed that a three-kilometre protection zone has been put up around the infected property along with a six-mile surveillance zone.

An unknown number of the 35 birds in the flock have died and the rest have been put down by vets.

An investigation is now underway to determine the source of the infection.

The Haltwhistle farm is the first new case of the avian flu outbreak to be reported in the last 10 days, following a case at a farm in East Anglia.

However, health officials stressed that the risk to the public was “very low”.

Paul Davison, from Public Health England North East, said: “Our local team is following up the people who have had contact with the poultry which tested positive.

“This is to offer public health advice and antivirals as appropriate, as is standard practice.

“Our advice regarding contact with wild birds and poultry remains the same, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after coming into contact with any animal and do not touch any sick or dead birds.”



 Bird flu confirmed near Cumbria [News & Star, 24 Feb. 2017]

Bird flu has been found in chickens near Haltwhistle.

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The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer confirmed the disease in a small flock close to the town, east of Cumbria.

A 3km protection zone and a 10km surveillance zone have been put in place around the infected site.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said this was to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

A spokesman said: "The flock contains about 35 birds.

"A number have died and the remaining live birds at the premises are being humanely culled.

"A full investigation is under way to determine the source of the infection."
Officials say the risk to public health from the virus is very low.

The Food Standards Agency says bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.



 Bird flu confirmed at Northumberland farm [FG Insight, 24 Feb. 2017]

It came as Defra confirmed its Avian Flu restrictions from February 28

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H5N8 avian flu has been confirmed in a small flock of chickens at a farm near Haltwhistle, Northumberland.

The flock contained about 35 birds, some of the birds have died and the remaining birds will be humanely culled.

Following plans set out earlier this month, all poultry keepers across England must continue to ‘observe strict biosecurity measures’, with housing or netting required in higher risk areas after February 28 to reduce the risk of Avian Flu.

Defra said it was the best option to control disease, protect birds’ welfare and ensure consumers can buy free range products.

The new restrictions apply from February 28 and are expected to remain in force until at least the end of April.

Defra chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens said: “Effective disease control will always be our priority.

“H5N8 continues to circulate in wild birds and we must all continue to do everything we can to reduce the risk of disease. All keepers across the country must follow strict mandatory disease prevention measures.

“Based on clear scientific evidence, the risk from wild birds is too high in some areas of England to rely on biosecurity measures alone.

“That’s why we are requiring birds in Higher Risk Areas to be housed or protected from wild bird contact by netting,” he said.

Keepers in higher risk areas must continue to keep birds housed or netted.

All other keepers can choose to continue to house birds or let birds outside into fenced areas, but must follow strict Defra guidance to reduce the risk of infection.



 This is how to keep your chickens safe from deadly bird flu [Plymouth Herald-, 24 Feb. 2017]

By WMNK Rossiter

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Poultry owners have had to net enclosures

New measures to protect poultry from avian flu will allow some farmers to continue labelling their birds and eggs as "free range".

And people with small backyard flocks have been given new advice on how to protect their birds from the deadly disease now sweeping across Europe and parts of England.

In December all poultry keepers were ordered to keep their birds inside to protect them from the highly-infectious H5N8 strain of avian flu, which has been found in poultry and wild birds in 14 countries including Germany and France.

Under EU rules, products from poultry housed for less than 12 weeks can be still marketed as free-range, but the 12-week period ends on February 28.



 H5N8 found in Northumberland chickens [vet times, 24 Feb. 2017]

by David Woodmansey

Defra has confirmed a further case of H5N8 avian flu (AI) in a small flock of chickens at a farm near Haltwhistle, Northumberland.

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H5N8 confirmed in chickens at Northumberland farm. IMAGE: Fotolia/Kamil Kurus.

UK CVO Nigel Gibbens said a 3km protection zone and 10km surveillance zone had been put in place around the infected premises to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

The flock is believed to comprise about 35 birds. A number have died from the disease and the remaining live birds are being humanely culled.

10th outbreak

A investigation is under way to determine the source of the infection.

This is the 10th outbreak of H5N8 AI in the UK since bird flu reached the UK from mainland Europe vectored by wild birds.



 Bird flu confirmed at Northumberland poultry farm [FarmersWeekly, 24 Feb. 2017]

by Jake Davies

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Defra has confirmed a further case of H5N8 avian flu in a small flock of chickens at a farm near Haltwhistle in Northumberland.

UK chief veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens said a 3km protection zone and a 10km surveillance zone had been put in place around the infected premises to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

The flock contained about 35 birds. A number had died from the disease and the remaining live birds are being humanely culled. A full investigation is under way to determine the source of the infection.

The case is the first to be confirmed in commercial poultry since 23,000 birds were culled at Banham Poultry’s farm at Redgrave, near Diss on the Suffolk/Norfolk border 10 days ago.

It comes just a day after the chief vet said that biosecurity had been an issue in all nine previous domestic cases in the UK over the past few months.

Risk level

Speaking at the NFU conference, Mr Gibbens said that no part of England was low risk and that it was imperative that poultry keepers realised that the area differentiation is between high and higher.

“For those who are outside the higher risk areas the onus has been placed on poultry keepers to assess their own risk level and make a responsible decision as to whether or not to allow their poultry access to the range after 28 February.”

Charles Bourns, newly elected Chairman of Copa and Cogeca’s Poultry and Eggs working party and NFU poultry board member, said the Northumberland outbreak underlined the gravity of the chief vet’s comments.

“There is clearly no such thing as a low risk area at the moment. We have been remarkably lucky in the number of cases we have had compared with other countries in Europe, such as Hungary, Germany and France,” he added.



 Outbreak of bird flu confirmed in flock of chickens at Northumberland farm [ChronicleLive, 24 Feb. 2017]

BY CHRIS KNIGHT

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A brood of hens (Photo: PA)

Protection and surveillance zones has been set up around the farm near Haltwhistle in Northumberland

An outbreak of bird flu has been confirmed in a small flock of chickens in a Northumberland farm.

A 3km protection zone and 10km surveillance zone has been put in place around the farm near Haltwhistle following the confirmation of the H5N8 strain of avian flu.

Nigel Gibbens, the UK’s chief veterinary officer, confirmed the flu has spread among the flock of approximately 35 chickens.

A number have died and the remaining live birds at the farm are in the process of being humanely culled.

Mr Gibbens said: “Effective disease control will always be our priority.

“H5N8 continues to circulate in wild birds and we must all continue to do everything we can to reduce the risk of disease.

“All keepers across the country must follow strict mandatory disease prevention measures.”

A full investigation has since been launched to determine the source of the infection.

Public Health England (PHE) has advised the risk to public health from the virus is very low, and the Food Standards Agency is clear that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.

Paul Davison, deputy director of health protection at PHE North East, said: “The risk to public health from the H5N8 Avian Influenza virus is very low.

“Our local team is following up the people who have had contact with the poultry which tested positive.

“This is to offer public health advice and antivirals as appropriate, as is standard practice.

“Our advice regarding contact with wild birds and poultry remains the same, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after coming into contact with any animal and do not touch any sick or dead birds.”



 Bird flu confirmed in Haltwhistle chicken flock [BBC News, 24 Feb. 2017]

Bird flu has been confirmed among a small flock of chickens at a Northumberland farm.

A 3km (1.8-mile) protection zone and a 10km (six-mile) surveillance zone have been put in place around the infected property near Haltwhistle after the H5N8 avian flu outbreak was confirmed.

The flock contains about 35 birds, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

A number have died with the remaining birds being euthanised.

An investigation is under way to determine the source of the infection.

Public Health England advises the risk to public health from the virus is "very low" while the Food Standards Agency says bird flu does not pose a food safety risk in the UK.



 Tyne Tees Bird Flu [ITV News, 24 Feb. 2017]

Bird flu outbreak at Northumberland farm

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There has been an outbreak of bird flu at a farm in Northumberland.

The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer has confirmed H5N8 avian flu in a small flock of chickens at a farm near Haltwhistle.

A 3km Protection Zone and a 10km Surveillance Zone have been put in place around the infected premises to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

The flock contains about 35 birds. A number have died and the remaining live birds at the premises are being humanely culled. A full investigation is under way to determine the source of the infection.

Public Health England advises that the risk to public health from the virus is very low and the
Food Standards Agency is clear that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers.



 Take the threat of bird flu seriously [South China Morning Post, 24 Feb. 2017]

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Despite warnings about the deadly outbreak by health authorities, far too many continue to flout the ban on live poultry sales; this has to stop

The region has become accustomed to news of sporadic outbreaks or isolated cases of bird flu, spread by wild birds to poultry and communicable to humans. But, such is the potential threat these viruses pose, we should be alert to changes in the pattern of health warnings or precautions adopted by the authorities. Two examples stand out over the last few days in the current outbreak of the deadly H7N9 virus on the mainland. One is the issue of stern warnings on consecutive days by health authorities, which reinforced concern. The second is closer to home in Guangzhou, known for residents’ strong preference for buying live chickens, where a ban on sales at live poultry markets appears to have been enforced more rigorously than in the past. Vendors are reported to have been less willing to risk making secret sales of live chickens than during similar bans.

Since January, 16 provinces and municipalities have reported deaths and infections from the H7N9 bird flu virus, which killed at least 87 people by February 12, with most cases in the Pearl and Yangtze river delta areas. Amid criticism from some experts that the authorities had not acted quickly enough to ban live poultry from markets, the National Health Commission said the virus could spread further if it was not tightly controlled. A day before this statement it warned health authorities across the country, including Xinjiang and Tibet, of the risks. Thankfully, there are no signs of sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus, a puzzling outbreak in which affected poultry show no symptoms.

In these circumstances, transparency is paramount. Uncertainty or misinformation can lead to speculation and panic. We trust the authorities will regularly update the situation and keep channels to Hong Kong and other countries open. It is good that Beijing called all authorities involved to a meeting this week to urge stepped-up vigilance. It is, after all, dependent on transparency from local authorities to fight the outbreak effectively. During a politically sensitive time ahead of a major leadership transition later this year, local politicians may be tempted to play down bad news seen as a risk to their ambitions.



 Chinese officials failed to act quickly enough on bird flu: Experts [TODAYonline, 24 Feb. 2017]

BEIJING — Attempts by Chinese authorities to curb the H7N9 bird flu virus in live poultry markets came too late, with officials failing to take preventative steps before the peak flu season started, said medical experts.

Mainland China is in the grip of the worst outbreak of the H7N9 strain since it first emerged in the country in 2013. The death toll for January alone was 79, higher than the few dozen fatalities recorded during the month in previous years. At least eight more deaths were recorded in the first 12 days of this month.
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The experts believe the spike was partly caused by greater human exposure to infected poultry before and during the Lunar New Year holiday, as the season prompted more shopping for poultry, especially live birds.

The H7N9 virus shows little or no clinical symptoms in poultry, complicating detection. But authorities should have stepped up their surveillance going into the peak season, said the experts.

“Work should be done even before the first human case is found each year,” said Professor Malik Peiris, a public health virologist at the University of Hong Kong. “Local governments should step up regulating farm and market inspection, instead of only reacting by closing down markets once cases are detected.”

Prof Peiris doubted whether all provincial governments had carried out strict, regular checks of local live poultry markets, which he said was the most effective way to prevent human infection.

The response at the local level to the outbreak has varied. Zhejiang has shut down its live poultry markets, while cities in Jiangsu have also suspended sales. Guangdong has suspended the sale of poultry from high-risk areas and ordered each city to restrict the trade.

Dr Bernhard Schwartlander, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) representative in China, said the outbreak had come earlier this year, marked by “a steep increase” in the number of human infections. Dr Schwartlander said the closure of live bird markets, together with other measures to maintain market hygiene, appeared to have been a key factor in controlling earlier outbreaks.

Professor George Fu Gao, from the Institute of Microbiology affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said authorities had lowered their guard after the past two years, when outbreaks were less severe. “The measures needed to prevent (the spread of) bird flu are quite clear: Shut down live poultry markets,” said Prof Gao. “We have advocated permanent closure of live poultry markets and for only quarantined chicken to be traded, but the enforcement is lagging.”

Mutations of the virus have been reported in Guangdong. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has informed the WHO that the mutation was found in samples collected from two patients in the province last month. The WHO believed the mutation is only a risk to poultry and there was no evidence the change had allowed the virus to spread more easily among people, said Dr Schwartlander.

Zoonotic Swine Flu News - from 24 Feb 2017



 Hyderabad: Rising mercury fails to rein in swine flu cases [Deccan Chronicle, 26 Feb. 2017]

by KANIZA GARARI

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In 2017, cases of swine flu increased in the month of January and continued to be the same in February.

When the epidemic was at its peak in 2015, there were swine flu cases recorded in March, April and May.

Hyderabad: Despite the increase in temperature, patients testing positive for swine flu continue to be high. Every day there are 15 to 20 people testing positive for swine flu and that is becoming a cause for concern.

A senior health official in the Health Department explained, “When the epidemic was at its peak in 2015, there were swine flu cases recorded in March, April and May.

During these three months there were a total of 20 cases recorded, which meant that the virus was active even during the summer months. The same trend continued in the year 2016, but the numbers were far less.

In 2017, cases of swine flu increased in the month of January and continued to be the same in February. This means that the virus will not die due to the heat and has learnt to survive in the Indian environment and has adapted to the climate.”

For this reason, the surveillance wing of the Health Department does not anticipate a major drop in the number of swine flu cases immediately in February or March.

Dr. Sudarshan Reddy, senior paediatrician, explained, “While day time temperatures have increased, the nights are relatively cool. Cold weather with less humidity allows the virus to survive. Its ability to strike in the summer months is a matter of research and the cycle of three years will be studied to understand how it is striking the immune-compromised during this period.”

Health officials state that due to increased awareness levels the number of samples that are coming every day to the Institute of Preventive Medicine range from 100 to 150.

The number of positive cases is between 10 to 20 cases and will continue to be so till mid-March. With 20 deaths in Telangana, the health officials are studying the pattern of viral load in the various cases reported to the government.

A senior government doctor explained, “The patients who have come with viral load from 95 to 98 per cent in the blood have developed acute respiratory distress leading to complications and lung failure. But those who have come with viral load from 90 to 95 per cent have recovered after medication, rest and isolation and survived. These two different groups in the present cycle are showing that its ability to debilitate a human body continues to be high and there have to be proper measures taken to fight the disease.”



 Uttarakhand records first swine flu case [Times of India, 25 Feb. 2017]

by Shivani Azad

Dehradun: Even though it is not the time when swine flu cases are normally reported, the city has recorded its first case in this season — the patient, a woman in her late 50s, who resides in the Jakhan area on Rajpur Road here, is currently on ventilator in Max hospital.

According to Dehradun chief medical officer (CMO) Dr Y S Thapliyal, she travelled to Pune in the first week of February, and chances are that she might have contracted the virus there.

In addition, blood samples of over half a dozen people, who are suspected to be infected by H1N1 virus, have also been given for testing.

Speaking to the media, officiating director general of health department D S Rawat said, “It seems that she contracted in Pune, which is grappling with swine influenza. She went there on February 3, and returned to Dehradun on February 7.”

“According to her reports, she had reported fever and sore throat symptoms in Pune and had suspicion of contracting the virus. On February 16, she went to the hospital where her blood samples were sent for testing and found positive this Wednesday,” Rawat added.



 Swine flu, dengue positive cases in government hospital in Coimbatore [The New Indian Express, 25 Feb. 2017]

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COIMBATORE: Four swine flu affected persons were undergoing treatment in the Government Hospital here, along with 25 patients, who are admitted with suspected symptoms.

According to official sources, a total of 45 persons are admitted for normal fever and six persons with dengue fever are undergoing treatment in the hospital.

The four swine flu affected are being treated in special ward, they said. Meanwhile, Coimbatore
Medical College Hospital Dean, Edwin Joe appealed to the public to undergo examination in the hospital, if they were suffering from fever and throat pain continuously for two days.



 CMCH has 34 patients taking treatment for H1N1 [Times of India, 25 Feb. 2017]


Coimbatore: The Coimbatore Medical College and Hospital (CMCH) on Friday refuted reports that close to 40 H1N1 patients were undergoing treatment there and said only 34 for patients were getting treatment for the flu. "Only three of 34 are tested positive for the virus," they said.

Earlier this week, the number of patients undergoing treatment for H1N1 in the CMCH had touched 39, forcing it to move some patients to the fever ward or a step down intensive care unit. The number had come down to 34 as on Thursday evening.

Sources, however, said the numbers were higher. "As the H1N1 ward is full, many patients are shifted to the fever wards and a room near the ICU," said a doctor. "Even now, suspected cases are being treated for the virus in those wards but they are not counted. Only patients in the H1N1 ward get reported," he said.

Hospital authorities said there were 34 patients as on Friday night -- 29 from Coimbatore and the remaining from Erode and Nilgiris. "The figure is inclusive of all patients being treated for the flu in all wards," said resident medical officer, Dr A Soundaravel. A majority of the patients were from the southern part of the city, including Madukkarai, Eachanari and Podanur, and others from Ganapathy and Singanallur.

With the health department refusing to divulge the number of H1N1 patients, there are reports that the virus has been rapidly spreading. The department had also asked private hospitals not to give the numbers.



 H1N1 Outbreak Among Seremban Students Not Confirmed: Health Dept [malaysiandigest.com, 24 Feb. 2017]

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SEREMBAN: The state Health Department has urged the public not to panic over news that five Standard One pupils from Sekolah Rendah Islam (SRI) Seremban here, who are being treated at a private hospital here for high fever, are suspected of having contracted Influenza A, or H1N1.

State Deputy Health Director Dr Zainudin Mohd Ali said that at the moment, it has not been confirmed that the pupils have been infected with the virus.

“We have sent our officers to the private hospital to investigate and conduct a test to confirm whether or not it is H1N1. As for now, it is too early to confirm,” he said when contacted here today.

News of the five ill pupils went viral after a copy of a memo, believed to have been issued by the school’s administration, was circulated on social media.

Dr Zainudin said H1N1 is not an epidemic in the country, and the situation is under control.

“There’s no reason to panic. Parents can continue to send their children to school and it’s up to them if they want them to wear masks to school,” he said.

“The H1N1 virus exists everywhere, and the best way to avoid infection is to take care of yourself and seek immediate medical treatment if symptoms of the disease appear," he said.
Dr Zainudin added that the memo from the school was issued without the permission of the state Health Department.

“Any memo regarding health issues should (first) get the approval of the state Health Department. Perhaps the school’s administration overlooked the matter,” he added.




 Karnataka sees alarming rise in H1N1 cases: 344 reported in 2017 [Times of India, 24 Feb. 2017]

BY Niharika Alva

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BENGALURU: The first 54 days of 2017 have seen thrice as many H1N1 (swine flu) cases reported across Karnataka, than the total number of cases registered throughout 2016. Data released by the health and family welfare department revealed that, while the state saw 110 H1N1 cases last year, the number of people who have tested positive for the virus in the first two months of 2017 stands at an alarming 344.

"We are seeing more swine flu cases than we usually do at this time of the year," said Dr Sunil Karanth, chairman, ICU Care, Manipal Hospitals.

In 2015, as many as 3,565 cases were reported in Karnataka, with 94 of them resulting in death. But, the tally was significantly lower in 2014 (303). Such massive fluctuations in the number of cases do not astonish the doctors. "In such diseases, the number of cases spikes every few years, as the virus mutates and returns in a more severe form," said Dr Karanth.

Director of internal medicine at Fortis Hospitals Dr Sheela Chakravarthy said that most of the patients testing positive for H1N1 this year were senior citizens. "Nearly a third of all patients we are getting are testing positive for H1N1. Usually, it is the younger generation that is more severely affected by the virus," she said.

Echoing Dr Karanth's observations about the varying impact of the virus, Dr Chakravarthy said, "The virus usually becomes more serious every two years."

Although children are believed to be more vulnerable to the disease, the elderly constitute the majority of those who have tested positive for the virus this year. Director of the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases Dr Shashidhar Buggi said that the disease was no longer new, and was affecting those with low immunity.

"In 2009, there was a swine flu epidemic as the virus had just been discovered. So, everyone was being affected. The infection is not new anymore. The cold weather too has contributed to the problem," he added.

Three H1N1-related deaths have already been registered at the institute this year - one in January and two in February. Moreover, the institute's records show that there were five H1N1-related deaths there in 2016, contradicting the claims of the government, which said that there were no swine flu deaths in the state last year.

Dr Buggi emphasised the importance of detecting the disease in its early stages. "Doctors must ask patients reeling under fever for more than three days to undergo the H1N1 detection test," he said.



 H1N1 outbreak among Seremban students not confirmed: Health Dept [New Straits Times Online, 24 Feb. 2017]

BY NUR AQIDAH AZIZI

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The state Health Deoartment has urged the public not to panic over news that five Standard One pupils from Sekolah Rendah Islam (SRI) Seremban here, who are being treated at a private hospital here for high fever, are suspected of having contracted Influenza A, or H1N1. (Pix by IQMAL HAQIM ROSMAN)

SEREMBAN: The state Health Department has urged the public not to panic over news that five Standard One pupils from Sekolah Rendah Islam (SRI) Seremban here, who are being treated at a private hospital here for high fever, are suspected of having contracted Influenza A, or H1N1. State Deputy Health Director Dr Zainudin Mohd Ali said that at the moment, it has not been confirmed that the pupils have been infected with the virus.

“We have sent our officers to the private hospital to investigate and conduct a test to confirm whether or not it is H1N1.

As for now, it is too early to confirm,” he said when contacted here today. News of the five ill pupils went viral after a copy of a memo, believed to have been issued by the school’s administration, was circulated on social media. Dr Zainudin said H1N1 is not an epidemic in the country, and the situation is under control.

“There’s no reason to panic. Parents can continue to send their children to school and it’s up to them if they want them to wear masks to school,” he said.

“The H1N1 virus exists everywhere, and the best way to avoid infection is to take care of yourself and seek immediate medical treatment if symptoms of the disease appear," he said. Dr Zainudin added that the memo from the school was issued without the permission of the state Health Department.

“Any memo regarding health issues should (first) get the approval of the state Health Department. Perhaps the school’s administration overlooked the matter,” he added.



 Negri Health Dept: Five students infected with Influenza A, not H1N1 virus [The Star Online, 24 Feb. 2017]

SEREMBAN: The Negri Sembilan Health Department has denied that there is a spread of H1N1 flu virus in a school here.

According to its deputy director (public health) Dr Zainudin Mohd Ali, the five students were actually suffering from Influenza A virus infection.

"The letter by Sekolah Sri Seremban with the heading 'Notification On H1N1 Virus', which stated that there is a spread of H1N1 virus in the school, was issued without the knowledge of the department.

"I hereby confirm that the five students involved are not suffering from H1N1 infection, but only Influenza A virus infection.

"The symptoms of this infection are almost similar to the common cold," he said in a statement here Friday.

Dr Zainuddin also urged other educational institutions and schools to refer to the nearest health office first before issuing such letters to avoid confusion and anxiety among parents and guardians. - Bernama



 Health dept issues H1N1 alert in Palakkad district [Times of India, 24 Feb. 2017]

Palakkad: The Health department has intensified the investigation and examination of suspected cases of H1N1, as two of the six affected patients died this month in the district.

The officials have issued an alert in the district about the increasing incidents of this dreaded disease.

District Medical Officer Dr K P Reetha said that 16 suspected H1N1 patients have come for treatment during the last two months suspected to be of H1N1 in the district. There is an increase in the suspected cases since January because of the unprecedented drought situation in the district.

The shortage of potable drinking water and the increasing temperature which had crossed 38 degree Celsius in the district already will result in more cases of fever, H1N1, malaria etc, the DMO said.

The Health Department has identified Palakkad Municipality, Nallepully, Kizhakkenchery etc., as hot spots of H1N1 in the district.

The officials here said that there was an increase in the number of H1N1 cases in all South Indian states this year.

They said that doctors have been directed to follow the ABC guidelines and standard treatment protocols for H1N1 when treating patients with cold and fever.

The public are advised to seek professional care if mild influenza, cough, cold with fever or respiratory distress did not subside in a reasonable time, the DMO said.

Pregnant women, the elderly and those with diabetes or cardiac issues should take special care as H1N1 has been known to cause high mortality among these groups.



 15 new cases of swine flu reported in Telangana [Deccan Chronicle, 24 Feb. 2017]

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In all, 94 samples were tested of which 15 were tested positive for the H1N1 virus, an official release said. (Representational image)

As many as 5,449 samples have been tested till Wedesday since August 1 last year and 682 of them were positive.

Hyderabad: Fifteen new cases of swine flu have been reported in Telangana, taking the total number of persons infected by the virus to 682 since August 1 last year, the state government said here on Thursday. In all, 94 samples were tested of which 15 were tested positive for the H1N1 virus, an official release said.

As many as 5,449 samples have been tested till Wedesday since August 1 last year and 682 of them were positive, it said, adding no death was reported on Wednesday.



 Swine flu alert issued after death of retired doctor [Times of India, 24 Feb. 2017]

JAIPUR: A day after death of a retired doctor of Sawai Man Singh hospital due to swine flu, health department has issued alert in the city on swine flu Thursday.

According to health department officials, they have issued directions to remain alert. "All government dispensaries, satellite hospitals and other government health centres have been asked to pay special attention to patients with swine flu like symptoms," chief medical health officer (CMHO) Jaipur, Dr Narottam Sharma said, adding that there is nothing to worry about but still there is a need to remain alert. "We have issued alert but it does not mean that situation is out of control. Alert means to remain vigilant," Dr Sharma said.

Sharma said that the doctor who died of swine flu on Wednesday had gone to Hyderabad and some other cities of southern India. He started feeling unwell there. But, when he came to Jaipur his condition started deteriorating. He was admitted to a private hospital on February 16.

The hospital sent his swab samples to Ahmedabad for test. He was tested positive for swine flu.

Dr Sharma said his condition worsened and he suffered multiple organ failure. Doctors declared him dead Wednesday.

Zoonotic Bird Flu News - from 22 till 23 Feb 2017



 H7N9 Emerges Across China [The Disease Daily, 23 Feb. 2017]

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by CC Image Courtesy of CDC Global on Flickr

Europe is not the only continent in the middle of a bird flu epidemic. While other Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan have been struggling to deal with controlling the spread of other strains of influenza in their domestic poultry, China has experienced a sharp uptick in human cases of avian influenza H7N9 since late 2016. In November 2016, China reported a total of six cases, but by December of that same year it had already escalated to 106 cases, and between January 1st and February 5th there were 235 reported cases [1].

While China has been experiencing regular avian influenza epidemics since spring 2013, this year’s epidemic has a wider geographical range and a higher number of cases, which may be partially fueled by an early flu season or increased virus detection in poultry [2]. There is no evidence of human-to-human transmission, but China’s numerous live poultry markets present a ripe scenario for animal-to-human transmission, thus fueling the spread of the disease.

Avian influenza is a viral disease that occurs naturally in wild aquatic birds, but is sometimes transferred to domestic poultry [3]. Avian influenza has multiple viral strains and normally do not infect humans, but there are occasional outbreaks of avian influenza, perhaps the most notable ones being the annual outbreaks in China and the current outbreak in Europe.

Avian influenza infection in humans appears to act similarly to a seasonal flu, which spreads more often during cold weather versus warm temperatures [3]. It is also spread primarily through contact with infected birds or contaminated environments. For example, contact with contaminated bird droppings, saliva, or mucous may be one way of contracting the virus; it is also possible to be infected through airborne particles generated when a bird flaps its wings. Initial symptoms include high fevers and coughing, but many cases become more serious and may progress to severe pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) [3].

Authorities have reportedly begun closing live poultry markets across the country to attempt to control the spread of the H7N9 virus, especially since there is currently no vaccine and the best recommended means of prevention is avoiding exposure [4]. Markets in Guangzhou,
Sichuan province, Changsha, and more have already been closed. It is unclear if the epidemic has already peaked, but since the virus typically flares up during the winter flu season, there is hope that as time passes the case counts and spread of H7N9 will abate.


Sources

[1] http://outbreaknewstoday.com/china-reports-dozens-additional-h7n9-bird-flu-cases-90104/

[2] http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2017/02/china-now-its-worst-h7n9-avian-flu-season-record

[3] https://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/

[4] http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/02/13/515039777/to-stem-spread-of-avian-flu-in-china-some-provinces-shutter-poultry-markets



 Lao Cai, Lang Son work to prevent cross-border avian flu [VietNamNet Bridge, 23 Feb. 2017]

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The northern border provinces of Lao Cai and Lang Son have intensified measures to prevent A/H5N1, H5N6 and H7N9 avian influenza from entering Vietnam as the viruses are spreading in neighbouring China.

Lao Cai tightened cross-border poultry trading while staff of the agriculture, health and customs sectors as well as the border force have been mobilised to join the preventive work.

Tran Duc Hung, Deputy Director of the province’s Centre for International Health Quarantine, said relevant agencies have closely monitored people who enter or exit Vietnam from affected areas.

Display screens and posters were erected in border areas between the two countries, providing information related to avian influenza, thus raising public awareness of the danger and symptoms of the disease.

Chemicals were also sprayed in high-risk areas, vaccinations for poultry were distributed and smuggling and illegal poultry trading were cracked down on.

In Lang Son, regulations on quarantine and health examination were strictly conducted to early detect H7N9 suspected cases.

The province’s Centre for International Health Quarantine mobilised more personnel and installed body temperature monitoring equipment at border gates.

People who enter or exit Vietnam through the gates have been provided with advice on disease prevention measures.

Medicine and isolation wards have also been prepared at border gates in case of detecting persons with symptoms related to the influenza strains.

Statistics show that about 130,000 people entered Vietnam through border gates in Lang Son since the beginning of February.

Sharing a 253km land border with China, Lang Son has two international border gates (Huu Nghi and Dong Dang), two national border gates (Chi Ma and Binh Nghi), and several auxiliary ports of entry, through which thousands of people enter Vietnam every day, posing a high risk of disease transmission.

The World Health Organisation said the A/H7N9 virus is raging in 14 provinces and cities of China with a sharp rise in incidences and a high mortality rate (about 40 percent). From October 6, 2016, to February 19 this year, China recorded 425 people with A/H7N9, mostly in Yunnan and Guangxi provinces which border Vietnam.

In 2016, Vietnam recorded A/H5N1 outbreaks in poultry in seven communes and wards of six districts and townships in Nghe An province, Ca Mau province and Can Tho city. There haven’t been any A/H5N1 outbreaks in 2017, according to the Preventive Medicine Department under the Ministry of Health.

The flu viruses of A/H7N9 and A/H5N1 have yet to be reported in humans in Vietnam.

Long An intensifies cross-border A/H7N9 avian flu prevention

The Department of Animal Health and Livestock Production of the Mekong Delta province of Long An has increased preventive measures against A/H7N9 and other virus strains entering its border gates with Cambodia, said Phan Ngoc Chau, head of the department.

The agency will closely supervise cross-border poultry transport and trading, including the offering of live fowls and poultry products of organisations and individuals in border areas.

It has sent one million vaccines against avian flu to border districts while coordinating with local authorities in monitoring and implementing vaccination at small-scale breeding households.

The border gates are guarded around the clock to oversee poultry trading and people crossing the border.

Long An province has about 8 million fowls, 70 percent of which are chicken. Most farms in the locality have vaccinated their poultry to prevent the diseases.

For small-scale breeding households, the department has been cooperating with localities in implementing State-funded vaccination programmes.



 After the bird flu, the abundance of chicken in the Cameroonian capital’s markets leads to massive sales [Business in Cameroon, 23 Feb. 2017]

(Business in Cameroon) - Broiler chickens are discounted in some markets of the Cameroonian capital these days. Three chickens sold at FCfa 5,000, even FCfa 1,800 per chicken previously sold at FCfa 3,000 each. At the origin of this sudden drop in prices, traders insist, is the abundance of poultry in farms, as proven by the number of overflowing trucks parked around chicken markets in the city (Etoudi, Mvog-Ada, Essos, etc).

Indeed, we learned, the relaunch of the sector in the producing areas in the Central region of Cameroon was faster than initially planned, after the bird flu epizooty which broke out on 25 May 2016 at the Mvog-Betsi Complexe Avicole.

In addition to the high rise in production invoked by traders, the latter also justify the abundance of chicken on the capital’s market by the ongoing ban on chicken exports to countries such as Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, a decision taken after the discovery of cases of H5N1 virus in Cameroon in May 2016.

BRM



 Chinese eggs on sale amid bird flu threat [Eleven Myanmar, 23 Feb. 2017]

by Htun Lin Aung

Illegally imported eggs from China are available amid the prevalence of bird flu in mainland China, reports say.

A total of 304 new laboratory-confirmed human infections were reported in mainland China between January 19 and February 14, along with 36 deaths, the World Health Organisation reported this week.

Most of the products end up in Kachin State. The vendors in Myitkyina offered 11 eggs for Ks1,000 (US$0.73) until February 20. Trucks loaded with eggs were entering Lweje and Kanpiteti until February 22, according to residents.

Wai Lin, the Kachin State minister for finance, tax and planning, said: “We’ve sent samples to the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] and the results haven't been announced. The eggs and meat are coming through illegal routes.”

Soe Win, a poultry-farm owner, said: “Most shopkeepers in Myitkyina are selling Chinese eggs.

Domestic poultry farms will be hit hard if bird flu spreads. The government has done nothing to prevent this. An egg was priced at Ks120 before. Now the price fell to around Ks90, cheaper than our eggs. Seventy per cent of farmers have been put out of business because of such illegal imports.”

Dr Yane Nyaw, deputy director of the livestock and veterinary department, said: “The import of animal products should be banned at this time. The poultry farmers in Sagaing Region suffered from the H5N1 strain in 2006. There were no human deaths, though. The flu can be fatal to humans. I’d like to advise the people to stop buying imported eggs and meat.”

Translated by Nay Thiha



 Scientists Build Avian Flu Defense for Chesapeake Farmers [WVTF, 23 Feb. 2017]

By KATIE PEIKES

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Georgie Cartanza’s chicken farm.
CREDIT KATIE PEIKES / DELAWARE PUBLIC MEDIA

The Delmarva Peninsula lies under the Atlantic Migratory flyway, a path waterfowl migrate through. As Europe deals with recent outbreaks of a severe strain of Avian Influenza, some local poultry growers worry that just one infected bird passing through the region could contaminate and kill whole flocks of chickens.

That’s why poultry growers across Delmarva take precautions to avoid the possibility of the virus traveling from outside of the farm to the respiratory systems of their chickens. And research is being done that could help farmers better understand waterfowl patterns so they can prepare for when the virus surfaces.

Before Georgie Cartanza can check on her chickens at her Dover farm, she has to disinfect.

She zips up a pair of disposable coveralls, veils her hair underneath a hair net, steps in dry chlorine and applies hand sanitizer. It’s all part of biosecurity to protect chickens at her farm from disease - including deadly strains of bird flu.

Delmarva has not seen a fatal case of bird flu in over 10 years; but the devastation it could bring keeps farmers like Cartanza on their toes. The virus naturally occurs in waterfowl, but if a highly pathogenic form gets into a chicken’s respiratory system, it could cause severe disease and increased mortality. And with every breath, one chicken can spread it to the rest of the flock.

“The reality is right now we go in with the mindset that it’s here and we’ve got to prevent it from getting in here,” Cartanza said. “We assume that any migratory bird can be a carrier."

Delaware’s State Veterinarian Heather Hirst said with the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza - a highly fatal form of the flu now in Europe and the Middle East - that's the right approach.

“Wild birds migrate and can carry the virus in their feces,” Hirst said. “And so wherever they fly over, they can introduce the virus to domestic poultry. Just because the highly pathogenic flu is in Europe and the Middle East doesn’t mean those birds can’t travel over here this winter or next winter and spread the same virus to our birds.”

Part of the reason poultry farmers are always taking precautions to prevent the possibility of the Avian Flu from coming to their farms is because an outbreak in the 4,700 chicken houses across Delmarva could shut down the region’s $3.2 billion dollar poultry industry. Maryland State Veterinarian Michael Radebaugh said if an extreme case like that happened, it could even close trade overseas.

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A sign showing biosecurity awareness on of Georgie Cartanza’s farm.
CREDIT KATIE PEIKES / DELEWARE PUBLIC MEDIA

“It only takes one duck that is infected with this virus who is not showing any signs - a grain of fecal material in that duck that’s infected with the virus - can spread to one million birds,” Radebaugh said.

So understanding the comings and goings of waterfowl is crucial, and that’s what University of Delaware and University of California Davis researchers are trying to do. University of Delaware wildlife ecology professor Jeff Buler said the group is using weather surveillance radar to chart migration - following waterfowl like a meteorologist watches precipitation moving.

“One idea is we could use it to basically have a risk threat assessment based on where the waterfowl are located in certain areas, that could alert farmers to know, ‘your farm is at a high risk now because there are waterfowl located near your farm’,” Buler said.

This research is mostly being done in California but the team conducted a preliminary trial in Delaware.

“We identified six hotspot locations of where waterfowl tend to congregate here in Delaware,” Buler said.

One of those is Bombay Hook - just 10 miles from Cartanza’s poultry farm in Dover. Another hotspot is the Choptank River along Maryland’s eastern shore.

Buler said it’s the first time weather radar is being used in a disease ecology framework, and Georgie Cartanza said it sounds like it could help her Dover farm.

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Radar reflectivity depicting the average densities of waterfowl gathered in agricultural fields and wetlands during the winter of 2014-2015 near Sacramento, CA.
CREDIT COURTESY OF JEFF BULER

“We may learn the behaviors of the birds and it may also help us, to me, track if the Midwest has had an outbreak and it was as devastating as it was - what was different about the patterns of those birds that it didn’t get here?” Cartanza said.

But Buler points out the virus isn’t only spread by waterfowl. “Bridge species” are species that travel between wetlands and farms, and those species, like mice and rats, could carry the virus from waterfowl to chickens.

Buler said his team would like to study those species’ movements next. And it could ultimately keep farms on Delmarva like Cartanza’s - and the region’s poultry industry - aware of the possible spread of bird flu.

Chesapeake: A Journalism Collaborative is funded with grant support from the Clayton Baker Trust, The Bancroft Foundation, Michael and Ann Hankin, The Jim and Patty Rouse Foundation, The Rob and Elizabeth Tyler Foundation, and the Mid-Shore Community Foundation.



 Farmers could go out business due to rise of bird flu, warns union [Belfast Telegraph, 23 Feb. 2017]

By Rachel Martin

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Concerned: Philip Clements Jnr

Northern Ireland could be in danger of losing its free-range egg industry within a month if avian influenza, also known as bird flu, continues to spread, an industry body has warned.

Farmers are forced to keep all flocks of hens indoors to stop the virus from spreading - but the EU has refused to grant any extension to the 12-week maximum that it will allow free-range birds to be kept inside.

As a result, hundreds of thousands of eggs will be stripped of their free-range status and will have to be relabelled if the restrictions aren't ended in the next few weeks.

The British Free Range Egg Producers Association says downgrading eggs from free-range to barn will cost farmers around 20p on every dozen eggs.

UK farming unions say there is a "very real prospect" that producers could go out of business unless an extension is agreed.

Co Down poultry farmer Philip Clements Jnr (31) said the situation raises problems regardless of whether the hens are allowed outside again.

He was hopeful the restrictions would be lifted by March 16, but said that there was still a risk in having large numbers of hens outside.

He said: "They could tell everyone to let their hens out again and it would take one case to wipe out a whole flock. There are many people with five or six hens here which aren't registered and therefore they're not getting the letters telling them to keep them inside. The worry is that the virus could spread through these smaller flocks."

Philip runs his poultry farm in Carrowdore alongside his father Philip Clements Snr.

The family has been producing, packing and distributing eggs for more than 40 years and supplies Hastings Group through their brand Clements Eggs.

The pair look after around 8,000 free-range hens but he also keeps some other hens in barns.
He said: "They're more nervous than normal - usually I would let them out at around seven or eight every morning, but now I've got to keep them inside all the time.

"We've been keeping the lights down to help them settle but I can tell they're not happy, it has upset their routines whereas the hens kept in the barn all the time have seen no difference.
"In the event that the restrictions aren't lifted we are hoping to have something along the lines of: 'These eggs are produced by hens that have been kept indoors for their own good,' put on the packaging so that consumers are made aware that while the hens are kept indoors, it's because we have to," he added.



 Spain orders mass cull after report of bird flu [Press TV, 23 Feb. 2017]

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A picture taken on February 22, 2017 in Bourriot-Bergonce, western France, shows ducks confined at a farm located some 10 kilometers away from the bird flu-hit southwestern area. (Photo by AFP)

Spain has ordered 17,000 ducks to be culled after a case of H5N8 bird flu is reported in a farm in Catalonia.

The Catalan regional government on Thursday confirmed that the ducks are to be killed to stop the spread of the highly contagious disease.

The Central Veterinarian Laboratory in Algete near the capital Madrid announced the presence of the H5N8 bird flu virus after examining the ducks on a farm near Girona.

On Tuesday, another H5N8 strain was found in a dead stork in a nearby area.

The birds on nine farms in the Catalan region are currently under close examination as a precautionary measure against the spread of the deadly virus.

The virus has spread across the globe since late last year leading to the slaughter of millions of poultry and the confinement of flocks indoors.

The French government on Tuesday ordered the slaughter of 360,000 ducks in a bird flu-hit southwest region.

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A picture taken on February 22, 2017 in Bourriot-Bergonce, western France, shows ducks confined at a farm. (Photo by AFP)

On Wednesday, South Korea confirmed an outbreak of the H5N8 bird flu virus at a duck farm in the southwest of the country.

The Southeast Asian country culled a record number of more than 33 million farm birds, or nearly a fifth of its poultry population, in an effort to contain the outbreak of the deadly virus affecting poultry.

China also reported investigations into a new strain of bird flu virus found in the country.

According to state radio, the new strain of H7N9 bird flu has only been detected in Guangdong province, so far.

The H5N8 virus is highly contagious in birds but it has never been found in humans.
In January, the US Department of Agriculture reported that a type of bird flu in a wild duck was detected in western state of Montana. The flu appeared to match one of the strains found during an outbreak of the disease in 2014 and 2015 that led to the deaths of millions of chickens.

Governments compensate farmers for any culling carried out in response to the confirmation of the virus.



 Spain to cull 17,000 ducks as bird flu hits [Phys.Org, 23 Feb. 2017]

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Catalonia public health official Joan Guix sought to ease public fears of a bird flu that led to a decision to cull 17,000 Spanish ducks, saying the virus "does not spread to humans"

More than 17,000 ducks will be culled in Spain after a highly contagious bird flu strain that has affected poultry throughout Europe was detected at a farm, authorities said Thursday.

The virus found in Catalonia is H5N8, said Meritxell Serret, in charge of agriculture in the northeastern region—the same one that has seen hundreds of thousands of ducks and geese slaughtered in France's southwest.

Up until now, the virus had only been detected in Spain in three wild animals.

The H5N8 strain can spread quickly in affected farms, often leading to the culling of thousands of birds.

Joan Guix, in charge of public health in Catalonia, sought to ease fears, saying it was a virus "that does not spread to humans."

Health authorities in Catalonia are now inspecting farms within a three-kilometre (1.9-mile) radius of the affected location to see if the virus had spread.

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, 24 countries in Europe have detected the H5N8 virus this year, as have China, Egypt, Cameroon and India.



 Mainland keeps eye on bird flu epidemic in Taiwan [ecns, 23 Feb. 2017]

A mainland official on Wednesday said that mainland inspection and quarantine departments were paying close attention to the outbreak of bird flu in Taiwan.

At present, the mainland does not import live poultry from Taiwan, said An Fengshan, spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.

In response to a question on transferring Taiwanese telecom fraud suspects from Spain to the mainland, An said that the mainland maintains its process for dealing with Taiwanese suspects in cross-border telecom fraud.

As the victims and evidence are all on the mainland, it makes more sense that the suspects, are brought to the mainland so that all involved are guaranteed due process of law, An added.



 China's premier urges poultry markets to shut as bird flu fears grow [Reuters, 23 Feb. 2017]

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An employee works at a poultry farm on the outskirts of Shanghai, China, April 16, 2013. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

China's Prime Minister urged local authorities to shut down live poultry markets in places affected by the H7N9 bird flu virus which killed 79 people in January, a statement from China's cabinet said.

Chicken prices sank to their lowest level in more than a decade last week and concerns about H7N9 deepened after global health authorities said the strain had evolved into a more severe form for birds.

Until now, H7N9 bird flu has shown little or no clinical symptoms in birds, despite being highly pathogenic in humans, but China has detected an evolution in the virus that is capable of causing severe disease in poultry.

Premier Li Keqiang, who hosted a weekly cabinet meeting on Thursday, highlighted the rising death toll and asked local provincial leaders to close poultry markets as soon as infected birds were discovered. The statement said China would increase monitoring of bird flu and the transportation of live poultry.

The evolution of the virus may mean the disease will become more apparent in some flocks if birds begin to die, making detection and control easier.

Chicken is a popular, cheap alternative to pork in China but demand has been hit in recent years by food safety scandals and bird flu outbreaks.

The death toll in January was four times higher than the same month in previous years and took the total number of deaths from H7N9 to 100 people since October.

(Reporting by Meng Meng and Beijing Monitoring Desk; editing by David Clarke)



 China’s H7N9 bird flu measures came too late, experts say [South China Morning Post, 23 Feb. 2017]

by Zhuang Pinghui

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Attempts by Chinese authorities to curb the H7N9 bird flu virus in live poultry markets came too late, with officials failing to take ­preventative steps before the peak flu season started, medical ­experts say.

Mainland China is in the grip of the worst outbreak of the H7N9 strain since it first emerged in the country in 2013.

The death toll for January alone was 79, higher than the few dozen fatalities ­recorded during the month in previous years. At least eight more deaths were recorded in the first 12 days of this month.

The experts believe the spike was partly caused by greater human exposure to infected poultry before and during the Lunar New Year holiday, as the season prompted more shopping for poultry, especially live birds.

The H7N9 virus shows little or no clinical symptoms in poultry, complicating detection. But authorities should have stepped up their surveillance going into the peak season, the experts said.

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“Work should be done even before the first human case is found each year,” Professor Malik Peiris, a public health virologist at the University of Hong Kong, said.

“Local governments should step up in regulating farm and market inspection, instead of only reacting by closing down markets once cases are detected.”

Peiris doubted whether all provincial governments had ­carried out strict, regular checks of local live poultry markets, which he said was the most effective way to prevent human infection.

The response at the local level to the outbreak has varied. ­Zhejiang has shut down its live poultry markets, while cities in Jiangsu have also suspended sales. Guangdong has suspended the sale of poultry from high-risk areas and ordered each city to restrict the trade.

Dr Bernhard Schwartlander, the World Health Organisation’s representative in China, said the outbreak had come earlier this year, marked by “a steep increase” in the number of human ­infections.

A vaccinator sprays disinfection liquid to chicken cages at a live poultry market in Hefei city,
Anhui province on Feb. 16, 2017. Up to Feb 16, 20 people had died from H7N9 in the province.

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Schwartlander said the closure of live bird markets, together with other measures to maintain market hygiene, appeared to have been a key factor in controlling previous outbreaks.

Gao Fu, a professor at the Institute of Microbiology affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said authorities had lowered their guard after the last two years when outbreaks were less severe.

“The measures needed to prevent [the spread of] bird flu are quite clear: shut down live poultry markets,” Gao said.

“We have advocated permanent closure of live poultry markets and for only quarantined chicken to be traded, but the ­enforcement is lagging.”

Mutations of the virus have been reported in Guangdong. The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has informed the WHO that the mutation was found in samples collected from two patients in the province last month.

The WHO believes the mutation is only a risk to poultry and there was no evidence the change had allowed the virus to spread more easily among people, Schwartlander said.



 China assesses more severe new strain of H7N9 bird flu [The Straits Timesl, 22 Feb. 2017]

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An H7N9 bird flu patient is being treated in a hospital in Wuhan, central China's Hubei province on Feb 12, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

(REUTERS) - China is working to assess the prevalence of a new strain of H7N9 bird flu, state radio reported on Wednesday (Feb 22), after global health authorities said the strain had evolved into a more severe form in birds.

So far the variant strain has only been detected in Guangdong province, but given the wide circulation of livestock and poultry in the country, it would be difficult to prevent its spread to other areas, the broadcast said, citing the agriculture ministry.

Until now, the H7N9 virus has shown little or no clinical symptoms in birds, despite being highly pathogenic when it infects human.

But China has detected an evolution in the virus that is capable of causing severe disease in poultry and requires close monitoring, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday.

Samples of the virus taken from two infected humans were injected into birds in a laboratory and became "highly pathogenic" for poultry, it said.

But that designation applies only to birds, not humans, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said, and there is "no evidence that the changes in the virus affect the virus' ability to spread between humans."

A total of 304 new laboratory-confirmed human infections were reported in mainland China between Jan 19 and Feb 14, along with 36 deaths, the WHO said in its latest update on Monday.

The evolution of the virus may mean that the disease will become more apparent in some flocks, if birds begin to die off, making detection and control easier.

"This is the first time these changes have been detected. These are the only two cases in Guangdong province, China. So far, there have been no reports if similar changes have occurred elsewhere," Lindmeier said. "It is a reminder that we have to keep looking closely," he told Reuters.

Any culling carried out in response to the detection of the virus on farms would be compensated, the Chinese report added.

Animal health experts say bird flu infection rates on Chinese poultry farms may be far higher than previously thought, because the strain of the deadly virus in humans is hard to detect in chickens and geese.

In all, since the "fifth wave" of the virus, first identified in 2013, began in October 2016, 425 human cases have been recorded in China, including 73 deaths officially reported by authorities, according to WHO figures.

"Most of these cases had known exposure to poultry or its environment, that is the main important link to this influenza type," Lindmeier told a news briefing.

In all since 2013, there have been 1,200 laboratory-confirmed cases in China, including more than one-third since October, he said.



 Avian flu spreads to 33 poultry farms in Taiwan [Focus Taiwan News Channel, 22 Feb. 2017]

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Taipei, Feb. 22 (CNA) Another poultry farm in Taiwan was confirmed Wednesday to be infected with avian flu, bringing the total number to 33, according to the Council of Agriculture (COA).

The latest infection was found on a farm in Yunlin County, one of the hardest hit areas, the COA said.

The other areas where bird flu outbreaks have been confirmed are Chiayi, Changhua, Yilan and Hualien counties and Tainan City, according to the COA.

Whenever a farm is found to be infected, all of its birds are usually culled, and the number destroyed so far has reached 281,410, the COA said.

The avian flu viruses identified on Taiwan farms have been the H5N6, N5N2 and H5N8, according to the COA.

(By Yang Shu-min and Elizabeth Hsu)



 Avian flu restrictions extended across Peeblesshire [Peeblesshire News, 22 Feb. 2017]

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Avian flu restrictions extended across Peeblesshire

AN Avian Influenza Prevention Zone covering Scotland will be extended until at least April 30, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

The renewed zone applies to all poultry and captive birds and comes into effect on Tuesday, February 28. It permits keepers in all areas of Scotland to let their birds outside provided that they have enhanced biosecurity in place, and replaces the zone first declared on December 6, 2016.

A ban across Great Britain on poultry shows and gatherings also remains in force.

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy Fergus Ewing said: “Today’s declaration will be welcome news for many keepers eager to let their birds outdoors again.

“However, the risk from Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N8 remains, with another confirmed case in domestic birds in England as recently as last week.

"It is essential that bird keepers comply with the biosecurity requirements set out in the declaration, and in further guidance available on the Scottish Government website.

“We have listened carefully to key industry stakeholders and are clear that allowing birds outside on February 28, under enhanced biosecurity, provides the right balance between reducing disease risk and minimising the economic impact on Scotland’s vital free range poultry industry.”

Scotland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Sheila Voas said: “I am writing to all Scottish bird keepers registered on the GB Poultry Keeper database to make them aware of the changing requirements within the AI Prevention Zone, and to provide a checklist of steps to take before letting their birds outside on February 28.

“Bird keepers will still have the option to house their flock, and for many this will continue to be the most practical way to comply with the requirements of the zone and minimise the risk of infection.

"However, under EU law, products from housed birds can no longer be marketed as ‘free range’ after February 28.

“Expert advice remains that consumers should not be concerned about eating eggs or poultry and the threat to public health from the virus is very low.”



 Biosecurity important to protect from avian influenza [Altus Times, 22 Feb. 2017]

By Donald Stotts

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Backyard, non-commercial poultry production has become increasingly popular in the past decade, but with it comes the need to practice biosecurity to prevent unwanted diseases.

STILLWATER – The highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak that became the largest animal health emergency in U.S. history may have subsided, but vigilance is still needed.

In January 2016, an outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza or HPAI, H7N8 virus was reported in a commercial turkey flock in Dubois County, Indiana. No other outbreaks in the United States have been detected since that time.

“Currently Europe and Asia are having a tremendous problem with avian influenza but we are not,” said Dr. Barry Whitworth, veterinarian and Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension food animal quality and health specialist. “The concern is HPAI, once established, can spread rapidly, killing 95 percent to 100 percent of a flock.”

Arkansas and Kansas were among the states with reported cases of infected birds a few years ago, underscoring the need for Oklahoma poultry producers to be aware and understand the importance of biosecurity measures to control HPAI.

“The last reported cases in Arkansas and Kansas occurred in early summer of 2015, which is a positive, but everyone, small flock operators included, needs to follow biosecurity and best management practices to ensure we stay HPAI-free,” said Dana Zook, OSU Cooperative Extension area livestock specialist.

Biosecurity – essentially doing everything possible in an operation to prevent disease from entering a flock – teamed with proper vaccination, disinfection and sanitation helps producers ward off disease-causing pathogens.

What can backyard poultry operators do?

Zook and Whitworth stress there are a number of practical methods a small flock operator can and should employ. First among them, the primary caretaker of the flock should not enter other poultry facilities, and visitors to the operator’s flock should be kept at a minimum.

“Any necessary visitors should clean and disinfect their shoes or wear disposable boot covers prior to entering any pen,” Zook said. “If handling birds, disposable gloves should be worn.”

Another important protocol is to channel your inner Mr. Clean, and be obsessive about it. The producer and any visitor should clean and disinfect his or her hands, clothes, shoes and equipment before and after handling poultry.

“A good biosecurity practice is to have a pair of shoes kept next to the pen door that are only worn when inside the pen,” Zook said.

Feed bins should be secured to prevent contamination by wild birds or rodents. Spoiled feed should be removed promptly to prevent attracting wild birds or rodents. Clean and disinfect all tools and equipment thought to have been contaminated. Promptly dispose of dead birds by burial or composting. Maintain effective rodent and insect control programs.

“Take care not to haul disease-causing pathogens home,” Zook said. “If your birds have been near other poultry such as during a show or contest, clean and disinfect poultry cages and equipment before returning to your operation. After com­ing into contact with other birds, be sure to shower and wash clothing before handling your birds.”

Whitworth recommends birds that have been near other poultry should be quarantined from the rest of the flock for 14 days.

“This will give infected birds time to exhibit symptoms,” he said. “New birds should be kept from your flock for at least 30 days before putting them with the rest of the birds.”

Whitworth stresses the health of a producer’s birds should be the first priority. Do not share birds, borrow lawn and garden equipment, tools or poultry supplies from other bird owners. Items that cannot be disinfected such as wood pallets or egg cartons should not be shared.

“Birds infected with HPAI may exhibit a lack of energy and appetite, decreased egg production, abnormal egg shape, respiratory distress, diarrhea and swelling or purple discoloration of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles and legs,” Whitworth said.

Know when to report sick birds

Although isolated instances of mortality are common in a backyard flock and do not require reporting, significantly large numbers of sickness and mortality should be reported to officials.

Zook and Whitworth stress prompt diagnosis of widespread sickness in flocks is a critical step in containing any devastating disease. For diagnosis of any widespread disease, contact the Oklahoma Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory on OSU’s Stillwater campus at 405-744-6623.

“The OADDL works closely with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry to test and identify contagious diseases,” Zook said. “If avian influenza is suspected in an Oklahoma backyard poultry flock, contact your county Extension agricultural educator, local veterinarian or the state veterinarian immediately.”



 Avian flu restrictions extended across the Borders [Border Telegraph, 22 Feb. 2017]

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Avian flu restrictions extended across the Borders

AN Avian Influenza Prevention Zone covering Scotland will be extended until at least April 30, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

The renewed zone applies to all poultry and captive birds and comes into effect on Tuesday, February 28. It permits keepers in all areas of Scotland to let their birds outside provided that they have enhanced biosecurity in place, and replaces the zone first declared on December 6, 2016.

A ban across Great Britain on poultry shows and gatherings also remains in force.

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy Fergus Ewing said: “Today’s declaration will be welcome news for many keepers eager to let their birds outdoors again.

“However, the risk from Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N8 remains, with another confirmed case in domestic birds in England as recently as last week.
"It is essential that bird keepers comply with the biosecurity requirements set out in the declaration, and in further guidance available on the Scottish Government website.

“We have listened carefully to key industry stakeholders and are clear that allowing birds outside on February 28, under enhanced biosecurity, provides the right balance between reducing disease risk and minimising the economic impact on Scotland’s vital free range poultry industry.”

Scotland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Sheila Voas said: “I am writing to all Scottish bird keepers registered on the GB Poultry Keeper database to make them aware of the changing requirements within the AI Prevention Zone, and to provide a checklist of steps to take before letting their birds outside on February 28.

“Bird keepers will still have the option to house their flock, and for many this will continue to be the most practical way to comply with the requirements of the zone and minimise the risk of infection.

"However, under EU law, products from housed birds can no longer be marketed as ‘free range’ after February 28.

“Expert advice remains that consumers should not be concerned about eating eggs or poultry and the threat to public health from the virus is very low.”



 Cat adoption services resume at city animal shelters after bird flu scare [SILive.com, 22 Feb. 2017]

By Diane C. Lore

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STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- The city Health Department and Animal Care Centers (ACC) of NYC have good news for people looking to adopt a cat from a city shelter.

Cat adoption services have resumed at all shelters and at various mobile adoption events across the five boroughs, the agencies announced Wednesday.

Shelter operations were partially suspended in response to an outbreak of the H7N2 virus, a rare strain of bird flu.

Testing began in mid-November, first with 45 cats in an ACC shelter in Manhattan testing positive for the flu. Most experienced a mild illness and are expected to recover. Only a handful of cats in the Staten Island ACC shelter in Charleston tested positive for the disease during the period.

Signs of the virus include sneezing, coughing, runny nose, and runny or red eyes. It can spread if a cat has contact with another infected cat or with objects used by sick animals (such as kitty litter or food bowls).

Working with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Maddie's Fund and the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, the Health Department and ACC was able to provide a temporary quarantine shelter as cats recovered from the mild illness.

Over half of the quarantined cats have been placed with rescue groups and shelters, including the ASPCA's Adoption Center, which received more than 100 cats that were completely cleared of the virus based on multiple negative test results prior to adoption.

The quarantine shelter will remain open as cats are cleared and released for adoption.

"I thank our partners at ACC and the ASPCA for their support as we resume normal operations at our shelters and once again offer cats to New Yorkers looking for furry friends," said city Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett.

"Our swift response to the H7N2 outbreak stands as a model for the nation and we will continue to do everything we can to ensure the cats in our care remain healthy and find loving homes."



 6 bird flu outbreaks reported in Vietnam [Xinhua, 22 Feb. 2017]

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HANOI, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- Vietnam has reported six bird flu outbreaks in five provinces nationwide in the past 21 days, said Pham Van Dong, chief of Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's Department of Animal Health on Wednesday.

Specifically, two A/H5N1 avian bird flu outbreaks are reported in northern Nam Dinh province, one A/H5N6 in central Quang Ngai province, while southern Dong Nai, Soc Trang and Bac Lieu reported one A/H5N1 outbreak in each province.

After being under control for ages, bird flu outbreaks have re-appeared in numerous Vietnamese localities, said Dong, adding that all sick poultries in the disease-affected areas have been destroyed.

According to the department, in the coming time, avian flu is at high risk of outbreak and spreading. Some virus types that are not present in Vietnam including A/H7N9, A/H5N2 are likely to enter the country via transportation, sale and consumption of smuggled poultry and poultry products.

As a result, localities have been urged to be active in prevention and combating avian flu, enhance controlling and strictly handle smuggled poultry, detect promptly and deal with outbreaks, the department said.



 Taiwan battles bird flu outbreaks [The Australian, 22 Feb. 2017]

Taiwan is stepping up efforts to battle bird flu outbreaks through various measures in a bid to prevent poultry-to-human transmission of the virus.

Since discovering its first case of H5N6 in Hualien county on February 2, the H5N2, H5N6 and H5N8 strains of bird flu have spread to six cities and counties in Taiwan, prompting the killing of 210,000 chickens.

In a case of H7N9 avian infection, detected in a 69-year-old Taiwanese man who returned from China last month, it was found the virus had mutated and built up a resistance to antiviral drugs, according to the Centre for Disease Control.

"The mutated virus might be more lethal to birds, so disease prevention must be enhanced to prevent cases being imported from China," said CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo.

Taiwan's Council of Agriculture has imposed a week-long ban on transporting slaughtered poultry.

If a farm reports sick poultry, the council will help it slaughter all the poultry and compensate the farm for the loss.

If a breeder fails to report sick poultry, the breeder will be fined.



 Thousands of birds slaughtered in South Korea avian flu outbreak [UPI.com, 22 Feb. 2017]

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Workers at the emergency response headquarters for the avian influenza outbreak are busy tracking the spread of the bird flu, at the Gyeonggi Provincial Government in Suwon, south of Seoul, South Korea, on Feb. 11. Facing its worst avian influenza outbreak, South Korea has culled more than 33 million poultry since the first reported case last November. Photo by Yonhap/EPA

Feb. 22 (UPI) -- About 90,000 birds have been killed in South Korea as a precautionary measure against avian influenza, or bird flu.

The slaughter comes after local authorities determined they might have been exposed to a strain of bird flu spreading from migratory birds, Yonhap news agency reported.

About 100 chickens perished on one farm in central South Korea, in South Chungcheong Province. Fecal samples from three of the chickens tested positive for a strain of bird flu, provincial authorities said Wednesday.

In response to the findings, 90,000 birds being raised at the farm, and 1,108 chickens and ducks being raised within a 1.9-mile radius of the infected birds were slaughtered, according to the report.

A mobile control center has also been set up to monitor more than 1 million birds at 295 farms within a 6-mile radius of the infection.

South Korea's provincial authority says the source of the virus is migratory bird feces that could have spread across the region through water sources.

No cases of the virus have been reported at farms for 40 days, and it is unlikely there was a transmission by feed systems at the farms, according to the report.

South Korea has destroyed more than 33 million birds since November because of one of the worst avian flu outbreaks in its history, according to Yonhap.

In January, the country tackled a shortage of shell eggs by shipping in more than 1 million eggs from the United States.



 South Korea confirms H5N8 bird flu outbreak at duck farm [Reuters, 22 Feb. 2017]

South Korea has confirmed an outbreak of the highly contagious H5N8 bird flu virus at a duck farm in a southwestern county, its first such incident in 15 days, the farm ministry said on Wednesday.

Asia's fourth largest economy has culled a record number of more than 33 million farm birds, or nearly a fifth of its poultry population, in the battle to contain its worst-ever outbreak of bird flu since November last year.

This week's case was reported in Haenam county, more than 390 km (242.33 miles) southwest of the capital, Seoul. It follows the discovery of the same type of virus at a hen farm in the southwestern region on Feb. 6.

About 23,000 ducks reared on the farm have been culled, the agriculture ministry said in a statement, but another suspected case was reported at a hen farm on Wednesday in the central part of the country.

Most of the birds culled in the fight against the epidemic so far were infected with the H5N6 strain of the virus, and no cases of human infection have ever been reported in South Korea.

(Reporting by Jane Chung; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Zoonotic Bird Flu News - from 20 Feb 2017



 Avian influenza housing order could end soon [The Westmorland Gazette, 20 Feb. 2017]

by Lloyd Bent

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A photo of turkeys on a farm.

THE avian influenza housing order that has been imposed over the past three months could end as soon as March 1.

Robert Gooch, chief executive of the British Free Range Egg Producers Association, said: “Our members have coped fantastically with the unprecedented challenge of housing their birds.

"They have focused on the welfare of their flocks at all times and will be hugely relieved if they are able to let birds out again on March 1.

“We have lobbied hard for the UK governments to lift the housing order as soon as it is safe to do so to protect our members from losing their free range status.

“But there are those producers in the High Risk Area who will be forced to continue to house birds. They face the prospect of their eggs being downgraded which we estimate to cost businesses at least 20p per dozen."

All UK poultry has been housed since 7 December 2016. Lifting the order could be subject to change if there are further outbreaks or veterinary advice changes.



 No human H5N6 case detected in Hong Kong so far [7thSpace Interactive (press release), 20 Feb 2017]

Hong Kong (HKSAR) - In response to press enquiries on rumours on human cases of avian influenza A(H5N6) and related pneumonia cases in Hong Kong, the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (February 20) clarified that no human H5N6 cases have been identified in Hong Kong to date.

"Globally, 16 sporadic human H5N6 cases, including 11 known deaths, have been reported so far since the emergence of H5N6 in 2014 and all were in the Mainland. While most patients visited wet markets or had contact with live poultry, there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission among their close contacts. Standard precautions against avian influenza, such as strict personal, hand, food and environmental hygiene, are key to preventing H5N6 infections," a spokesman for the CHP said.

"All novel influenza A infections, including H5N6, are statutorily notifiable infectious diseases in Hong Kong.

Doctors and hospitals are reminded that any patient with acute respiratory illness or pneumonia, or at-risk exposure (including poultry workers and those with a history of visiting markets with live poultry or contact with poultry) in affected areas in the incubation period (10 days before onset), must be managed as suspected cases and immediately reported to the CHP for prompt epidemiological and laboratory investigations, disease control and transparent announcement," the spokesman said.

"We will continue to remain vigilant and work closely with the World Health Organization and relevant health authorities to monitor the latest developments," the spokesman added.



 H5N6 spreads to Hsinchu Countyת Taiwan [poultrymed, 20 Feb 2017]

Hsinchu County in northern Taiwan reported its first case of H5N6 this year, as 400 abandoned dead chickens tested positive for the pathogenic avian influenza virus.

Police were notified about a large pile of rotting, lifeless chickens nearby an industrial road in
Hukou area in Hsinchu on Feb. 16, 2017, maggots found in the carcass and the pungent odor emanating at the site suggested the chickens had been decaying for at least three to four days.

The latest case reported in Hsinchu increases the number of counties affected by the avian influenza from five to six, and brings the total cases of the current H5N6 outbreak to 17. An outbreak of the contagious H5N6 that is transmittable to humans has led to the culling of 188,696 birds in 28 poultry farms and five slaughterhouses.



 YEAR OF THE BIRD FLU China’s appetite for fresh chicken is making its bird flu epidemic worse [Quartz, 20 Feb 2017]

by Echo Huang

China has seen an alarming number of bird flu cases so far this year.

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Can't stop eating. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

In January alone, the H7N9 avian flu virus has resulted in 79 deaths out of 192 reported cases in China, according to the country’s National Health and Planning Commission. It’s the worst bird-flu season since the virus first appeared in China in 2013. Altogether, 370 people in the mainland have died from the H7N9 strain.

H7N9, or avian influenza A, is a virus that infects both human and birds and manifests with flu-like symptoms. Most of the cases of human infections were linked to recent exposure to live poultry or contaminated environments like livestock markets.

It’s been especially difficult to control the outbreak because of the Lunar New Year holiday, according to China Youth Daily, a party-owned newspaper. Leading up to and during the new year, “people from both urban cities and rural areas will buy, feed, and slaughter chickens and ducks,” noted a Feb. 19 (link in Chinese) editorial. “The habit of slaughtering has increased the risk of spreading the disease.”

China’s Center for Disease Control reported that the January outbreak was most prevalent in the south and on the eastern seaboard provinces, such as Guangdong and Jiangsu, where “the local habits of buying live or freshly slaughtered chickens” have contributed to the outbreak, said Ni Daxin, deputy director of emergency response for the center. As a result, he is encouraging people to buy frozen chicken. “The nutritional value is equal to that of freshly slaughtered poultry, but it involves far fewer health risks,” he added.

Zhejiang province has shut down all live poultry markets since Feb. 11 (link in Chinese) as part of its efforts to contain the disease. Since 2014, Hong Kong has halted selling live chickens in local wet markets several times when H7N9 was found on imported poultry from the mainland.



 Vietnam reports H5N6 and H5N1 outbreaks as Europe battles more H5N8 [CIDRAP, 20 Feb 2017]

by Lisa Schnirring

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Chris Goldberg / Flickr cc

Animal health officials in Vietnam reported the first outbreaks of the year involving two highly pathogenic avian flu strains—H5N6 and H5N1—as five European countries reported more outbreaks of H5N8 in both wild birds and poultry.

Outbreaks are Vietnam's first of 2017

The H5N6 outbreak in Vietnam is the country's first since last summer, increasing the number of Asian countries reporting recent detections of the virus to seven. Other nations or territories that have reported recent H5N6 outbreaks are China, Hong Kong, Japan, Myanmar, South Korea, and Taiwan.

In the latest event, the virus struck backyard birds in Quang Ngai province in the east central part of Vietnam, according to a report today from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The outbreak began on Feb 12, killing 2,000 of 6,160 susceptible birds, with the surviving ones culled to control the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, an H5N1 outbreak struck backyard birds in Bac Lieu province in southern Vietnam, the OIE said yesterday in a report. The event began on Feb 14, killing 400 of 2,785 birds in the area. Authorities destroyed the remaining poultry as part of response measures. Vietnam's last H5N1 outbreak occurred in October of 2016.

Elsewhere, Taiwan, which reported its first H5N6 outbreak earlier this month, over the weekend confirmed three more outbreaks, to bring its total to 16, China News Agency (CNA) reported yesterday. The latest events include a chicken farm in Yunlin County, a goose farm in Chiayi County, and ducks at a slaughterhouse in Yilan County.

H5N6 has been linked to 17 illnesses in humans, all in China.

H5N8 developments in Europe

In France, H5N8 and other strains continue in a hard-hit area in the southwest of the country that is home to foie gras production, the second year in a row the area has battled such outbreaks.

Agriculture officials reported 46 more H5N8 outbreaks in poultry in Gers and Landes departments, with start dates ranging from Feb 6 to Feb 13, according to the OIE. Affected farms housed mainly ducks, but some chickens and geese were affected as well. Of 218,548 susceptible birds, the virus killed 46, and the remaining birds were destroyed.

French officials also reported seven more H5N8 outbreaks in wild birds found dead in different parts of the country, including Ain department in the east central part of the country and Vosges department in the northeast. Taken together, 19 birds were found dead between Feb 3 and Feb 8, most of them mute swans.

In other French avian flu developments, officials also reported four poultry farm outbreaks involving low-pathogenic H5N1, another strain authorities have been battling in the southwest.

The detections occurred from Feb 6 to Feb 11 in Gers and Tarn departments.

Elsewhere, four other countries in Europe reported fresh H5N8 outbreaks, according to the latest reports from the OIE:

• Croatia reported one more outbreak involving five wild swans found dead beginning on Feb 7 in Koprivnica-Krizevci county in the north.

• Italy reported another outbreak in poultry, this time at a turkey farm in Veneto region in the northeast. The outbreak began on Feb 16, killing 140 of 41,373 susceptible birds.

• Sweden reported two more detections in wild birds, both in Stockholm. The events involved a mute swan and a crow found dead on Feb 2 and Feb 3, respectively.
Ukraine officials reported an outbreak at a zoo in the city of Mykolaiv in the southern part of the country. The facility houses 931 birds of 104 different species. The outbreak began on Feb 14, killing 10 peacocks.



 Small flock biosecurity important to protect against avian influenza [High Plains Journal, 20 Feb 2017]

By Donald Stotts

The highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak that became the largest animal health emergency in United States history may have subsided, but vigilance is still needed.

In January 2016, an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza H7N8 virus was reported in a commercial turkey flock in Dubois County, Indiana. No other outbreaks in the U.S.have been detected since that time.

“Currently Europe and Asia are having a tremendous problem with avian influenza but we are not,” said Dr. Barry Whitworth, veterinarian and Oklahoma State University Cooperative
Extension food animal quality and health specialist. “The concern is HPAI, once established, can spread rapidly, killing 95 percent to 100 percent of a flock.”

Arkansas and Kansas were among the states with reported cases of infected birds a few years ago, underscoring the need for Oklahoma poultry producers to be aware and understand the importance of biosecurity measures to control HPAI.

“The last reported cases in Arkansas and Kansas occurred in early summer of 2015, which is a positive, but everyone, small flock operators included, needs to follow biosecurity and best management practices to ensure we stay HPAI-free,” said Dana Zook, OSU Cooperative Extension area livestock specialist.

Biosecurity—essentially doing everything possible in an operation to prevent disease from entering a flock—teamed with proper vaccination, disinfection and sanitation helps producers ward off disease-causing pathogens.

What can backyard poultry operators do?

Zook and Whitworth stress there are a number of practical methods a small flock operator can and should employ. First among them, the primary caretaker of the flock should not enter other poultry facilities, and visitors to the operator’s flock should be kept at a minimum.

“Any necessary visitors should clean and disinfect their shoes or wear disposable boot covers prior to entering any pen,” Zook said. “If handling birds, disposable gloves should be worn.”

Another important protocol is to channel your inner Mr. Clean, and be obsessive about it. The producer and any visitor should clean and disinfect his or her hands, clothes, shoes and equipment before and after handling poultry.

“A good biosecurity practice is to have a pair of shoes kept next to the pen door that are only worn when inside the pen,” Zook said.

Feed bins should be secured to prevent contamination by wild birds or rodents. Spoiled feed should be removed promptly to prevent attracting wild birds or rodents. Clean and disinfect all tools and equipment thought to have been contaminated. Promptly dispose of dead birds by burial or composting. Maintain effective rodent and insect control programs.

“Take care not to haul disease-causing pathogens home,” Zook said. “If your birds have been near other poultry such as during a show or contest, clean and disinfect poultry cages and equipment before returning to your operation. After com­ing into contact with other birds, be sure to shower and wash clothing before handling your birds.”

Whitworth recommends birds that have been near other poultry should be quarantined from the rest of the flock for 14 days.

“This will give infected birds time to exhibit symptoms,” he said. “New birds should be kept from your flock for at least 30 days before putting them with the rest of the birds.”

Whitworth stresses the health of a producer’s birds should be the first priority. Do not share birds, borrow lawn and garden equipment, tools or poultry supplies from other bird owners. Items that cannot be disinfected such as wood pallets or egg cartons should not be shared.

“Birds infected with HPAI may exhibit a lack of energy and appetite, decreased egg production, abnormal egg shape, respiratory distress, diarrhea and swelling or purple discoloration of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles and legs,” Whitworth said.

Know when to report sick birds

Although isolated instances of mortality are common in a backyard flock and do not require reporting, significantly large numbers of sickness and mortality should be reported to officials.
Zook and Whitworth stress prompt diagnosis of widespread sickness in flocks is a critical step in containing any devastating disease. For diagnosis of any widespread disease, contact the Oklahoma Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory on OSU’s Stillwater campus at 405-744-6623.

“The OADDL works closely with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry to test and identify contagious diseases,” Zook said. “If avian influenza is suspected in an Oklahoma backyard poultry flock, contact your county Extension agricultural educator, local veterinarian or the state veterinarian immediately.”

Additional information from OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources about poultry diseases, backyard poultry operations and similar poultry-related subjects is available online at http://osufacts.okstate.edu. Simply type “poultry” in the search function and relevant OSU Fact Sheets will be listed for the viewer.



 Has bird flu brought an end to free-range eggs? Confusion among middle-class mums after labels appear on boxes stating chickens are housed in BARNS due to outbreak [Daily Mail, 20 Feb 2017]

By IMOGEN BLAKE and UNITY BLOT

A recent influenza outbreak has forced farmers to keep chickens inside
UK supermarkets have indicated their 'free range' hens are being kept indoors
But it has caused confusion with some customers believing them to be caged

Middle-class mums have spoken of their shock after supermarkets have re-labelled free-range eggs to say they are laid by chickens 'housed in barns'.

The change in status is due to a bird flu outbreak that has forced farmers to keep poultry cooped up since the start of December.

Producers have continued to label eggs as 'free-range' due to an EU loophole which allows poultry goods to be marketed as such for up to 12 weeks if birds have been kept inside for their own protection.

But from next week, this grace period is up - and already, labels have started appearing on egg cartons in supermarkets up and down the country to inform customers that chickens are not currently free-range.

It appears to have caused confusion among ethical shoppers who are concerned about how well cared for hens are inside these barns having previously been allowed to roam.

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 Confusion: A European outbreak in bird flu means hens will temporarily be kept inside for their welfare, although for the moment they can still be classed as free range until February 28

One mother took to the Facebook group Hampstead Mums on Sunday night after spotting one of the new labels on a carton of eggs from M&S.

She was concerned that the supermarket was caging their hens - but M&S have categorically denied that their birds are being caged, with labels clearly stating they are 'housed in barns for their welfare'.

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: 'As a result of changes due to come into force on March 1, a number of free range egg farmers in England will lose their free-range status.

'Retailers have worked closely with their suppliers to develop solutions to minimise the disruption for their customers including store notices and stickers to indicate which eggs have been laid by hens temporarily housed in barns for their welfare.'

The woman told fellow mothers that M&S had assured her that 'all [of their] egg-laying hens are currently housed for their welfare' and promised that 'birds will be allowed to return outdoors as soon as it is safe to do so'.

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 The regulations have caused confusion with some customers believing their free range eggs have come from caged hens, although M&S insist they are simply being held in barns

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 This confused mum vowed never to buy eggs from M&S again because she believed that the supermarket's chickens were being caged - but the store insists they are not

A customer rep assured her there were 'no food safety concerns'.

The issue is affecting all supermarkets, with other stores also changing the labels on their free-range eggs to alert customers to the flu outbreak.

A representative for M&S told MailOnline that the store 'does not sell any eggs from caged birds'.

Last year, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) told farmers to ensure all poultry is kept away from any contact with wild birds in the wake of a bird flu outbreak sweeping Europe.

The H5N8 strain has been found in birds from 14 European countries including Britain, France, Germany and Sweden.

Under Defra regulation, birds can be housed for up to 12 weeks and still be classed as 'free range', but this will come to an end on February 28.

But stores including M&S, Tesco and the Co-Op have alerted customers to the change.

We're spitting feathers over this farcial rule, say farming couple

For Sarah and Steven Slade, it is the first time in a decade they have had to keep their 12,000 free range chickens inside.

The birds are usually let out of their shed first thing in the morning and return of their own accord at the end of the day.

But the Slades, who run a farm near Aylesbeare, Devon, were ordered to keep their poultry indoors to protect against the risk of bird flu.

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'We had an email saying basically we had to bring all our birds in immediately,' said Mrs Slade, 48. 'Our hens have all been kept in the barn since then.' The pair say the government-imposed restrictions run against everything they stand for. 'We chose to produce free range eggs for a reason – we thought it best for the birds,' said Mrs Slade. 'It does seems a bit farcical that we are still allowed to market our eggs as free range when clearly they are not at the moment. 'I just hope the customers understand the difficulties we are faced with. Inside they will have the same feed and nutrients as they would outside, but there is no doubt it is not as good a life for them. 'I haven't as yet noticed any difference in the quality of our eggs but we'll be glad when this is all over.' While they have some space to scratch around indoors, the birds are not used to being inside around the clock. 'Our hens are used to going outside and for the first couple of weeks they couldn't work out what was going on,' said Mrs Slade. 'They congregated as usual by the hatches and sadly, a couple of hundred got crushed.' The couple have had to find a number of ways to keep their flock happy while they are cooped up round the clock, such as letting them peck at turnip tops. 'We've also filled a lot of old plastic milk cartons with sand and they will peck at those, said Mrs Slade. 'Anything to stop them pecking at one another.'



 Bird flu vaccines set to undergo clinical trials [China.org, 20 Feb 2017]

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The China Food and Drug Administration. [File photo/Xinhua]

Four kinds of vaccine for the H7N9 strain of bird flu virus have been approved for clinical trials by China's top drug regulator, according to the Beijing Food and Drug Administration.

The administration will continue to provide assistance and guidance for clinical trials of the vaccines so they can enter the market as soon as possible, it said in a statement last week.

Beijing Tiantan Biological Products Co, a State-owned enterprise in Beijing, which developed the vaccines, announced on Wednesday that the China Food and Drug Administration had approved clinical trials. The company added that it must conduct other procedures after the completion of clinical trials before the vaccines can be sold on the market, including applying for registration of the drugs and acquiring certificates for their manufacture from the CFDA.

There are currently no vaccines for the H7N9 strain of bird flu-which is most active in winter and spring-available on the market in China or overseas, although several other domestic companies have also acquired approval from CFDA for clinical trials for similar products, Beijing Tiantan said.

Two human cases of H7N9 have been reported in Beijing this year, with both patients suspected of having been exposed to live poultry markets. Both are in critical condition, the Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention said last week.

A 41-year-old woman infected with the H7N9 strain of bird flu in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, died on Sunday, the regional Health and Family Planning Commission said.

The central government has intensified measures to control the spread of H7N9, including shutting down live poultry markets, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission. The commission called on the public to take precautionary measures such as avoiding contact with live poultry and cooking chicken meat thoroughly.

Human cases of H7N9 have been reported in 16 provinces in China since October, including in
Yunnan, Fujian, Hubei and Hunan provinces, with most of them involving exposure to live poultry markets, according to the commission.

In January alone, 192 human cases of H7N9 were reported on the Chinese mainland, including 79 deaths, making it the worst period since the virus first appeared in China in 2013, the commission said.

There is no evidence to support sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus, which was first reported in the spring of 2013, according to the World Health Organization.

The Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that more sporadic cases are expected in the city.

Sporadic cases of the bird flu may last until late April, said Ni Daxin, deputy director of emergency response at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.



 H7N9 analyses hint at genetic mutations, drug resistance [CIDRAP, 20 Feb 2017]

by Start Lisa Schnirring

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In the latest H7N9 avian influenza developments, analysis of virus samples from China and
Taiwan hint at mutations including resistance to the antiviral class of drugs known as neuraminidase inhibitors, and the World Health Organization (WHO) said today that the burgeoning number of cases this season now account for a third of all cases reported since the outbreak began in 2013.

Also, local officials reported three new cases in three Chinese provinces, signaling ongoing virus activity.

Scientists track pathogenicity, resistance mutations

Yesterday, Guangdong province's Center for Disease Control (Guangdong CDC) announced that two virus samples collected from humans show mutations that suggest H7N9 may be becoming more pathogenic in birds, according to an official statement translated and posted by Avian Flu Diary (AFD), an infectious disease news blog.

Authorities said an analysis of four samples from poultry in Guangdong province by agriculture colleagues had found similar changes in the virus and that the two groups would work together to monitor the virus.

H7N9 has been a low-pathogenic virus in poultry, which has made it difficult to track. Often, the virus isn't found in local poultry flocks until human illnesses in the area have been reported.

In a related development, Taiwan's CDC today, in an analysis of H7N9 from in imported case in January, found similar protein changes in the hemagglutinin (HA) protein that may make the virus more pathogenic in poultry, but it also said it found a mutation in the neuraminidase (NA) protein that may suggest resistance to antivirals such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza), which are neuraminidase inhibitors.

The statement from Taiwan CDC, also translated and posted by AFD, said the patient is a 69-year-old man from Guangdong province who is still hospitalized in critical condition. Officials said the mutation seen in an H7N9 sample from the man may have been a spontaneous mutation that occurred while he was undergoing treatment.

Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection (CHP) in a statement today acknowledged the genetic findings announced by Guangdong CDC and said it will continue to monitor virus activity, but so far its analysis of viruses from its recent imported H7N9 cases from the mainland have not found any significant changes or any sign of resistance to oseltamivir.

A Feb 10 update from the WHO said an analysis of 83 H7N9 samples collected since Oct 1 from the current fifth wave of infections found no evidence of changes that would make the virus more virulent or more adapted to mammals. The group, however, noted three contained mutations in the NA protein that suggested reduced sensitivity to neuraminidase inhibitors.

The WHO added that testing is under way to assess in vitro susceptibility to the drugs.

WHO update notes two new clusters

In its update today, the WHO said China notified it of 304 more cases between Jan 19 and Feb 14, bringing the total during this wave to at least 418, similar to the total reported last week in the latest update from Hong Kong. Though similar sudden increases have been seen in past seasons, the recent surge exceeds those of previous years and now accounts for one third of all human cases since H7N9's first detection in humans in early 2013.

So far epidemiologic and virologic evidence doesn't suggest that H7N9 has acquired the ability to spread more easily in humans, but the situation needs close monitoring, the agency said. It warned that more human cases are expected, given ongoing detection in poultry and their environments, and that sporadic cases could continue in previously unaffected areas of China, because of the silent circulation of the low-pathogenic virus in birds.

The most recent cases reported to the WHO are from 18 of China's provinces. The most-affected ones are Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Guangdong, Anhui, Jiangxi, Hunan, Fujian, and Hubei. For patients with known clinical presentations, two had mild symptoms, 82 had pneumonia (48 classified as severe), and 36 died.

Of the 304 patients, 144 (47%) had been exposed to poultry or live-poultry markets. Eleven had no clear exposure, and investigations are still under way for 149.

The WHO noted two clusters among the cases: a 22-year-old mother who took care of her 3-year-old daughter while the child was sick (both had been exposed to poultry) and a 43-year-old woman who took care of her 45-year-old sister while she was sick. Both of the women had likewise been exposed to poultry.

"While common exposure to poultry is likely, human-to-human transmission cannot be ruled out," the WHO said of the clusters.

New cases in 3 provinces

The newest cases reported from China were noted in today's CHP update and include patients in three different provinces.

One is a 45-year-old individual from Guizhou in the southwest who is being treated in Qiandongnan. In addition, Guangxi province in southern China reported a fatal infection in a 41-year-old woman in Nanning who worked as a poultry seller in a live market before she became ill.

The third patient is a 48-year-old woman in Shandong province in the east.

So far China has reported at least 422 cases in the fifth wave of H7N9 activity. Also, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan have reported a spate of cases imported from the mainland. The WHO today said the global total based on reports received since 2013 is 1,222 lab-confirmed cases.



 Chicks dumped in Crowland field put down [BBC News, 20 Feb 2017]

Hundreds of newborn chicks found abandoned in a field in Lincolnshire have had to be put down, the RSPCA said, due to a case of bird flu nearby.

About 1,500 chicks were discovered close to an avian flu exclusion zone on the outskirts of Crowland on Friday.

The RSPCA said it was not possible to rehome them due to the possibility of infection.

The charity said it was possible that prior to being dumped, the chicks were being offered for sale.

More on this and other local stories from across Lincolnshire

The RSPCA said the chicks' farmer had been found and it was likely the birds had been passed to a third party by a "rogue member of staff" and then offered for sale from the back of a van.

They said the farmer was co-operating with the RSPCA investigation.

'Most callous'

Insp Justin Stubbs, of the RSPCA, said the chicks were found close to an avian flu exclusion zone, which meant they could not be sold on.

"Sadly, the owner has had no choice but to euthanise them," he said.

Some were found dead, or dying, suffering from exposure and being picked off by predators, Mr Stubbs said.

Describing the case, Mr Stubbs said: "I would consider this to be one of the most callous acts I have come across in 20 years with the RSPCA."

The charity said it wanted to hear from anyone in the area who was offered any of the chicks.



 Chicks dumped in field put down over avian flu fears [ITV News, 20 Feb 2017]

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Hundreds of chicks were dumped in a field in Crowland. Credit: RSPCA

More than a thousand little chicks found dumped in a field near Peterborough have been put down over fears of avian flu.

The RSPCA launched an investigation after the day-old birds were discovered in Crowland.
It is believed the chicks came from a commercial chick producer nearby and may have been abandoned by a third-party.

A spokesperson for the RSPCA said: "Very sadly, the RSPCA has learned that the surviving chicks which were dumped in a field in Crowland on Friday have been put to sleep due to a case of avian flu nearby.

"We are sorry to hear of this outcome. We are still investigating and urge anyone with information to contact us on 0300 123 8018."

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The chicks were put in boxes and taken back to their unit. Credit: RSPCA

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Volunteers helped rescue the chicks. Credit: RSPCA

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The chicks came from a nearby breeder. Credit: RSPCA

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The chicks have been put down over fears of avian flu. Credit: RSPCA



 Two die from avian flu in Yunnan's first cases of the year [GoKunming (blog), 20 Feb 2017]

by Patrick Scally

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 Image: Sevan Golnazarian

Reports of two flu-related fatalities in Yunnan over the past few weeks have once again raised awareness of, and concern about, the bird-flu virus. As news of the deaths broke, provincial officials were quick in their attempts to quell any possible public alarm, issuing statements on radio, television and print media stressing the situation was completely under control and people had "no reason to panic".

In general, the government reaction appears warranted regarding the H7N9 avian influenza virus. Yunnan has reportedly experienced a total of only two bird flu infections since the beginning of 2017, both of which unfortunately led to death. The two victims were a young woman and her three year-old daughter.

The pair of Kunming residents and their family spent the Spring Festival holiday in eastern China's Jiangxi province, and during the visit had contact with domesticated poultry, according to a report issued by the Yunnan Health and Family Planning Commission (YHFPC). The mother fell ill first, but eventually passed away two weeks after contracting the virus. Her daughter died a week later.

Doctor Wei Jia (韦嘉), an expert on infectious diseases at YHFPC, has appeared in public service announcements describing the illness. In an interview he explained family members and close friends of the victims have all been tested, with none testing positive for H7N9. Furthermore, says the doctor, the screenings produced no evidence of human-to-human transmission, which is a crucial distinction when considering possible large-scale outbreaks.

Chinese health authorities say the country experienced 192 cases of human H7N9 infection in the month of January, 79 of them proving fatal. Those numbers represent a slight increase over December. The provinces of the Pearl and Yangtze river deltas — specifically Zhejiang, Hunan and Guangdong — have been hardest hit, and combine to claim the majority of total instances.
In response, many cities in those three regions, as well as Sichuan and Anhui, have temporarily banned sales of live poultry. Yunnan authorities have not considered such a move, largely because no indigenous H7N9 cases have been documented in the province.

Instead, health officials here are urging a calm and rational response, suggesting people wash their hands regularly with hot water and soap, cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing, exercise regularly and sleep more than usual. In the words of Dr Wei in his public service announcement, "H7N9 has been in China since 2013 and does have pathogenic characteristics...But it is entirely preventable".



 Human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus – China [World Health Organization, 20 Feb 2017]

Between 19 January and 14 February 2017, a total of 304 additional laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection have been reported to WHO from mainland China though the China National IHR focal point.

On 19 January 2017, the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China (NHFPC) notified WHO of 111 additional laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus. On 24 January 2017, the NHFPC notified WHO of 31 additional laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus. On 30 January 2017, the NHFPC notified WHO of 41 additional laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus. On 7 February 2017, the NHFPC notified WHO of 52 additional laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus. On 14 February 2017, the NHFPC notified WHO of 69 additional laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus.

Details of the cases

Between 19 January and 14 February 2017, the NHFPC reported a total of 304 human cases of infection with avian influenza A(H7N9). Onset dates range from 13 December 2016 to 9 February 2017. Of these 304 cases, 86 are female (28%). Cases range in age from 3 to 85 years, with a median age of 58 years. The cases are reported from Jiangsu (67), Zhejiang (53), Guangdong (32), Anhui (31), Jiangxi (27), Hunan (26), Fujian (20), Hubei (20), Sichuan (6), Guizhou (4), Henan (4), Shandong (4), Shanghai (3), Liaoning (2), Yunnan (2), Beijing (1), Hebei (1), and Guangxi (1).

At the time of notification, there were 36 deaths, two cases had mild symptoms and 82 cases were diagnosed as either pneumonia (34) or severe pneumonia (48). The clinical presentations of the other 184 cases are not available at this time. 144 cases reported exposure to poultry or live poultry market, 11 cases have no clear exposure to poultry or poultry-related environments. 149 cases are under investigation.

Two clusters of two-person were reported:

・1. A 22-year-old female (mother of 3-year-old girl case who had symptom onset on 29 January 2017, died on 7 February 2017) reported from Yunnan province. She had developed symptom on 4 February 2017. She took care of her daughter during her daughter was sick. Both are reported to expose to poultry in Jiangxi province.

・2. A 45-year-old female (previously reported on 9 January) from Sihui city, Guangdong province. She had symptom onset on 17 December 2016, and died on 24 December 2016. She was exposed to poultry. Another case was a 43-year-old female from Guangzhou city,
Guangdong province. She had symptom onset on 30 December 2016 and was admitted to hospital on the same day. She is the sister of the 45-year old female described above. She took care of her hospitalized sister but also had exposure to poultry. At the time of reporting, she was suffering from pneumonia.

While common exposure to poultry is likely, human to human transmission cannot be ruled out.

To date, a total of 1222 laboratory-confirmed human infections with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus have been reported through IHR notification since early 2013.

Public health response

Considering the increase in the number of human infections with avian influenza A(H7N9) since December 2016, the Chinese government has enhanced measures such as:

・Strengthened early diagnosis and early treatment, treatment of severe cases to reduce occurrence of severe cases and deaths.

・Convened meetings to further deploy prevention and control measures.

・Conducted public risk communication and sharing information with the public.

・The NHFPC strengthened epidemic surveillance, conducted timely risk assessment and analysed the information for any changes in epidemiology.

・The NHFPC requested local NHFPCs to implement effective control measures on the source of outbreaks and to minimize the number of affected people.

・The NHFPC, joined by other departments such as agriculture, industry and commerce, Food and Drug Administration, re-visited Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui and Guangdong provinces where more cases occurred for joint supervision. The affected provinces have also strengthened multisectoral supervision, inspection and guidance on local surveillance, medical treatment, prevention and control and promoted control measures with a focus on live poultry market management control.

・Relevant prefectures in Jiangsu province have closed live poultry markets in late December 2016 and Zhejiang, Guangdong and Anhui provinces have strengthened live poultry market regulations.

WHO risk assessment

While similar sudden increases in the number of human avian influenza A(H7N9) cases identified have been reported in previous years the number of cases reported during this season is exceeding previous seasons. The number of human cases with onset from 1 October 2016 accounts for nearly one-third of all the human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) virus infection reported since 2013.

However, human infections with the avian influenza A(H7N9) virus remain unusual. Close observation of the epidemiological situation and further characterization of the most recent human viruses are critical to assess associated risk and to adjust risk management measures timely.

Most human cases are exposed to avian influenza A(H7N9) virus through contact with infected poultry or contaminated environments, including live poultry markets. Since the virus continues to be detected in animals and environments, and live poultry vending continues, further human cases can be expected. Additional sporadic human cases may be also expected in previously unaffected provinces as it is likely that this virus circulates in poultry of other areas of China without being detected.

Although small clusters of human cases with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus have been reported including those involving healthcare workers, current epidemiological and virological evidence suggests that this virus has not acquired the ability of sustained transmission among humans.

Therefore the likelihood of further community level spread is considered low.

WHO advice

WHO advises that travellers to countries with known outbreaks of avian influenza should avoid, if possible, poultry farms, contact with animals in live bird markets, entering areas where poultry may be slaughtered, or contact with any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with faeces from poultry or other animals. Travellers should also wash their hands often with soap and water, and follow good food safety and good food hygiene practices.

WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event, nor does it currently recommend any travel or trade restrictions. As always, a diagnosis of infection with an avian influenza virus should be considered in individuals who develop severe acute respiratory symptoms while travelling in or soon after returning from an area where avian influenza is a concern.

WHO encourages countries to continue strengthening influenza surveillance, including surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and influenza-like illness (ILI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns, ensure reporting of human infections under the IHR (2005), and continue national health preparedness actions.



 Heartbreak as 1,000 tiny chicks are put down after being dumped [Lincolnshire Echo, 20 Feb 2017]

By Paul Whitelam

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The dumped birds have all had to be put down

The RSPCA has confirmed that the survivors among 1,000 day-old chicks dumped in a field in Lincolnshire have now been humanely put down due to bird flu fears.

Lincolnshire Live reported on February 18 that the birds were found in the south of the county and initially those that were dying - about 50 - were put to sleep.

Now, the RSPCA has revealed that cute creatures that survived - about 950 - have also had to be put down.

A spokesman said: "Very sadly, the RSPCA has learned that the surviving chicks which were dumped in a field in Crowland on Friday have been put to sleep due to a case of avian flu nearby.

"We are sorry to hear of this outcome. We are still investigating and urge anyone with
information to contact us on 0300 123 8018."

RSPCA inspector Justin Stubbs, who was called to rescue the birds, described a "sea of yellow".

Mr Stubbs said: "I have never seen anything like it. It was just a sea of yellow. And the noise was unbelievable.

"The chicks are only about a day old and are really tiny and quite delicate. Some of the birds were dead or dying when we arrived so some, sadly, had to be humanely put to sleep.

"Thankfully, most of the chicks did not appear to be suffering."

It is believed the chicks came from a commercial chick producer nearby and may have been abandoned in the field in Crowland in the south of the county by a third-party.

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The producer is said to be fully cooperating and assisting the RSPCA with investigations.
Mr Stubbs said: "The breeder came to the scene to collect the surviving birds and take them back to their unit.

"These tiny birds wouldn't have survived long out on their own at such a young age and in such unpredictable weather conditions.

"For someone to dump these vulnerable chicks is unbelievable.

"But I'd like to thank all the members of the public who teamed together to help us round up all the birds and confine them in boxes where they could huddle together for warmth."

Anyone with any information about who is responsible for dumping the birds is asked to contact the RSPCA's inspector appeal line on 0300 123 8018.



 Video: 1,000 abandoned chicks ‘put to sleep’ in the UK due to bird flu risk [Agriland, 20 Feb 2017]


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by Conor Finnerty

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Some 1,000 chicks which were abandoned in the UK recently have been ‘put to sleep’ due to a case of bird flu close to where they were found.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) confirmed that the surviving abandoned birds had to be humanely put down.

On Friday, February 17, the animal welfare charity was called by members of the public who spotted around 1,000 little chicks running around a field in Crowland, near Peterborough in the UK.

The RSPCA has launched an investigation and is working with a commercial chick breeder in the area to find out who abandoned the baby birds in the field.

Officers from the charity were called to the scene to rescue the day-old birds, with some of them already dead or dying when they arrived, according to RSPCA Inspector Justin Stubbs.

“I have never seen anything like it, it was just a sea of yellow. And the noise was unbelievable.”

The majority of the abandoned birds did not appear to be suffering and were collected in cardboard boxes, he added.

It is believed the birds came from a commercial chick producer nearby and may have been abandoned by a third-party. The producer is fully co-operating and assisting the RSPCA with their investigations.

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“The breeder came to the scene to collect the surviving birds and take them back to their unit.
“These tiny birds wouldn’t have survived long out on their own at such a young age and in such unpredictable weather conditions.

“For someone to dump these vulnerable chicks is unbelievable.”

The RSPCA Inspector thanked all the members of the public who teamed together to help round up all the birds and confine them in boxes where they could huddle together for warmth.



 Bird flu outbreak halted [Khmer Times, 21 Feb 2017]

Health officials in Svay Rieng province, which was hit by an outbreak of bird flu (H5N1) early this month, said the virus has been stopped and there was no sign of a continuing outbreak.

Sen Sovann, the deputy secretary-general of the Agriculture Ministry and director-general of the animal health and production department, told Khmer Times on February 7 that an outbreak of bird flu had struck Svay Rieng province.

Provincial hospital director Chan Dara confirmed the outbreak yesterday during a Japan International Cooperation Agency press tour to a more than $9 million under-construction hospital building at the provincial referral hospital.

“It infected only birds, not humans. There was no effect on humans,” he said.

“A health official and agricultural department official went to the site to educate the people and told them to be careful when killing the chickens.”

He could not confirm how many chickens had been afflicted, adding that no more cases had been confirmed since the initial outbreak.

Health department chief Keo Ratha said the virus broke out in Bayap village in Bassac commune.

“It happened to chickens, ducks and egrets,” he said.

“For this incident, we assigned our quick-response team members and officials from the provincial department of agriculture to go to the site and collect the deceased birds for burial and put the healthy birds in cages to avoid any possible infection.”

Mr. Ratha added that the health department had put warning posters on trees to educate people about the virus.

“We try to prevent it at all cost. Infectious diseases are universal. We are trying to prevent it along the border. We have a quick-response team and if there is anything unusual, they will act promptly,” he said.

He added that Romeas Hek commune in Svay Rieng province’s Trapaing Sdech district was recently hit by another virus – hand, foot and mouth disease.

“There were 13 children who had it, but they have been discharged. We educated the parents about hygiene because this disease is caused by a lack of hygiene,” he said.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is an infectious disease that commonly affects infants and children under the age of 10. Symptoms include fever, painful mouth ulcers as well as blisters and a rash on the palms and soles of the feet.

The Health Ministry last week urged people to be cautious and not spread the disease and asked that infants or children displaying symptoms be brought to seek medical treatment immediately.



 Defra issues new bird flu guidance for pig sector [Pig World, 20 Feb 2017]

Guidance for pig farmers on how their businesses may affected by bird flu restrictions has been published by Defra, including dealing with situations when pigs might have to be culled.

With the whole of the UK currently being declared a prevention zone, there are a number of biosecurity measures to be observed on holdings where pigs are kept on the same premises as birds.

A full briefing document, prepared by Defra, the Welsh Government, APHA, NPA and the British Pig Association is now available.

See NPA report for full details☞ avian flu guidance for pig producers 



 Bird flu spreads to Hsinchu County [Taiwan News, 20 Feb 2017]

By Judy Lin

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Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine inspectors culls 3,000 geese in Hualien to prevent the spread of bird flu H5N6 in Taiwan. (By Central News Agency)

Bird flu spreads north in Taiwan to Hsinchu County, making it the 6th county affected

Taipei (Taiwan News)—Hsinchu County in northern Taiwan reported its first case of H5N6 this year, as 400 abandoned dead chickens tested positive for the pathogenic avian flu virus.

Police were notified about a large pile of rotting, lifeless chickens nearby an industrial road in Hukou area in Hsinchu on Feb. 16, 2017, maggots found in the carcass and the pungent odor emanating at the site suggested the chickens had been decaying for at least three to four days.
Samples taken from the dead chickens sent to the Animal Health Research Institute lab in New Taipei City for further analysis returned positive for the H5N6 virus.

A poultry farm in Xinpu area is suspected of discarding the dead chickens and more than 10 bags of chicken feed near the industrial road, as police found the same type of bird feed bag used to stuff the diseased birds and deceased chickens at the farm.

The latest case reported in Hsinchu increases the number of counties affected by the bird flu from five to six, and brings the total cases of the current H5N6 outbreak to 17, according to Council of Agriculture’s (COA) latest statistics.

Earlier Monday, the COA reported three new cases confirmed last Saturday, including a chicken farm in Yunlin County, a goose farm in Chiayi County and ducks at a slaughterhouse in Yilan County. The case in Chiayi marks the first case of bird flu in geese discovered in Taiwan this year.

As of Sunday, all the cases reported were from eight poultry farms in Hsinchu County, Yunlin County, Chiayi County, Tainan City, Yilan County and Hualien County.

An outbreak of the contagious H5N6 that is transmittable to humans has led to the culling of 188,696 birds in 28 poultry farms and five slaughterhouses, stated the COA.

The COA rolled out nationwide ban on the shipping and slaughtering of poultry for seven days beginning on Feb. 17, 2017, leading some poultry sellers to raise chicken breast retail prices by NT$10 per kilogram in traditional markets.

The COA deplored the hike in chicken prices by poultry sellers, stating prices remained stable in the aftermath of the mass cullings at NT$27 per 600 grams.

Retailers that violate fair trade acts by driving up prices of chickens through negotiations, contracts, alliances, or purposely reduce the poultry supply can face a maximum fine of NT$50 million or be fined more than 10 percent of their annual revenue in more serious cases, warned Taiwan’s Fair Trade Commission.



 Mutation of H7N9 bird flu strain found in Guangdong patients [South China Morning Post, 20 Feb 2017]

by Mimi Lau

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Samples taken from patients show genetic change but no sign of higher risk to humans

China has reported the first genetic mutation of the H7N9 bird flu virus with specialists predicting the change will result in more dead poultry.

The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention ­informed the World Health Organisation that the mutation was found in samples collected from two patients in Guangdong province last month.

The mutation suggested the virus had become deadlier to poultry but there was no indication it posed a greater risk to people, or made transmission among humans more likely, the centre said in a statement released on Sunday.

It came the conclusion after consulting experts with the agricultural ministry. Both patients had been exposed to dead poultry. One had been discharged while the other was still receiving treatment.

The centre said 105 people who were in close contact with the patients were being monitored, but none had developed symptoms of bird flu.

Agricultural authorities had also found four poultry samples that might contain the mutation but further study was necessary. The poultry samples were also collected in Guangdong.

Shi Yi, viral infection researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Microbiology, said mutations in bird flu were not uncommon, and the H5N1 virus had undergone a similar change.

“There is no laboratory experiment yet, but based on previous studies on H5N1, it’s possible for the mutated H7N9 to become more [likely to cause disease],” Shi said.

“But there is no proof to suggest any viral changes in existing infection channels or strength.”

Guan Yi, director of the University of Hong Kong’s State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Centre of Influenza Research, said a H7N9 mutation would kill poultry more readily.

“Before the mutation, the H7N9 virus would only infect poultry intestines and the respiratory tract, but the mutation means the virus can travel to any organ of the chicken,” Guan said.

Such a mutation would kill the chicken “in a few days”.

While there was no indication the mutation would have a greater direct impact on humans, it could lead to more infections in people, given the higher risk of infection among poultry.

More than 100 people have died from bird flu this winter and many provinces have suspended the live poultry trade.



 Guyana should be on the alert for bird flu [Stabroek News, 20 Feb 2017]

Dear Editor,

The World Health Organization is monitoring new outbreaks of Avian Influenza (bird flu) among poultry populations in several countries. Since November, the WHO has documented bird flu outbreaks in poultry and wild birds in at least 40 countries in Asia and Europe and some human deaths in China. These outbreaks have led to large scale culling (killing) of poultry in several countries.

The WHO is on “high alert”. The world’s premier public health organization is urging countries to closely monitor these outbreaks and to maintain active surveillance, whether countries are near these outbreaks or not. Guyana must be on alert. Both the Ministries of Health and Agriculture must work together in an active surveillance programme. It is not too soon to at least think of a dual sector programme.

The latest worrying outbreak is presently ongoing in China. The H7N9 avian virus has killed 87 people in China between January 1 and February 12 this year. On February 11, the first acute case of H7N9 avian flu in Beijing appeared, a certain signal of a spreading epidemic in China.

The present outbreak with at least 87 deaths so far is worse than the original H7N9 flu outbreak in March 2013. Since the original outbreak in 2013, there have been 1100 human cases, with a 40% mortality rate, a mortality rate far more frightening than the mortality rate of 2% of the flu virus that killed 75M in 1917 and 1918.

The H7N9 virus is carried by wild birds and passed on to poultry and then transmitted to humans. About one-third of poultry screened in live animal markets that serve a population of 17M in Guangzhou tested positive for H7N9 this month. Most of the patients in hospitals appear to have contracted the H7N9 virus from direct handling of the birds. But there is also human-to-human infection.

For the first time, human cases of the deadly H7N9 virus have emerged in Sichuan Province in China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Macau. There are at least five other flu virus presently circulating in China. Several others are spreading in various Asian and European countries. Two types of bird flu, H3N2 and H5N6, have claimed large numbers of chickens and domestic birds in South Korea and the United States this year, and have spread to domestic cats. It is troubling that so many different kinds of avian virus, all with worrying virulent rates, are spreading in different countries simultaneously.

The WHO “high alert” was issued on January 23, 2017. It does not require any specific action to be taken by countries such as Guyana, but it does require vigilance and an active surveillance system among wild birds and poultry. It may also require surveillance of people coming from countries affected. In the USA, the CDC issued a health advisory for people travelling to China and Guyana ought to do the same. I am aware that several Guyanese are travelling to China within the next several weeks.

If the outbreaks worsen, the WHO will next issue a “public health emergency of international concern” advisory. At that time Guyana and other countries must take specific action. If the avian flu virus enters Guyana it is likely to do so through wild birds, most likely, or through human cases entering Guyana through our air or shipping ports.

Hopefully, none of these will reach Guyana. I urge the authorities in Guyana and in Caricom to be vigilant and do not be caught by surprise. When I was Minister of Health and again when I was Minister of Agriculture, I introduced a “backyard surveillance” system, involving citizens across the country. It is never too soon to start.

Yours faithfully,

Leslie Ramsammy



 Guangxi reports one H7N9 fatality [ECNS, 20 Feb 2017]

A woman infected with the H7N9 strain of bird flu in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region has died.

The patient, a 41-year-old woman with the surname Li, died around 8 a.m. Sunday in Nanning, the capital of Guangxi, the regional Health and Family Planning Commission said.

According to the commission, Li, who worked as a live poultry saleswoman, had complained of a fever and cough on Feb. 11. She was hospitalized on Feb. 16 and tests on Saturday confirmed she had contracted the disease.

None of those who had close contact with the woman have shown signs of infection. The commission has taken measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

H7N9 was first reported to have infected humans in China in March 2013. Infections are most likely in winter and spring.



 (Avian flu) Guangxi poultry vendor dies [Hong Kong Standard (press release), 20 Feb 2017]

A woman infected with the H7N9 strain of bird flu in southern Guangxi has died.

The patient, a 41-year-old woman surnamed Li, died around 8 a.m yesterday in Nanning, the capital of Guangxi, the regional Health and Family Planning Commission said.

According to the commission, Li, who worked as a live poultry saleswoman, had complained of a fever and cough on February 11. She was hospitalized on February 16 and tests on Saturday confirmed she had contracted the disease.

None of those who had close contact with the woman have shown signs of infection. The commission has taken measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

H7N9 was first reported to have infected humans in China in March 2013. Infections are most likely in winter and spring.-Xinhua



 Travellers divided over ban on poultry from countries with avian flu risk [TODAYonline, 20 Feb 2017]

BY ALFRED CHUA MINGFENG

Singapore — With the risk of bird flu in the news after the culling of free-roaming chickens in Sin Ming, a lesser-known poultry regulation has also ruffled some feathers.

Currently, poultry in any form — cooked or raw — from countries where there is still a risk of avian influenza, such as Malaysia, cannot be brought into Singapore.

Those who make trips across the Causeway whom TODAY spoke to were mostly unaware of the regulation. Of 20 travellers, 14 said they did not know cooked poultry was not allowed to be brought back to Singapore.

They also had mixed reactions to the regulation. Some thought it unnecessary, as cooking the food thoroughly would eliminate the virus.

Ms Kamesh Raja, 26, said, “While I can see the reasoning behind not allowing uncooked (poultry) into Singapore because of health safety risks, this might be going too far for cooked food meant for personal consumption”.

Freelance photographer Yeo Kai Wen, who was unaware of the regulation, said it was “going to be a waste of food ... if (the cooked poultry) was confiscated”.

Some travellers, such as Ms Farhanah Rahman, 21, said they exercise caution when buying food from Malaysia. She said her family would only buy from places that practise good hygiene.

While Ms Farhanah and her family have had food confiscated at Customs and thrown away, other travellers said that enforcement was not strict or evenly enforced.

Mr James Toh, 32, said he had once been let off with a “stern warning, after telling the Customs officer that I didn’t know” about the regulation. That same reason led to his friend’s meal being confiscated.

Regardless, there were travellers who felt the rule was needed to ensure overall food safety. A business manager who wanted to be known only as Riya said, “The authorities must have their reasons for doing so, and as travellers, we just obey”.

Social marketer Adli Jumat said the regulation would help keep “disease microbes” out of Singapore — “Even though the food is cooked, there is a possibility certain micro-organisms (might) still survive.”

Homemaker Suhailah Aziz, 40, told TODAY, “It’s better to be safe than sorry, just in case.”
Infectious diseases expert Leong Hoe Nam said the virus causing avian influenza would have “technically been killed during the cooking process”.

However, he noted, “Cooked chicken, or for that matter, any kind of cooked food, can be contaminated with any type of bacteria, including salmonella and cholera, as well as avian influenza-causing viruses.”

This could result from the improper handling of cooked food, leading to cross-contamination.
In a Voices letter last week, TODAY reader Jeffrey Lai questioned the necessity of the ban on cooked poultry. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) told him earlier that meat and meat products were classified as high-risk, and that “imports can only be allowed from AVA-approved sources”.

“AVA also needs to evaluate the source of raw meat and the heat treatment that the items have been subjected to — whether the heat treatment is sufficient to deactivate the avian influenza according to World Organisation for Animal Health’s guidelines before allowing any import,” it said.

Noting that Malaysia and Hong Kong, which Mr Lai had also enquired about, were “not free from avian influenza”, the AVA added that “the source of raw poultry meat and heat treatment (including the core temperature and duration) are also unknown”. ALFRED CHUA

Zoonotic Bird Flu News - from 1 Jan till 31 Dec 2015


H5N6 Avian Flu: China Reports New Case, Patient In Critical Condition [International Business Times Dec 30, 2015]

BY SNEHA SHANKAR

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Chinese authorities reported a new case of woman affected by the H5N6 Avian Influenza virus on Tuesday that usually transmitted to humans through poultry. In this photo, officials wearing masks and protective suits pile dead chickens into black plastic bags in Hong Kong on Jan. 28, 2014. Photo: Getty Images/AFP/Philippe Lopez

A woman in southern China was diagnosed with the H5N6 Avian Influenza virus and is in critical condition, Xinhua reported Wednesday. The flu was first reported in humans last May in southwestern China and, so far, four cases have been reported around the world, according to the state-run news agency.

Chinese officials reportedly said the case was an isolated one, much like the four reported before it, and authorities expect little risk of the flu spreading. The 26-year-old woman is admitted in a local hospital in the region, Xinhua reported, citing the Guangdong health department.

Earlier cases of H5N6 virus showed the patients to have been exposed to “live poultry or potentially contaminated environments, especially markets where live birds have been sold,” the World Health Organization (WHO) reported. The male patient diagnosed with H5N6 last May died from the virus. The condition of the other patients infected with the virus is not yet known.

Another case of H5N6 was reported in China in February, when a 44-year-old man from Yunan province was diagnosed with the virus and was admitted in a hospital. WHO issued a warning at the time while announcing the diagnosis, and said travelers "should avoid poultry farms, or contact with animals in live bird markets, or entering areas where poultry may be slaughtered, or contact with any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with faeces from poultry or other animals." However, the organization did not advise any screening at points of entry then.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of a highly pathogenic Avian Influenza A Virus infection include shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing, pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, viral pneumonia and respiratory failure. The symptoms are sometimes accompanied by nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, or an altered mental status or seizures. According to WHO, the virus does not transmit easily between humans.

Last year, the United Nations expressed alarm over the H5N6 virus, which causes a high death rate in chicken and geese.

"Influenza viruses are constantly mixing and recombining to form new threats," Juan Lubroth, chief veterinary officer at the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization, reportedly said, adding: "However, H5N6 is particularly worrisome, since it has been detected in several places so far from one another and because it is so highly pathogenic, meaning infected poultry quickly become sick and, within 72 hours, death rates are very high."


France has 2 new avian flu outbreaks; H5N6 noted elsewhere [CIDRAP News, Dec 14, 2015]

by Jim Wappes, Editorial Director

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Andew-M-Whitman / Flickr cc

France's agriculture ministry confirmed new outbreaks of H5N1 and H5N2 avian flu today, while reports in recent days by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) noted H5N6 avian flu in Chinese and Vietnamese poultry.

In related news, researchers reported that low-pathogenic avian flu is common among ducks on foie gras farms in Bulgaria. France's foie gras industry has been hit hard by outbreaks of the highly pathogenic versions of H5N1, H5N2, and H5N9.

France's outbreaks rise to 15

The two new outbreaks in France are in the Dordogne and Landes regions, each of which has had several previous outbreaks, according to reports from Reuters and France's Ministry of Agriculture.

The Dordogne outbreak involves a farm of 1,070 ducks in Bosset, where H5N1 has been confirmed, according to a ministry update. The other outbreak involves a 1,700-duck farm in Doazit affected by H5N2.

An analysis by health authorities shows that the H5N1 strain detected in France's first outbreak this year - the first in 8 years - shows that it does not contain genetic markers that would link it to more severe outbreaks in birds and to transmission to humans, Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll told Reuters.

"There is no risk of the H5N1 virus for human health, none whatsoever," Le Foll said, adding that the same is true for the H5N2 and H5N9 strains detected in the country.

H5N6 in China, Vietnam

In China, meanwhile, the H5N6 virus struck a peacock farm in Hunan province beginning Dec 7, according to a Dec 11 OIE report. Tests detected the highly pathogenic virus on Dec 11.

The virus caused 486 birds to become sick and killed 381 of them, the report said. The surviving birds in the 5,814-bird flock were euthanized to prevent disease spread. Chinese officials have implemented response measures, according to the report.

In Vietnam, H5N6 killed 500 backyard quails and sickened 1,000 more in a backyard flock of 4,000 quails in Quang Nam province in the central part of the country, officials reported to the OIE yesterday. The remaining 3,500 birds were culled to prevent further cases.

The outbreak started on Dec 4. Vietnam has confirmed a number of H5N6 avian flu this year, most recently on Dec 10.

'Silent' avian flu on duck farms
In research news, US and Bulgarian researchers conducted monthly avian flu surveillance on 63 foie gras duck farms, 52 of which were surveyed during the entire study period of November 2008 through April 2012. They also collected and tested samples from nearby resting areas for wild birds. They published their findings Dec 12 in Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses.

The investigators found that low-pathogenicity avian flu was common on the farms. They detected low-path H3, H4, and H6 strains monthly and low-path H5 sporadically in the raising populations of younger ducks, and different subtypes - H1, H10, and H11- in the fattening premises (ducks 75 to 100 days old), suggesting different routes of introduction, they said.

Only 6 of 52 farms were free of avian flu viruses for the entire study period, "possibly due to higher biosecurity measures implemented," the authors wrote. No sick birds were reported on any of the farms.

The researchers also noted only a 0.55% prevalence of avian flu in migratory ducks and a 0.53% prevalence in wild geese. The team found no evidence of direct transmission of the virus from wild birds.

The authors concluded, "The 'foie gras' duck farms in Bulgaria are an optimal niche where Eurasian-like [avian flu viruses] are maintained and reassorted unapparent to farmers and veterinarians."

Foie gras is made from the liver of fattened ducks or geese.



Avian flu strikes poultry in Europe, Africa, found in Oregon duck [CIDRAP News, Dec 7, 2015]

by Lisa Schnirring, News Editor

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Peter Corbett / Flickr cc

Avian flu was detected in as many as five poultry flocks in France and one in Germany, while heightened surveillance in the United States recently found H5 genetic material in a mallard duck killed by a hunter in Oregon.

France had earlier reported three avian flu outbreaks, the country's first in 8 years, with Germany reporting an outbreak earlier this year.

Elsewhere, Ghana reported another H5N1 outbreak in poultry, part of an ongoing resurgence in the region that has been underway over the past year.

French outbreaks
France's outbreaks were in the southwestern part of the country, in Dordogne department, an area that saw the three earlier outbreaks were reported, and in Landes department, located southwest of there on the Atlantic coast. Official statements and media reports on the outbreaks were translated and posted by online infectious disease news sites FluTrackers, Avian Flu Diary (AFD), and ProMED Mail.

According to a statement today from the French agriculture ministry, three new highly pathogenic outbreaks were detected in Landes, affecting Guinea fowl and ducks, and in Dordogne, affecting ducks.

Officials said the outbreaks were detected during enhanced surveillance triggered by the earlier outbreaks.

An Agence-France Presse (AFP) report in French today said there were as many as five new outbreaks. So far there is no information on what flu strains were linked to the latest outbreaks.

Earlier outbreaks in Dordogne, detected at the end of November, involved a mutated H5N1 strain closely related to European low-pathogenic avian flu strains, an initial assessment found.

Another was caused by H5N2, the country's first detection of the subtype, according to a report last week from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

H5N2 in Germany
In Germany, meanwhile, district agriculture officials today reported a low-pathogenic H5N2 outbreak at a poultry farm near the Bavarian city of Cham, located in the southeast part of the country, according to a report in German translated and posted by AFD. Officials said culling operations were under way.

A district statement posted yesterday by ProMED Mail, the online reporting system of the International Society for Infectious Diseases, said the facility had about 12,900 poultry, including laying hens, ducks, geese, and turkeys. Earlier this year the highly pathogenic H7N7 virus hit poultry in Germany's Lower Saxony region.

Italy also recently reported an H5N2 outbreak in Emilia-Romagna region, located in the northern part of the country.

Oregon sample not enough to tell strain
The US Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) noted the Oregon finding in a Dec 4 statement on its preparedness efforts, in the wake of an H5N2 outbreak in poultry that was the nation's largest-ever animal health emergency.

Last summer when the outbreak wound down, APHIS warned that the virus would likely reappear in the fall and has taken several steps to prepare, including awarding contracts for poultry vaccines for the national stockpile, in case the decision to use them is made.

No highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been detected in the United States since Jun 17, and a Nov 18 report to the OIE said all outbreaks at commercial farms had been resolved and that the country was free of the virus.

APHIS said so far a year-long enhanced surveillance effort to test 40,000 samples has already analyzed 24,000 samples collected from hunter-harvested birds and wild birds found dead.

As part of the effort, a Eurasian H5 strain was recently found in genetic material from a hunter-harvested mallard duck, but testing wasn't able to determine the exact strain or if the virus was high- or low-pathogenic. The duck was shot in November in Oregon's Morrow County, located in the north central part of the state at the border with Washington.

The highly pathogenic H5N2 that struck North American poultry earlier this year was found to be different from the Eurasian HPAI H5N1 virus, containing genes from the Eurasian HPAI H5N8 strain as well as genes from North American low-pathogenic avian flu viruses found in wild birds.

More H5N1 in Ghana
Ghana's latest outbreak involved backyard birds in Greater Accra state, in the far south of the country. The event began on Nov 11 and involved laying hens and cockerels.

Of 600 susceptible birds, the virus killed 17, and the remaining poultry were culled as a disease control measure. Investigators haven't yet discovered the source of the virus.

A pair of H5N1 outbreaks was reported in the same region in the middle of November, according to an earlier report. Ghana has reported several H5N1 outbreaks this year, marking the first appearance of the virus there since 2007.


A never-ending story: bird flu strikes again [Deutsche Welle, Dec 7, 2015]

Authorities in southern Germany have discovered the H5N2 bird flu virus on a poultry farm. Around 13,000 animals will have to be killed. Here's an overview of the virus and its dangers.

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What is bird flu?
Avian influenza - also called bird flu or fowl plague - is a viral disease that infects birds, especially wild geese and ducks. It can spread easily among domestic poultry like chicken and turkeys and if they contract more serious forms of the virus most animals will die of bird flu. That's why many virus types are considered “highly pathogenic."

Which viruses cause bird flu?
Several strains of viruses can be responsible. They all belong to the group of influenza A viruses. The most highly pathogenic and most commonly-known strain is H5N1. Another example is H7N9. But any influenza A virus may cause bird flu - it only has to adapt itself to birds as a host. Dozens of bird-infecting influenza virus variants are known. Their names range from H1N1 to H15N9.

What do H and N stand for?
Influenza viruses carry proteins on their surface. H stands for hemagglutinin, it binds the virus to cells in the respiratory tract, for example. N is the abbreviation for neuraminidase, a protein that is required for virus replication.

These proteins vary in their composition and structure. The different types are identified by different numbers.

Can bird flu viruses infect humans?
Most avian influenza viruses do not infect humans; but some, however, can. The only subtypes known to be able to cross the species barrier to humans are H5N1 and H7N9. These can cause serious infections in people.

Such cases might occurr in people who had contact with sick or dead poultry that were infected with these viruses. Unlike other types of flu, H5N1 and H7N9 usually do not spread between people.

If someone is infected with an avian influenza strain, the illness is unusually aggressive. Fatalities are high: about 60 percent of people infected with the virus have died from their illness.

When and where did severe bird flu outbreaks begin?
Avian flu outbreaks caused by non-human infecting subtypes occur quite often.

In 1997, the H5N1 virus first infected humans during an outbreak among poultry in Hong Kong. Since then, dozens of countries in Asia, Africa and Europe have reported H5N1 outbreaks. In 2014, the US also reported an outbreak of the virus.

Several hundred people have been infected worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, more than four hundred people died from bird flu. Most of these deaths occurred in Egypt and Indonesia.

The H7N9 subtype first infected humans in China in March 2013.

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If bird flu is detected, the culling of poultry has to begin immediately

Why do authorities worry so much when bird flu breaks out?
Bird flu is highly contagious, it spreads very quickly. When migratory birds get infected, they can carry the disease to other parts of the world. Even if the strain does not infect humans, avian flu is can be disastrous: outbreaks kill thousands of animals at a time and impacts the livelihoods of many people, local and national economies and international trade. There is always the danger that the virus will quickly mutate. It might adapt to humans and be even more deadly.

What is the difference between bird flu and swine flu?
Swine flu is caused by influenza A or C virus variants, the most common being H1N1. The respiratory system of pigs is quite similar to that of humans - that's why swine flu viruses can infect humans more easily than avian flu viruses. Swine influenza viruses caused a pandemic in humans in 2009.


US AI outbreak to affect Chinese poultry production [World Poultry, Aug 27, 2015]


China banned imports of all poultry and poultry products from the US in January 2015 due to high pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreaks. This ban however, will impact China’s white broiler meat production since it relies on the US for grandparent breeding stock for its domestic production.

China has long favoured breeding stock from the United States as it tries to improve its own production efficiency, a recent USDA GAIN report states. A continued ban could result in lower 2017 production levels. Importers have looked to other sources for breeding stock, particularly to Europe. However, the potential resumption of US imports is a challenge to increasing breeding stock production in those countries.

Poultry production forecast in China
While some decline in white-feathered broiler meat is anticipated in 2016, an uptick in yellow broiler meat production will offset declines white broiler production to maintain overall production levels. China's 2016 broiler meat production is forecast at 13.1 million tonnes, mirroring USDA's 2015 official figure.

Poultry meat and pork are substitute meat options for Chinese consumers and pork prices are predicted to remain high in 2016 because of decreased sow stocks. China's 2016 broiler meat consumption is forecast at 12.87 million tons, slightly below USDA's official 2015 estimates.

The overall economic picture for China, slower economic growth, and constraints on banquet spending per government policy remain in place. Additionally domestic bird flu cases, food safety scandals, and media reports of smuggled meat sold to consumers conspire to restrain consumption.

Decline in poultry imports
Poultry imports from Brazil and other South American countries have benefited from the absence of US suppliers. 2016 forecasts however see broiler meat imports at 200,000 tons, a decrease of 7% compared to USDA's 2015 official figure.

Prior to the detection of HPAI in the United States, China maintained suspensions of US poultry meat and poultry product imports from five states, due to low-pathogenic avian influenza a move which is inconsistent with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) guidelines, which do not recommend trade suspensions due to low pathogenicity avian Influenza detections.

Main poultry export market seeking other options
According to the report China's 2016 broiler meat exports is forecast at 430,000 tons. Exports to Japan, China's main export destination, are expected to continue to decline as lingering food safety concerns have caused Japanese buyers to seek other sources for poultry, such as Thailand. Japan and Hong Kong are the main export destinations for China's poultry products. Although exports are expected to remain flat in the near term, China's skilled workers and some state-of-the art facilities give it a competitive advantage in regional markets such as Japan and Hong Kong.


Poultry Exporters Lost Millions After US Avian Flu Trade Restrictions [The Poultry Site, Aug 19, 2015]

US - Although no detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza have been recorded in the US for more than seven weeks, the toll the virus has taken on the US poultry and egg industry this year is staggering.

The impact of lost exports alone reached nearly $390 million during the first half of 2015, according to a report from the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council.

The lost exports were the result of a flurry of avian flu-related trade restrictions imposed on imports of US poultry and egg products into other countries.

In precise terms, the combined value of US poultry and egg exports for the first half fell by 14 per cent from the same period last year to $2.4054 billion, a decline in value of $386.3 million, according to trade data compiled by the Foreign Agricultural Service.

This sharp drop in export value, one of the largest ever for a January through June span, is a graphic example of the economic effect this year’s multi-state outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza has had on the industry.

The good news is that some countries have begun lifting their import restrictions on poultry products originating in certain states, now that more than 90 days have passed since affected farms were cleaned and disinfected, as is recommended by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

Countries beginning to lift restrictions
Hong Kong, in fact, just this week announced that it has lifted restrictions on 10 previously banned counties in the states of Arkansas, Washington, Oregon and California.

Some US trading partners have been slow to remove restrictions, however, including Mexico, the industry’s largest export market. Japan and Singapore have also recently removed restrictions.

While the HPAI virus is on somewhat of a hiatus during the warmer months of summer, the US industry is bracing for its possible return this fall, as migratory birds - thought to be the primary vectors of the virus - head south for the winter.

State and federal officials worry that wild birds will carry the virus into the Atlantic flyway that cuts through the heart of the main poultry-producing areas of the mid-Atlantic and Southeast.

Exporters, meanwhile, hope for the best after a disheartening first half of the year. Poultry meat exports for January through June plummeted by 9 per cent to 1.84 million metric tons, while value fell by 15 per cent to $2.241 billion. The impact goes beyond exports, as more product on the domestic market means lower prices that add to the losses.

Exports of poultry meat for the month of June were down 14 per cent to 305,504 tons, while value dipped by 25 per cent to $348.8 million, compared to the same month a year earlier.

Broilers
Monthly broiler exports (excluding chicken paws) for June fell by 9 per cent to 255,721 tons, and value slid by 23 per cent to $262.5 million.

For the first half of the year, broiler exports dipped by 9 per cent to 1.52 million tons as value fell by 16 per cent to $1.68 billion. Korea’s blanket ban on all U.S. product earlier this year because of HPAI was a significant contributor to the decline.

Export volumes to key markets for January through June were mixed: Mexico, down 6 per cent to 330,963 tons; Taiwan, up 52 per cent to 106,274 tons; Canada, up 22 per cent to 87,067 tons; Hong Kong, up 49 per cent to 79,519 tons; Cuba, 71,076 tons, up 1 per cent; Angola, 67,420 tons, down 29 per cent; Iraq (including transshipments via Turkey), 55,976 tons, down 37 per cent; Guatemala, 48,803 tons, down 24 per cent; Georgia, 46,402 tons, up 4 per cent; and Vietnam, 45,298 tons, up 78 per cent.

Chicken paws
June paw exports fell by 35.3 per cent to 16,657 tons, while value was off by 44.4 per cent to $20.9 million. Shipments to Hong Kong decreased by 22 per cent to 15,442 tons.

Cumulative exports of paws for the first half declined by 21.6 per cent to 110,315 tons as value dropped 25.5 per cent to $148.6 million.

Turkeys
June was not a good month for U.S. turkey exports, which fell by 40 per cent to 18,945 tons and value dropped by 29 per cent to $47.1 million, thanks largely to decreased shipments to Mexico (down 45 per cent).

Cumulative first-half turkey exports decreased by 21 per cent to 106,786 tons, while value fell by 15 per cent to $285.7 million.

The top five markets in the first half of Mexico, Canada, Hong Kong, Benin, and Japan accounted for 77 per cent of total first-half turkey export volume, with Mexico alone accounting for 63 per cent.

First-half turkey exports to Mexico were 79,597 tons, down 22 per cent; Canada, 5,131 tons, up 2 per cent; Hong Kong, 4,647 tons, up 64 per cent; Benin, 3,830 tons, down 0.03 per cent; and Japan, 2,973 tons, down 25 per cent.

Table eggs
June table egg export volume also took a hit, falling by 24 per cent for the month to 9.97 million dozen. The export value of eggs actually increased slightly to $14.6 million, however, because of higher market prices brought about by HPAI-induced domestic shortages.

Thanks in part to a strong first quarter, cumulative January-June table egg exports rose by 5 per cent to 83.2 million dozen and value jumped by 16 per cent to $101.14 million.

The top five markets of Canada, Mexico, Hong Kong, Bahamas, and Netherlands Antilles accounted for 95 per cent of total exports for the period, and Mexico alone accounted for 40 per cent.

Processed egg products
For egg products, June export value plummeted by 58 per cent to $5.3 million. Export sales to Japan were $1.9 million, down 37 per cent year over year, while export value to Mexico was $0.34 million, down 91 per cent.

The cumulative first-half export value of egg products fell by 14 per cent to $62.8 million. Export value to Japan decreased by 15 per cent to $20.5 million, while exports to Mexico dipped by 5 per cent to $17.7 million.

Exports to the EU grew by 14 per cent to $5.95 million, exports to Canada and Hong Kong decreased by 21 and 19 per cent to $7.3 million and $1.7 million, respectively. Export sales to these top five markets totalled $53.11 million, accounting for 84.5 per cent of total exports of US egg products.

Total egg exports
Total egg exports (table eggs plus egg products in shell egg equivalent units) for the first half were 145.13 million dozen, down 9 per cent from the same period a year earlier, with an export value of $164 million, up 2 per cent.


Avian flu causes 20 percent drop in US poultry exports [The Journal of Commerce, Aug 13, 2015]

by Joseph Bonney, Senior Editor

Containerized exports of poultry through U.S. ports plunged 20 percent during the first half of 2015 because of a multistate outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza.

Measured in 20-foot-equivalent units, first-half volume fell to 71,755 TEUs, according to PIERS, a sister product of JOC.com within IHS. In 2014, containerized poultry exports totaled 177,728 TEUs, down 4 percent from 2013.

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Savannah, the largest U.S. port for containerized poultry exports, had a 17 percent year-over-year decline, to 31,410 TEUs in the first half of 2014. The steepest declines in were at Oakland, down 70 percent to 977 TEUs, and Mobile, down 65 percent to 2,524 TEUs.

U.S. poultry and egg exports have been hit hard by the HPAI outbreak, which has led several trading partners to restrict imports from the United States.

During the first half of this year, poultry exports measured in metric tons fell 10 percent, to 1.8 million tons, and 15 percent in value, to $2.2 billion, according to data compiled by the U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service. June exports were down 14 percent in volume and 25 percent in value compared with a year earlier.

The government data on metric tons and value include overland exports to Mexico and Canada and waterborne shipment by non-containerized ships, and don’t correspond exactly with PIERS data on U.S. containerized exports.

But no matter which measurement is used, U.S. exports are taking a hit. The combined value of value of U.S. poultry and egg exports plunged 14 percent to $2.4 billion during the year’s first half, a drop the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council described as “staggering.”

Although no cases of the HPAI virus have been detected in seven weeks, a number of countries continue to impose restrictions on U.S. poultry products. Mexico, the largest U.S. export market, is among countries slow to lift restrictions.

Several countries have begun lifting their import restrictions on poultry products originating in certain U.S. states, now that more than 90 days have passed since affected farms were cleaned and disinfected, as the World Organization for Animal Health recommends.

Hong Kong this week announced it had lifted restrictions on poultry products from 10 previously banned counties in the states of Arkansas, Washington, Oregon and California. Japan and Singapore also recently removed restrictions.

The HPAI virus has been in hiatus during the warm summer months, but state and federal officials warn of a possible return this fall as migratory birds, thought to be the primary vectors of the virus, head south on the Atlantic flyway, which cuts through poultry-producing areas in the mid-Atlantic and Southeast.

Broiler exports, excluding chicken paws, were down 9 percent in volume, to 1.52 million tons and 16 percent in value, to $1.68 million. Korea’s blanket ban on all U.S. poultry imports earlier this year was a significant contributor to the decline.

Chicken paw exports, which go primarily to Hong Kong, were down 21.6 percent in volume during the first half, to 110,315 tons, and 25.5 percent in value, to $148.6 million.

First-half turkey exports decreased 21 percent, to 1065,786 tons, while value fell 15 percent, to $285.7 million. Mexico, the main U.S. market for turkey exports, posted a 22 percent decline in volume to 79,597 tons.

January-June exports of eggs and egg products fell 9 percent in volume, to 145.13 million dozen shell egg equivalents, but export value rose 2 percent to $164 million, because of higher prices resulting from HPAI-induced U.S. domestic shortages.


Fatal H5N6 Avian Influenza Virus Infection in a Domestic Cat and Wild Birds in China [Scientific Reports Jun 2, 2015]


By Zhijun Yu, Xiaolong Gao, Tiecheng Wang, Yanbing Li, Yongcheng Li, Yu Xu, Dong Chu, Heting Sun, Changjiang Wu, Shengnan Li, Haijun Wang, Yuanguo Li, Zhiping Xia, Weishi Lin, Jun Qian, Hualan Chen, Xianzhu Xia & Yuwei Gao

H5N6 avian influenza viruses (AIVs) may pose a potential human risk as suggested by the first documented naturally-acquired human H5N6 virus infection in 2014. Here, we report the first cases of fatal H5N6 avian influenza virus (AIV) infection in a domestic cat and wild birds. These cases followed human H5N6 infections in China and preceded an H5N6 outbreak in chickens. The extensive migration routes of wild birds may contribute to the geographic spread of H5N6 AIVs and pose a risk to humans and susceptible domesticated animals, and the H5N6 AIVs may spread from southern China to northern China by wild birds. Additional surveillance is required to better understand the threat of zoonotic transmission of AIVs.

Fatal H5N6 


TIMELINE-Tracing the bird flu outbreak in N. American poultry flocks [Reuters, Jun 12, 2015]


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A chicken farm in Iowa. On May 1 Iowa authorities declared of a state of emergency because of the outbreak of avian flu. Credit Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

The United States is facing its worst outbreak on record of avian influenza in poultry as three deadly strains have hit North American flocks since December. More than 47 million chickens and turkeys have been killed or will be culled, and U.S. egg prices are projected to set an annual record high because of the losses.

So far, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been confirmed in 21 U.S. states, either in commercial flocks, wild birds, or both. Four states have declared an emergency: Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin. The virus has also been confirmed in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Ontario.

Below is a timeline of the spread of the disease, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Canada's Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and responses by the industry and trade partners.

Wild birds are thought to be carriers of the virus, which also can be tracked onto poultry farms by people or trucks that come into contact with contaminated feces. It may also be carried into poultry barns by wind blowing in contaminated dirt or dust.

Dec. 2, 2014 - The CFIA quarantines two turkey and chicken farms in Canada's British Columbia province after an H5 type of avian influenza is detected there, later confirmed to be the H5N2 strain.

Dec. 3 - South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan impose restrictions on British Columbian poultry and products.

Dec. 8 - The United States suspends imports of birds and hatching eggs, poultry meat, eggs and egg products and animal byproducts from British Columbia.

Dec. 19 - The outbreak's first U.S. case is confirmed as H5N8 avian influenza strain is found in a mixed poultry flock in Douglas County, Oregon.

Dec. 20 - South Korea, one of the top buyers of U.S. poultry, halts imports of poultry and poultry products from the United States.

Jan. 3, 2015 - The first case of the highly contagious H5N2 avian influenza strain confirmed in a backyard flock of 140 mixed birds in Benton County, Washington.

Jan. 6 - Mexico, the largest market for U.S. poultry at $1.2 billion in 2014, bans imports from states with confirmed cases.

Jan. 7 - No. 2 U.S. poultry importer Canada bans imports from affected areas.

Jan. 8 - Imports of U.S. poultry, poultry products and eggs banned by China.

Jan. 23 - H5N8 appears for the first time in a commercial turkey flock of 134,400 birds in California.

Feb. 2 - The CFIA finds the H5N1 virus in a backyard poultry flock in British Columbia.

Feb. 12 - The first commercial chicken flock is hit with H5N8. The Kings County, California, flock had 112,900 birds.

March 4 - The first instance of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) along the Mississippi migratory flyway is confirmed in a commercial flock of 26,310 turkeys in Minnesota, the top U.S. turkey producing state. The flyway runs from the Gulf of Mexico to the northern Midwest along the Mississippi River valley. The virus is thought to be traveling with wild birds as they migrate north.

April 6 - The CFIA confirms an H5 HPAI strain on a turkey farm in Ontario. A day later, Japan and Taiwan impose restrictions on poultry and products from the region.

April 11 - The H5N2 strain is confirmed for the first time in a commercial chicken operation, hitting 200,000 egg-laying hens in Jefferson County, Wisconsin.

April 20 - The biggest flock hit so far, as H5N2 is confirmed in 4 million egg-laying hens in Osceola County, Iowa. Mexico expands its import ban to include live birds and eggs from Iowa - the top egg-producer in the United States.

April 20 - Wisconsin declares a state of emergency.

April 23 - Minnesota declares a state of emergency.

April 29 - Saudi Arabia, the world's second-largest importer of chicken broiler meat, bans imports of poultry meat and egg products from Ontario.

April 29 - A chicken broiler breeding farm in Kossuth County, Iowa, initially tests positive for H5 bird flu, believed to be the first case at a broiler breeding farm.

May 1 - USDA confirms bird flu in nine more commercial flocks, including a 4.9 million-bird flock of egg-laying hens in Buena Vista County, Iowa, the largest finding to date.

May 1 - Iowa declares a state of emergency.

May 5 - U.S. government approves $330 million in emergency funds to fight bird flu spread.

May 11 - USDA confirms H5N8 avian flu in a backyard poultry flock in Indiana.

May 12 - USDA confirms H5N2 avian flu at a commercial egg-laying farm in Nebraska.

May 14 - Nebraska declares a state of emergency.

May 22 - Some U.S. food companies are scouting for egg supplies abroad, due to the flu outbreak. It is estimated that about 30 percent of U.S. breaker eggs - which includes liquid, dried or frozen eggs used by food manufacturers - has disappeared in the wake of the virus.

June 8 - Michigan says Canada geese in the state test positive for lethal strain of bird flu, becoming the sixth state to detect it only in wild or free-ranging birds.

June 11 - A U.S. Senate committee says it will hold a hearing in July on the outbreak, amid mounting criticism from Iowa lawmakers about the speed of the USDA's response. (Reporting
by Karl Plume, Tom Polansek and P.J. Huffstutter in Chicago; Editing by Bernard Orr and Matthew Lewis)

A chicken farm in Iowa. On May 1 Iowa authorities declared of a state of emergency because of the outbreak of avian flu. Credit Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press



 Flu genomes trace H7N9's evolution and spread in China [Nature, 11 Mar 2015]

by Declan Butler

flu Nature.jpg


But surveillance of avian influenza viruses is patchy and slow.

No one knows whether the H7N9 avian influenza that has infected more than 560 people in China and killed 204 might yet evolve to spread easily among people. But the largest-ever genomic survey of the virus in poultry now provides a more detailed picture of its evolution and spread.

H7N9 was first detected in and around Shanghai at the end of March 2013, and cases soared throughout April that year. The initial outbreak was swiftly brought under control after live-bird markets were identified as the main route of spread to humans, and were temporarily closed.

Hopes that the virus might have fizzled out were dashed, however, when H7N9 returned the following winter, spread south, and caused a large second wave of human infections. Confirming the seasonal pattern, there was a lull in new cases in the summer of 2014, but infections rose again late last year in a third wave that is still going on (see below’).

H7N9-confirmed-casees-by-week NEW.png


In a paper published on Nature’s website this week (☞ T. T.-Y. Lam et al. Nature  
), an inter­national team of researchers describes how it tracked the virus from October 2013 to July 2014 by taking swabs from poultry at live-bird markets in 15 cities over 5 provinces in eastern China. The group detected the virus in markets in seven cities and in 3% of samples on average.

The team then sequenced the genomes of 438 viral isolates and found that as the virus spread south, it evolved into three main branches, with multiple sub-branches.

Such diversification is expected, but tracking it can help to identify the main trade routes and markets that fuel a virus’s spread. “The extent of viral transmission among chickens was largely unclear until our paper showed that the virus had diverged into regional lineages,” says Yi Guan, a co-author of the paper and a virologist at the State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases in Shenzhen, China. “Eastern China remains as a reservoir and ‘distribution centre’ for this virus,” he says.

As flu viruses evolve and diversify in birds, genetic changes can alter their infectivity, virulence or ability to spread among humans, notes Guan. Human infections also provide viruses with opportunities to better adapt to their hosts.

Genetic surveillance is therefore important in tracking mutations, and in testing whether flu strains show any enhanced capacity to spread between mammals such as ferrets and other animal models. From the outset of the outbreak, H7N9 carried mutations that allow it to spread from birds to humans more easily than avian H5N1 flu, which has infected 784 people in 16 countries and killed 429 of them since it appeared in 2003. Guan’s team reported no further acquisition by H7N9 of significant known mutations, however.

Surveillance lacking
The wave of H7N9 infections that is currently under way probably has patterns of spread different from those of the second wave, which the team tracked. But before the latest study's update, just 8 genome sequences from birds collected in 2014 had been deposited in the GenBank repository, and just 258 sequences from those collected in 2013. That is not enough for geographical mapping of the virus over time, says Marius Gilbert, an avian-flu epidemiologist and ecologist at the French-speaking Free University of Brussels.

The Nature news team has analysed the number of sequenced genomes from all subtypes of avian influenza submitted to GenBank over the past 15 years (before the latest paper's sequences were added). The results show that overall genetic surveillance worldwide remains patchy and less than prompt. Most viruses are sequenced months or years after they were collected (see ‘Viral lag’).

Viral surveillance.png
Expand

Guan agrees that timely monitoring is important. But surveillance and viral sequencing are costly and time-consuming — and isolating and sequencing viruses are all the more so, he points out. This means that surveillance of flu viruses in animal populations is rarely routine, usually done only in response to outbreaks. For H7N9, sequencing the virus also requires access to a biosafety-level-3 lab. Given the complications, Guan thinks that the number of recent H7N9 sequences deposited in GenBank is not grossly low.

Adding to the time lag, public authorities and researchers who sequence flu strains sometimes make the data public only when, or if, they publish — so sequences can languish. The authors of the latest study have sent sequences to GenBank and had already shared the data with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other bodies.

Risk of spread
The threat from H7N9 is unlikely to go away any time soon. The virus is now endemic and entrenched in poultry populations across swathes of China, making it likely that people will continue to be infected sporadically. The researchers warn that it seems only “a matter of time before poultry movement spreads this virus beyond China by cross-border trade, as happened previously with H5N1 and H9N2 influenza viruses.

Guan and his co-authors say that given that H7N9 can infect humans, it “should be considered as a major candidate to emerge as a pandemic strain”. But predicting pandemic potential is an embryonic science. Last year, a prominent international group of researchers argued that there is little evidence that flu viruses that cause sporadic human infections are a greater pandemic threat than viruses that have not yet infected humans (☞ C. A. Russell et al. ). But Guan says that given the vast number of flu viruses, it is necessary to prioritize targets for control and vaccine development — and that H7N9 should be high on that list.

There is no shortage of potential threats. The WHO last month warned that the current diversity and geographical range of novel animal influenza viruses is “unprecedented” — with an alphabet soup of new strains, including H10N8, H5N2, H5N3, H5N6 and H5N8, popping up in various parts of the world.

It is unclear to what extent this is a real increase or the result of improved surveillance. But the WHO says there is also evidence that different subtypes are currently swapping genes more easily and rapidly to form novel strains. It is “practically impossible” to assess whether this increased diversity represents a heightened threat of a pandemic virus emerging, says Guan.



NEWS IN FOCUS  


Avian flu fear leads 30 nations to restrict U.S. poultry [POLITICO, Jan 7, 2015]

by CHASE PURDY

Twenty-two countries this week have joined the list of nations banning or applying restrictions to the importation of poultry from the Pacific Northwest over concerns about avian influenza, though the U.S. states involved have experienced only three small, non-commercial brushes with the bird-killing virus.

Mexico and Singapore on Tuesday were among the countries added to the list maintained by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Canada previously had banned poultry from Oregon, but now has stopped accepting poultry from Washington, too.

That brings to 30 the total number of countries that have taken such a position since Dec. 24, including Japan and Peru.

The detections have inspired nervousness among poultry companies and public health officials alike, both of whom know the stakes can be high in the event of a full-on outbreak. They’re also generating plenty of anxiety about poultry exports.

The U.S. poultry industry went on high alert in mid-December, following news that a falcon in Whatcom County, Wash., was infected with H5N8, one of two recently detected strains of the avian flu virus causing concerns. The same strain surfaced in southern Oregon. And then, on Jan. 4., reports emerged that a small, backyard flock of chickens in Washington state was infected with H5N2, prompting the culling of 50 birds.

The news has led USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to notify FSIS that “until further notice … the certification statement referring to the United States as free from [highly pathogenic avian influenza] cannot be endorsed.” FSIS adds, however, that “health certificates with certification statements referring to HPAI freedom in a state, region, zone or area can be endorsed for all states except Oregon and Washington.”

Seventeen of the nations on FSIS’ list have banned poultry from Oregon and Washington, except for Hong Kong and Macedonia, which have narrowed their bans to only poultry coming out of Benton County, Wash. and Douglas County, Ore., respectively. Four countries have placed restrictions only on Oregon poultry.

However, in the case of three export markets - Sri Lanka, South Korea and Thailand - the ban has been applied to all U.S. poultry and poultry products, a response the USDA has criticized as being too extreme.

Avian flu, commonly referred to as bird flu, is an infectious viral disease that mainly effects birds but can potentially cause serious illness in humans. It’s a worldwide problem.

Since December 2014, various strains of avian influenza have been detected in no less than 10 countries, including: Canada (H5N2), China (H5N9), Germany (H5N8), India (H5N1), Italy (H5N8), Japan (H5N8), the Netherlands (H5N8), Russia (H5N8), Great Britain (H5N8) and Vietnam (H5), according to the World Organization for Animal Health. In some of those cases, the virus has been active and routinely monitored by the WHO for up to three months.

Avian flu presents a potential nightmare scenario for poultry farmers. It can strike at random, sometimes from the sky. An errant falcon or migratory duck relieves itself while floating over a farm, and suddenly international poultry trade goes into a frenzy. Once it is found in or even near the farm, entire populations of chickens, turkeys or other birds often must be destroyed and their bodies carefully disposed.

The outbreaks have prompted the culling of massive numbers of chickens across the globe, a survey of international media reports shows. In Japan, last month, a farm culled 4,000 birds after detecting the disease in three of its chickens, the Economic Times reported. In Canada, where officials have been struggling against detections in the commercial sector since before December, more than 200,000 birds have been culled.

However, from the poultry farmers’ perspective, as Mark Jordan, a poultry market analyst with Informa Economics, puts it, “you can’t be a nanny over the birds 24/7.”

“… It’s just like passing illness human to human, any little blip in the system and it’ll find the path of least resistance,” Jordan said. “Once you get it in, and a couple of birds in the flock have contact, then it’s going to go like wildfire.”

Just how avian influenza impacts the market varies. In East Asia, where China and Hong Kong are currently dealing with outbreaks of their own, strains of the virus are adversely impacting human health while many flocks appear asymptomatic. So poultry demand was disrupted but the supply remained stable.

By contrast, a recent case in Mexico devastated flocks, but the strain did not impact human health at all, Jordan said. In that case, supply was disrupted while demand stayed the same.

As of August 2012, the older H5N1 strain was blamed for killing 359 in 12 countries, according to WHO data.

Already, in 2015, various avian influenza strains have been detected in humans in at least five cases, according to the United Nations System Influenza Coordination Office. The virus contributed to the death of a child in Egypt and has left one 58-year-old Chinese man from Guangzhou city hospitalized and in critical condition.
Each detection detonates its own ripple effect in health and trade. But with more cases cropping up, the process of evaluating overall damage remains a waiting game.

The USDA has said that none of the cases in the Pacific Northwest have so far led to illness in humans.

Avian flu has before caused problems with the U.S. poultry industry’s trade efforts. India began restricting poultry imports in 2007 over concerns it claimed to have over avian flu contamination, closing off a market reported to be worth $300 million. India is now preparing to challenge an October ruling by a World Trade Organization panel that the country was acting without sound scientific reasoning. The United States Trade Representative noted in that case that the U.S. has not had an outbreak of HPAI since 2004, while India has had 90 such outbreaks during the same time period.

The U.S. poultry industry and Agriculture Department are urging foreign trade partners to remain calm and consider “sound science” today when deciding whether to place restrictions on U.S. exports. They note that there have yet to be any cases of avian flu contaminating a commercial flock.

Industry giants, such as Tyson, Sanderson and Perdue, take avian flu detections seriously, industry experts say. When flu cases crop up in the country, those companies and APHIS amp up vigilance by increasing the monitoring and testing of flocks.

“Most big companies have developed some type of hazardous protocol to monitor that,” Informa Economic’s Jordan said.

It’s too early to tell how the avian flu cases in the Pacific Northwest will impact the U.S. poultry industry in the long run, but the current situation does underscore how a couple of non-commercial cases can spark a chain reaction of trade restrictions that may wind up costing the poultry industry millions of dollars, said Toby Moore, the vice president for communications at the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council.

Any speculation about how big of a dent it will make to the industry would be purely anecdotal, and export data for January won’t be released by the USDA until March, Moore noted. And even then, deciphering how much those numbers were impacted solely by avian flu will be a guessing game, he said.

But the situation could get worse. More countries could choose to impose restrictions in coming days, which could jeopardize product currently being shipped.

“There’s a lot of loads of product that’s on the water,” Moore said. “A lot of it can be diverted elsewhere, a lot of it can’t. Some countries haven’t made any notice yet, but they have done so in the past.”

Zoonotic Bird Flu News - from 21 Feb 2017



 China assesses more severe new strain of H7N9 bird flu [The Straits Times, 21 Feb. 2017]

27-41509148.2_41600012_-_21_02_2017_-_china-health-flu-h7n9.jpg
An H7N9 bird flu patient is being treated in a hospital in Wuhan, central China's Hubei province on Feb 12, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

(REUTERS) - China is working to assess the prevalence of a new strain of H7N9 bird flu, state radio reported on Wednesday (Feb 22), after global health authorities said the strain had evolved into a more severe form in birds.

So far the variant strain has only been detected in Guangdong province, but given the wide circulation of livestock and poultry in the country, it would be difficult to prevent its spread to other areas, the broadcast said, citing the agriculture ministry.

Until now, the H7N9 virus has shown little or no clinical symptoms in birds, despite being highly pathogenic when it infects human.

But China has detected an evolution in the virus that is capable of causing severe disease in poultry and requires close monitoring, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday.

Samples of the virus taken from two infected humans were injected into birds in a laboratory and became "highly pathogenic" for poultry, it said.

But that designation applies only to birds, not humans, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said, and there is "no evidence that the changes in the virus affect the virus' ability to spread between humans."

A total of 304 new laboratory-confirmed human infections were reported in mainland China between Jan 19 and Feb 14, along with 36 deaths, the WHO said in its latest update on Monday.

The evolution of the virus may mean that the disease will become more apparent in some flocks, if birds begin to die off, making detection and control easier.

"This is the first time these changes have been detected. These are the only two cases in Guangdong province, China. So far, there have been no reports if similar changes have occurred elsewhere," Lindmeier said. "It is a reminder that we have to keep looking closely," he told Reuters.

Any culling carried out in response to the detection of the virus on farms would be compensated, the Chinese report added.

Animal health experts say bird flu infection rates on Chinese poultry farms may be far higher than previously thought, because the strain of the deadly virus in humans is hard to detect in chickens and geese.

In all, since the "fifth wave" of the virus, first identified in 2013, began in October 2016, 425 human cases have been recorded in China, including 73 deaths officially reported by authorities, according to WHO figures.

"Most of these cases had known exposure to poultry or its environment, that is the main important link to this influenza type," Lindmeier told a news briefing.
In all since 2013, there have been 1,200 laboratory-confirmed cases in China, including more than one-third since October, he said.



 50,000 chickens scheduled to be culled get reprieve [Focus Taiwan News Channel, 21 Feb. 2017]

Taipei, Feb. 21 (CNA) A total of 50,000 chickens that had been scheduled to be culled Wednesday have been given a reprieve because they were tested and found to be infected with only low-pathogenic avian flu, the Yunlin County government announced Tuesday.

The Yunlin County Animal and Plant Disease Control Center said the 50,000 chickens will not be culled for the time being because they are infected with only low-pathogenic avian flu, but they will still be closely monitored.

According to the center, it received reports about abnormal chicken deaths at one farm in Shuilin Township and two farms in Xiluo Township recently.

The center sent staff to collect samples, which tested positive for avian influenza.

The center decided to undertake a preventive cull, planning a three-day cull of 114,000 chickens starting Monday, the largest in the county this year.

A total of 64,000 chickens were culled Monday and Tuesday.

One chicken farmer in Xiluo said 34,000 chickens from one of his two farms had been culled, incurring losses of about NT$2 million (US$65,000).

The center said 21 poultry farms in the county had been confirmed to have been infected with avian influenza so far, only one of which has proved to be infected with low pathogenic strains of the disease.

(By Yeh Tze-kang and Lilian Wu)



 Burundi Has Taken Measures to Contain Bird Flu [AllAfrica.com, 21 Feb. 2017]

By Rosette Butoyi

This Monday, 20 February 2017, Déo Guide Rurema, Burundi Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, has announced a number of measures taken to contain bird flu in the country.

Among the measures that have been taken by the ministry of agriculture and livestock is the suspension of the movement of chickens from the East African Community." The importation of live poultry and their products such as eggs and meat from Uganda and other countries infected with this disease is temporarily suspended in our country.

Border control services are urged to be more vigilant when doing their job ", said Rurema.

The agriculture and livestock minister also said the environment ministry and services in charge of wild bird control are urged to work with the technical services of the office of the Director General of Livestock, to monitor the migration of wild and aquatic birds.

Rurema calls on people living in provinces close to frontiers such as Kirundo, Ngozi and Muyinga in the north and Cankuzo in the east, to remain vigilant as they are considered to be the most vulnerable.

Bernard Nzeyimana, the Head of"Twiyungunganye tuduze ikivi", an association of chicken traders located in Bujumbura, said they do not import chickens from Uganda, but export them to the DRC. "Our chickens are healthy. We ask that the government let us export them and ban the entry of those from the countries already affected."

Highly pathogenic avian influenza is a viral, contagious, often fatal disease that mainly infects domestic and wild birds but also other animals and human beings.

Its presence in Uganda has been officially confirmed in migratory birds along the edges of Lake Victoria, and, in domestic poultry in Masaka by the Ugandan authorities, on 14 January 2017.It was reported to the International Animal Health Organisation on 15 January 2017.



 Avian influenza found in South Jeolla [Yonhap News, 21 Feb. 2017]

HAENAM, South Korea, Feb. 21 (Yonhap) -- Another case of avian influenza (AI) was found at a duck farm in South Korea's southwestern region, provincial officials said Tuesday, marking the first case in the region in more than 40 days.

According to officials from South Jeolla Province, AI was reported at the duck farm in Haenam, 423 kilometers south of Seoul. The provincial authorities have requested that quarantine authorities look into the case to find the exact type of the virus, the officials said.

The province is in the process of culling some 63,000 poultry in the region, officials said.

AI was last found in the province on Jan. 10.



 H7N9 Avian Flu Virus Outbreak In China Kills Dozens; Country Remains Calm [Counsel & Heal News, 21 Feb. 2017]

by BETH VARGAS

87-h7n9-bird-flu-cases-confirmed-in-china.jpg
Chickens are seen at a poultry farm in Liaocheng, China. China confirmed several cases of H7N9 avian influenza,. (Photo : VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

For the past several weeks, Chinese authorities have been working hard to combat the surge of the H7N9 bird flu virus in the different provinces of the country. The government has taken serious steps which includes closing live poultry markets and killing poultry affected by the virus.

Earlier this month, the state news agency, Xinhua confirmed 77 cases and 8 deaths while 192 people were infected the month before with 79 deaths reported.

The H7N9 strain, also known as avian influenza A infects people who comes in close contact infected birds, both live and newly killed. According to The New York Times, majority of the cases are from close contact with the birds.

The first diagnosis H7N9 bird flu virus outbreak in humans was confirmed in China in back in 2013. Since then, the virus have resurged every winter and spring.

This year however, Reuters reported changes have been found in the virus strain and is believed to be more severe now. Christian Lindmeier, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO) clarified that while the virus have become highly pathogenic for poultry, there is no evidence on changes of its effect on humans.

Reuters also reported that compared to previous years, there was lesser panic among Chinese citizens this year. In 2013, the outbreak caused hysteria that prompted mass poultry killings and for chicken to be taken out of the menu at schools, some restaurants and airlines. The 2013 outbreak caused the country's economy $6.5 billion in losses.

Now, consumers are more resilient. Rabobank senior analyst, Pan Chenjun said it is possibly because of the limited coverage of the outbreak. Chinese authorities on the other hand said they will be closely monitoring poultry markets and the transport of live birds to markets.

China Youth Daily, a party-owned newspaper also reported that consumer preference for buying live chicken is one contributing factor to the spread of the avian virus since infected poultry cannot be easily spotted or identified.



 Bird flu in Uganda exposes gaps in Africa’s plans to manage pandemics [Southern Times Africa, 21 Feb 2017]

by Jeanette Dawa

THE STRAIN of avian influenza detected in wild and domestic birds in Uganda recently is the same virus that has spread through Asia and Europe over the past four months. Revealed as the H5N8 avian influenza strain, it is thought to have spread across continents via wild migratory birds.

In Africa, aside from Uganda, the H5N8 outbreak has also been recorded in Nigeria and Tunisia this year. The risk of humans being infected by H5N8 is low, but should this happen, the virus can cause severe illness and death.

Either there are no banners, they are disabled or none qualified for this location!

Since the outbreak in Uganda was reported, a number of East African countries have increased their monitoring while the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Tanzania have imposed a ban on poultry from Uganda.

But African countries face challenges in detecting such outbreaks because they have weak avian influenza surveillance systems.

A comparative analysis of national preparedness plans published in 2011 showed that African countries were least likely to have a comprehensive pandemic influenza preparedness plan in place. The analysis included 29 of 46 African World Health Organisation member states. Few African countries had surveillance and early warning systems. Without comprehensive plans in place, African countries struggle to mobilise a prompt response to new cases of avian influenza. If people become infected, they are also not equipped to provide vaccines. This is because most African countries don’t have manufacturing capability and rely on supplies from the rest of the world.

These challenges are partly addressed by the World Health Organisation’s Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System. It has strengthened country surveillance and response systems globally. This is true in a number of African countries too. And the organisation’s Pandemic Influenza Preparedness framework increases developing countries’ access to vaccines in case of a pandemic. But African countries must improve their preparedness plans if they’re going to deal adequately with outbreaks in the future.

Proper management

Bird flu is transmitted to people through direct contact with infected birds, or indirectly by touching environments contaminated by sick birds.

Not all forms of bird flu are severe. But the highly pathogenic avian influenza strains, such as H5N8, cause severe illness and death among animals and people.

Early detection and response is crucial to prevent the disease from spreading further.

Measures include:

housing domestic animals to prevent contact with infected ones,
restricting transport of both animals and people,
banning bird and egg sales, and
screening or selectively slaughtering infected animals.

Other preventative measures include disinfecting sites that house sick animals, using protective personal equipment when handling sick animals and giving protective vaccines to people who handle animals.

Vaccination may be the most popular method to prevent the pandemic but there are several challenges.

Challenges of vaccination

Once a new strain of influenza circulates, a new vaccine specific to the pandemic needs to be manufactured. It can take several months between the time that the virus is detected and the vaccine is manufactured.

In this time many people could have contracted the virus and there may be too few vaccine doses produced to distribute to all the affected regions globally.

Given this possibility countries may stockpile vaccines anticipating future pandemics – but the challenge lies in accurately predicting the future strain of pandemic influenza.

In the early 21st century, countries in Asia and Europe controlled the spread of bird flu through early detection and quick implementation of control measures, the most common of which was culling. As a result there were few cases of bird flu in people.

An improved plan

The detection of bird flu in Uganda is a reminder to all eastern African countries that it is critical to have a functional pandemic preparedness plan.

Failure to adequately respond to bird flu outbreaks has far reaching health and economic consequences beyond the affected country.

Its a global concern. – The Conversation Africa



 China confirms high-path H7N9 in market poultry [CIDRAP, 21 Feb 2017]

by Lisa Schnirring

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James Creegan / Flickr cc

Signaling a shift in the H7N9 avian influenza away from the low-pathogenic strain, China's agriculture ministry said the highly pathogenic form of the virus has been detected at live-bird markets in Guangdong province for the first time.

Elsewhere in the world, avian flu outbreaks continued to exact a heavy toll on European poultry, with Bulgaria and France reporting large culls, and Nigeria reported more highly pathogenic H5N1 outbreaks, according to a news report and the latest updates from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

High-path H7N9 in China

China's detection of highly pathogenic H7N9 in poultry markets was noted in a Feb 18 report to the OIE that appeared on the group's Web site today. Since it was first detected in early 2013, the novel virus has circulated in poultry as a low-pathogenic strain, which has made it difficult for animal health officials to identify outbreaks. Often, human illnesses have been sentinels that the virus is present in local poultry, especially at live-bird markets.

However, over the weekend the Guangdong province Center for Disease Control said two recent samples in humans showed mutations that suggest H7N9 may be becoming more pathogenic in birds.

The announcement was followed by a report from Taiwanese health officials, who found similar changes in a virus sample from an imported human H7N9 case, as well as a mutation in the neuraminidase protein linked to oseltamivir (Tamiflu) resistance.

In today's OIE report, China's agriculture ministry said the market birds in Guangdong province had subclinical infection. Samples from the birds sent to the national avian influenza reference lab by Guangdong officials were positive for highly pathogenic H7N9.

Authorities have closed the affected live-poultry markets and have stepped up surveillance throughout Guangdong province.

Bulgaria H5 outbreaks strike poultry, other birds

Meanwhile, Bulgaria reported a handful of highly pathogenic H5 outbreaks in January and February, suspected to be part of wider H5N8 activity across Europe over the past few months.

Today in a report to the OIE the country's agriculture ministry confirmed 57 more outbreaks, mostly on farms but also involving backyard poultry and wild birds.

The latest outbreaks began between Dec 20 and Feb 8, with most of the farm events located in the central, southern, and western part of the country and many of the wild bird detections in the east along the Black Sea coast. Affected locations include 37 poultry farms, 8 backyard poultry holdings, 6 nature parks, 5 other locations where wild birds were found dead, and a zoo in Sofia, Bulgaria's capital.

All told, the virus killed 9,438 poultry, and 548,587 were destroyed to curb the spread of the virus. Wild bird deaths mainly affected swans, but other species included a buzzard, geese, and sparrows.

In France, government officials have ordered the culling of all 600,000 remaining ducks in the hard-hit Landes department in the country's southwest, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported today. Authorities have already culled 1.9 million ducks and geese, and avian flu outbreaks have killed another 1.3 million.

France has been battling outbreaks of H5N8, along with other strains, since November. The area targeted for preemptive culling produces 25% of France's foie gras. The same region was hit by similar outbreaks in the winter of 2015-16.

In other European developments, based on the latest OIE reports:

• Germany reported 23 more H5N8 outbreaks, mainly involving wild birds, but 3 of the locations were poultry farms, 3 were backyard holdings, and 1 was a zoo in the city of Stettfeld in Bavaria state. The outbreaks began from Feb 7 to Feb 20 and affected locations throughout a large portion of Germany. The virus killed 631 poultry and led to the stamping out of 138,142 more.

• Spain reported detecting H5N8 in a white stork found dead on Feb 20 at a nature park in Catalonia in the east.

H5N1 in Nigeria

Nigeria confirmed eight more highly pathogenic H5N1 outbreaks in poultry, according to two reports today from the OIE. One detailed an outbreak at a broiler farm in Edo state in the south that began on Feb 10, killing 10 of 8,100 susceptible birds.

The second report described seven farm outbreaks that began between Feb 8 and Feb 15, mainly on farms housing layers and pullets in Kaduna and Plateau states in central Nigeria.

Combined, the virus killed 2,300 of 50,683 susceptible birds. Authorities culled the remaining birds as part of the outbreak response.



 Bird flu affecting half of China: ‘controllable’ but may spread further [South China Morning Post, 22 Feb 2017]

by Mimi Lau, Zhuang Pinghui

Controllable.jpg


National health commission puts provincial authorities on alert as the country grapples with its worst outbreak of the deadly bird flu strain

Chinese health authorities have issued stern warnings over the H7N9 bird flu outbreak in the last two days, admitting the situation had already affected half of the country and could lead to even more fatalities.

Since January, human deaths and infections from H7N9 have been reported in 16 provinces and municipalities, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

While the situation was still “preventable and controllable”, the commission warned in a statement on Tuesday that if the situation was not tightly controlled the virus could spread further.

The virus had killed at least 87 people by February 12, including 79 in January.

It is the highest death toll since the first known human infection in 2013, and most of the cases have been in the Pearl and Yangtze River delta areas.

In the previous three years, January’s death toll had ranged between 20 and 31.

The commission’s statement came one day after it warned provincial health authorities across the country, including Xinjiang and Tibet, of the risks of the latest H7N9 outbreak.

Local authorities were ordered to make “utmost effort” to contain the disease and minimise deaths.

The World Health Organisation said there were no signs of sustained human-to-human transmission in bird flu cases this year, but it would remain “vigilant” over the puzzling outbreak in which affected poultry did not show any symptoms.

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The strength of the outbreak has spurred authorities in central and southern China to close poultry markets. Earlier this month, Zhejiang shut down its live poultry markets. Some cities in Jiangsu have banned live poultry trade as well.

In addition, Guangdong province has suspended the sale of poultry from high-risk areas in Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui and Jiangxi, and ordered each city to restrict the live poultry trade.

In Guangzhou, where H7N9 was detected at 30 per cent of live poultry markets, sales have been suspended since Thursday, with the ban remaining in place until the end of the month.

The order appears to have been enforced to an unprecedented extent in the city, where residents have a strong preference for buying live chickens over frozen ones.

“It is really strict this year. Vendors secretly sold live chickens when there was a similar ban before, but not this time,” one vegetable vendor at a wet market in Guangzhou’s downtown Yuexiu district said.

Guangzhou resident Zhang ­Jiehong, 47, said fear of catching the virus stopped her from going to a wet market unless absolutely necessary.

“I’ve caught a cold and I have elderly people at home. I don’t want to catch something in the market,” Zhang said.

The commission said contact with H7N9-infected poultry or exposure at a market with live poultry were high risk factors and shutting down such markets had proved effective.



 Brazil sees 700,000 tonne gap in global poultry market due to avian flu [Channel NewsAsia, 22 Feb 2017]

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Chicken are pictured at a poultry factory in Lapa city, Parana state, Brazil, May 31, 2016. REUTERS/Rodolfo Buhrer

SAO PAULO: Outbreaks of avian flu in several countries in recent months have caused a gap in the global poultry export market of around 700,000 tonnes a year, Brazil's poultry exporters association ABPA projected on Tuesday.

ABPA organized an event in Sao Paulo with government officials to discuss action to prevent the disease from entering Brazil and explore ways to fill the gap in the world market for chicken meat. Brazil is the world's largest poultry exporter.

Brazil's agriculture ministry published a decree on Tuesday imposing more stringent rules for poultry farm operations including installation of screens to make it harder for chickens to have contact with wild migrating birds and sanitation systems for cars and people entering production areas.

"We are going to do 100 percent of what is possible to do to prevent the disease," said Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi, who took part in the event.

ABPA President Francisco Turra said Brazilian poultry exporting companies will try to grab as much as possible of the volume left by suppliers who had to stop export deals.

Brazilian poultry exports rose in January, mostly due to the avian flu outbreaks in other producing countries, jumping 14.8 percent from year-earlier levels to 363,600 tonnes.

BRF SA and JBS SA are the largest Brazilian poultry exporters.

(Reporting by Gustavo Bonato; Writing by Marcelo Teixeira; Editing by James Dalgleish)



 Avian flu mutation detected: CDC [Taipei Times, 22 Feb 2017]

By Lee I-chia

In the nation’s first case of H7N9 avian influenza, diagnosed in a 69-year-old Taiwanese man who returned from China with flu symptoms late last month, the virus has developed mutation and a resistance to antiviral drugs, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said.

An examination of a sample of the virus, collected from the man who is still in hospital, has similar hemagglutinin-neuraminidase to the newly mutated H7N9 virus found in China.

It is highly pathogenic to birds, but does not show an increased ability to transmit from bird to human, or human to human, the agency said on Monday.

“The mutated virus might be more lethal to birds, so disease prevention must be enhanced to prevent cases being imported from China,” CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞) said yesterday.

“The virus sample was resistant to the antiviral medication oseltamivir [Tamiflu],” he said, adding that the man’s condition is serious and he was moved to a negative pressure isolation room early this month.

Lo said the CDC held a specialists’ meeting on Monday and decided to treat the man using oral favipiravir, an experimental antiviral drug for treating the Ebola virus.

The CDC said that its airport quarantine personnel detected flu symptoms in the man when he arrived on Jan. 25 and suggested he seek medical treatment, which he did on the same day and was referred to a medical center the following day.

There was no delay in reporting or diagnosing the case, the CDC said.

Meanwhile, 141 people who have had direct contact with the man were removed from a health monitoring watchlist on Monday last week, it added.

Lo said five H7N9 avian flu cases in humans have been reported in Taiwan, all of which were imported from China, including three Taiwanese working in China and two Chinese visitors. The first case in 2013 also showed resistance to antiviral treatments, but the patient later recovered and was discharged from hospital.
stable

The CDC has urged people to cook poultry and eggs thoroughly, wash their hands with soap, wear surgical masks, seek medical attention and tell the doctor about their profession or contact with birds if flu symptoms occur.

People working in close proximity to birds should get a flu vaccination, eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly, the agency said.



 China reports more severe form of bird flu, threat to poultry: WHO [The Indian Express, 22 Feb 2017]

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China has detected an evolution in the H7N9 avian flu virus that is capable of causing severe disease in poultry and requires close monitoring (Representational Image)

A total of 304 new laboratory-confirmed human infections were reported in mainland China between Jan. 19 and Feb. 14, along with 36 deaths

China has detected an evolution in the H7N9 avian flu virus that is capable of causing severe disease in poultry and requires close monitoring, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday. Samples of the virus taken from two infected humans were injected into birds in a laboratory and became “highly pathogenic” for poultry, it said. But that designation applies only to birds, not humans, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said, and there is “no evidence that the changes in the virus affect the virus’ ability to spread between humans.”

A total of 304 new laboratory-confirmed human infections were reported in mainland China between Jan. 19 and Feb. 14, along with 36 deaths, the WHO said in its latest update on Monday. The evolution of the virus may mean that the disease will become more apparent in some flocks, if birds begin to die off, making detection and control easier. “This is the first time these changes have been detected. These are the only two cases in Guangdong province, China. So far, there have been no reports if similar changes have occurred elsewhere,” Lindmeier said.

“It is a reminder that we have to keep looking closely,” he told Reuters. Animal health experts say bird flu infection rates on Chinese poultry farms may be far higher than previously thought, because the strain of the deadly virus in humans is hard to detect in chickens and geese. In all, since the “fifth wave” of the virus, first identified in 2013, began in October 2016, 425 human cases have been recorded in China, including 73 deaths officially reported by authorities, according to WHO figures.

“Most of these cases had known exposure to poultry or its environment, that is the main important link to this influenza type,” Lindmeier told a news briefing. In all since 2013, there have been 1,200 laboratory-confirmed cases in China, including more than one-third since October, he said.



 Govt dismisses avian flu rumors [EJ Insight, 21 Feb 2017]

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There have been 16 confirmed human cases of H5N6 infections worldwide since the virus was identified in 2014, all of which were from mainland China. Photo: Bloomberg

The Center of Health Protection (CHP) is denying any outbreak of human infection from the H5N6 avian flu virus in Hong Kong.

This comes after online rumors that the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital has held urgent meetings to discuss the risk of an outbreak, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

A recording being circulated on WhatsApp said the death rate from the H5N6 virus is as high as 60 percent.

It urged people to wear masks and refrain from visiting mainland China.

On Monday, CHP and Hong Kong Sanatorium said the rumors are not true.

Meanwhile, United Christian Hospital confirmed that two patients who died of pneumonia recently had visited Guangdong.

It said test results on the patients came back negative for influenza A and B viruses.

There have been 16 confirmed human cases of H5N6 infections worldwide since the virus was identified in 2014, all of which were from mainland China.

Eleven of the patients have died but there is no evidence that H5N6 is human-to-human infection.

In mainland China, 355 cases of H7N9 have been reported between November last year and February 13, according to CHP.

Poultry Wholesalers Association chairman Tsui Ming-tuen said they will cooperate with the government in its tests for avian flu viruses.

A chicken stall in Prince Edward has recorded a 40 percent drop in business because of the rumors, SkyPost reported.

In Taiwan, the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine reported that the H5N6 virus might have spread to other poultry like geese.

The Taipei Zoo has increased preventive measures and stopped all wild bird rescues. All birds and poultry in the park have been limited to activity within the park to prevent infections.



 Hong Kong officials respond to H5N6 avian flu rumors [Outbreak News Today, 21 Feb 2017]

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Hong Kong/CIA

In response to press inquiries on rumors on human cases of avian influenza A(H5N6) and related pneumonia cases in Hong Kong, the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health clarified that no human H5N6 cases have been identified in Hong Kong to date.

“Globally, 16 sporadic human H5N6 cases, including 11 known deaths, have been reported so far since the emergence of H5N6 in 2014 and all were in the Mainland. While most patients visited wet markets or had contact with live poultry, there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission among their close contacts. Standard precautions against avian influenza, such as strict personal, hand, food and environmental hygiene, are key to preventing H5N6 infections,” a spokesman for the CHP said.

“All novel influenza A infections, including H5N6, are statutorily notifiable infectious diseases in Hong Kong. Doctors and hospitals are reminded that any patient with acute respiratory illness or pneumonia, or at-risk exposure (including poultry workers and those with a history of visiting markets with live poultry or contact with poultry) in affected areas in the incubation period (10 days before onset), must be managed as suspected cases and immediately reported to the CHP for prompt epidemiological and laboratory investigations, disease control and transparent announcement,” the spokesman said.

“We will continue to remain vigilant and work closely with the World Health Organization and relevant health authorities to monitor the latest developments,” the spokesman added.



 Brazil sees 700,000 t gap in global poultry market due to avian flu [Reuters, 21 Feb 2017]

Feb 21 The outbreak of avian flu in several countries in recent months caused a gap in the global poultry export market of around 700,000 tonnes/year, Brazil's poultry exporters association ABPA projected on Tuesday.

ABPA organized an event in Sao Paulo with government officials to discuss actions to prevent the disease from entering Brazil and to explore ways to fill that gap in the world market for chicken meat. Brazil is the world's largest poultry exporter. (Reporting by Gustavo Bonato; Writing by Marcelo Teixeira)



 France slaughtering all ducks in key region due to bird flus [680 News, 21 Feb 2017]

PARIS – France’s agriculture ministry has ordered all remaining 600,000 ducks in a key poultry-producing region slaughtered to try to stem a growing outbreak of bird flu.

A previous cull in southwestern France failed to stop the spread of the H5N8 virus, which has hit ducks and other birds in more than 300 French farms in the last few months. Most are in the Landes, a foie gras-producing region where the new slaughter is focused.

Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said on France Bleu radio Tuesday that the flu spread faster than expected. He said all 600,000 farmed ducks in the Landes would be killed and measures would be taken to better secure transport of poultry and limit their mobility.

The virus does not transmit via food and is harmless to humans.



 French foie gras region faces another duck cull due to bird flu [France24, 21 Feb 2017]

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File photo taken on Aug. 31, 2016 of a duck farm in Caupenne, southwestern France.

France's agriculture ministry on Tuesday ordered all remaining 600,000 ducks in a key foie gras-producing region be slaughtered to try to stem a growing outbreak of bird flu.

A previous cull in southwestern France failed to stop the spread of the H5N8 virus -- also known as bird flu -- which has hit ducks and other birds in more than 300 French farms in the past few months.

The slaughter wll be largely focused on the region of Landes, where approximately 25 percent of France's foie gras is produced.

France is the world's biggest producer of foie gras

Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said on France Bleu radio Tuesday that the flu spread faster than expected. He said all 600,000 farmed ducks in the Landes would be killed and measures would be taken to better secure transport of poultry and limit their mobility.

The virus does not transmit via food and is harmless to humans.

France and Hungary have been the countries hardest hit by the highly contagious H5N8 avian flu virus that has been spreading across Europe as well as Middle Eastern countries in the past three months.
The government launched a massive cull in early January to contain the virus and said a month ago it would scale back preventive slaughtering after its spread slowed.

However, the number of farms infected has continued to rise with 249 outbreaks detected by February 15.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)



 France to cull 600,000 more ducks in fight against bird flu virus [The Local, 21 Feb 2017]

by Oliver Gee

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Some 600,000 more ducks are set to be culled in an attempt to stop a bird flu outbreak in the south west.

All of the ducks on farms in the Landes department in south-western France are to be killed, Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll told France Bleu radio on Tuesday.

The department, on the western coast of France and close to the Spanish border, is home to around 600,000 ducks and is France's biggest producer of foie gras.

However the department has seen over 100 cases of animals contaminated with the highly pathogenic H5N8 virus.

Le Foll said that many ducks in the area had been put down already, but that more needed to be done to "stabilize the area".

"We have already culled a lot of ducks in the eastern bit of that area. We know that there is still an area remaining where we will have to take action to cull all the ducks," Le Foll said.

"Authorities are facing a virus that spreads at speeds never seen before and with extremely short incubation periods."

He added that the mass culling would take "several weeks" to carry out and that the aim was to prevent the disease from spreading.

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Landes in south western France. Photo: GoogleMaps

The Ministry of Agriculture said that there had been 273 outbreaks of the H5N8 strain of the virus in farms across France and 28 reported in the wild.

Over 120 of these outbreaks were in the Landes department, with another 92 in the nearby Gers.

The Agriculture Ministry last ordered a massive poultry cull in January, when it started gassing hundreds of thousands of ducks in the hope of containing the virus, however it has since spread.

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A handful of European countries have been hit by the contagious virus in recent months, and it has even spread as far as the Middle East.

The department of Landes, pictured above, is responsible for around a quarter of the foie gras bought in France.

The French government has promised that the farmers will be compensated, but some have complained of being underpaid following a similar outbreak in 2015 that set the industry back an estimated half a billion euros.



 Avian Flu Threatens French Foie Gras Production [Forbes, 21 Feb 2017]

by Ronald Holden

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Ducks and geese being raised for foie gras on a family farm in southwestern France. Ronald Holden photos.

There's trouble in the tranquil river valleys of southwestern France, and it's threatening the livelihood of hundreds of small farmers. The latest challenge comes not from animal rights activists but from disease. An epidemic of bird flu has killed millions of ducks and geese across Europe, hitting France particularly hard.

Agriculture in these parts is typically a family affair. The cash crop is tobacco (the buyer is the French government), but the rich soil of the tobacco fields require regular replanting with cereal crops to replace the nitrogen. The grain, in turn, is softened and fed to the ducks and geese that roam under the walnut trees (another cash crop). The gavage, sometimes translated as force-feeding, fattens the birds' livers. Farmers say the birds deliberately overeat in order to fatten their livers as a storehouse of energy in winter.

In any event, the birds are butchered in processing facilities located on the farms. The livers are provided directly to restaurants and wholesalers for further transformation (foie gras torchon, seared foie gras medallions, etc.), with a portion of the production canned on the premises and sold to buyers at farmers markets throughout the region.

This artisanal sales channel is vital to the financial well-being of the farmers and the entire agricultural sector of the French economy.

But with the avian flu epidemic, the Ministry of Agriculture has mandated that the flocks of birds be moved indoors to prevent the spread of the H5N8 virus that is thought to be responsible.

The Ag Minister told the National Assembly last week that "the security rules in transport have not been respected and we will need to be vigilant."

For now, that means keeping the birds cooped up. But so far, over three million birds have been destroyed.



 Bird flu sparks massive cull [Castanet, 21 Feb 2017]

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France's agriculture ministry has ordered all remaining 600,000 ducks in a key poultry-producing region slaughtered to try to stem a growing outbreak of bird flu.

A previous cull in southwestern France failed to stop the spread of the H5N8 virus, which has hit ducks and other birds in more than 300 French farms in the last few months. Most are in the Landes, a foie gras-producing region where the new slaughter is focused.

Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said on France Bleu radio Tuesday that the flu spread faster than expected. He said all 600,000 farmed ducks in the Landes would be killed and measures would be taken to better secure transport of poultry and limit their mobility.

The virus does not transmit via food and is harmless to humans.



 France to cull 600,000 ducks due to bird flu [NewsX, 21 Feb 2017]

Since the H5N8 virus was identified in France in November, more than three million ducks have been culled.

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The virus had spread from the east to the west of Landes region.

French authorities will cull 600,000 ducks in the Landes region due to bird flu, the Agriculture Minister said on Tuesday.

Speaking about the radical measure in an interview, Stephane Le Foll said the virus had spread from the east to the west of Landes and the goal was to try and stabilise the situation, Efe news reported.

The decision was in line with what farmers had asked for in a meeting last week, when they called for the reinforcement of the strategy to combat the disease.

The minister noted that there was no vaccine against bird flu and that protocols have improved since the end of last year.

Since the H5N8 virus was identified in France in November when it apparently arrived via migratory birds, more than three million ducks have been culled.

This means that about eight per cent of the nation’s bird production has been lost to the disease.



 France to cull 600,000 more ducks to contain bird flu [New Ghana, 21 Feb 2017]

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France will slaughter 600,000 more ducks in its southwest region of Les Landes to prevent avian influenza contamination, Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll announced Tuesday.

“We have already culled a lot of ducks in the eastern bit of that area. We know that there is still an area remaining where we will have to take action to cull all the ducks,” Le Foll told France Bleu regional radio.

The massive cull will take “several weeks,” he said, adding the precautionary move is necessary to resume production.

Following a severe strain of H5N8 bird flu hitting several European countries last year, France has already imposed precautionary measures to prevent poultry contacts with wild birds and restrict hunting in high-risk areas.

France, one of the European Union’s leading poultry breeders and main producers of foie gras, has detected a bird flu outbreak, forcing a ban of all duck and goose production in many southwestern departments.



 France Orders Cull of 600,000 More Ducks as Bird Flu Sweeps Across Europe [Seeker, 21 Feb 2017]

The foie gras industry is hit hard by the country's latest defense against the spread of the highly pathogenic H5N8 virus.

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The French government on Tuesday (Feb 21) ordered the slaughter of the last 600,000 ducks in a bird flu-hit southwest region at the forefront of the foie gras industry.

The cull will effectively wipe out production of foie gras in the Landes area that accounts for a quarter of the total French production of the controversial delicacy made from the livers of force-fed ducks and geese.

"We are going to have to move quickly in the slaughter of the ducks so that we can stabilize the whole area," Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said.

France is scrambling to stop the spread of the highly pathogenic H5N8 virus sweeping across Europe. The virus was first spotted in wild geese in November and has spread rapidly through duck farms across the southwest. French authorities began culling of hundreds of thousands of ducks in January.

"Authorities are facing a virus that spreads at speeds never seen before and with extremely short incubation periods," Le Foll said.

Duck farmers have accused the government of being slow to respond at the start of the outbreak, helping it spread and increasing the number of birds now being slaughtered.

The French foie gras industry believes the cull will cost producers 270 million euros (S$404 million). The government has promised the farmers will be compensated, but some have complained of being underpaid following a similar outbreak in 2015 that set the industry back an estimated half a billion euros.

Since October, the strain has been detected in at least 13 European countries, according to the French government – including Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Hungary and Sweden.

In South Korea, over 10 million farm chickens and ducks have been slaughtered this winter as that country battles its worst bird flu outbreak since 2014. In Japan, a million farm birds have been culled.



 France slaughtering 600,000 ducks due to bird flu [New York Post, 21 Feb 2017]

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Duck farmers drive birds out of an enclosure as they prepare to slaughter ducks in southwestern France Getty Images

PARIS — France’s agriculture ministry has ordered all remaining 600,000 ducks in a key poultry-producing region slaughtered to try to stem a growing outbreak of bird flu.

A previous cull in southwestern France failed to stop the spread of the H5N8 virus, which has hit ducks and other birds in more than 300 French farms in the last few months. Most are in the Landes, a foie gras-producing region where the new slaughter is focused.

Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said on France Bleu radio Tuesday that the flu spread faster than expected. He said all 600,000 farmed ducks in the Landes would be killed and measures would be taken to better secure transport of poultry and limit their mobility.

The virus does not transmit via food and is harmless to humans.



 New bird flu mutation discovered in China [Sky News, 21 Feb 2017]

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China has discovered a new mutation of the H7N9 bird flu virus, which is being considered the deadliest till now, news agency Xinhua reports.

The new strain is more dangerous to poultry but poses no new threats to humans, the report added.

It 'does not make the virus more infectious to humans at the moment,' according to the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

The centre alerted the World Health Organisation to the new development, after it confirmed the new strain that was found in four poultry samples from China's southern region.

The new strain was also discovered in January in two people, who were infected by the virus in the Guandong province.

The centre added that Chinese health and agricultural authorities will continue studying the new strain's source and impact.



 UN health agency 'vigilant' about China bird flu outbreak [Fresno Bee, 21 Feb 2017]

GENEVA

The World Health Organization says an increase in bird flu cases in China this year has not shown sustained human-to-human transmission, but it vows to remain "vigilant" over the puzzling outbreak in which affected fowl don't show any symptoms.

Spokesman Christian Lindmeier of the U.N. health agency says the outbreak of the H7N9 strain is the fifth since 2013 in China, causing at least 73 deaths and 425 confirmed cases. Chinese authorities have put the death toll even higher.

Lindmeier said Tuesday that health officials have reported three clusters in China "where limited human-to-human transmission could not be completely ruled out."

Chinese authorities have ordered the closure of live poultry markets in its south-central regions. Most reported cases have emerged in densely populated areas between Shanghai and Hong Kong.



 France to cull more ducks as fights bird flu virus [Reuters, 21 Feb 2017]

By Claude Canellas

(This version of the story has been refiled to change first two paragraphs after farm minister corrects scope of the culling measure)

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An employee works on a rack of slaughtered ducks at a poultry farm in Eugenie les Bains, France, January 24, 2017, as France scales back preventive slaughtering of ducks to counter bird flu after the culling of 800,000 birds this month helped slow the spread of the disease. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

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Slaughtered ducks are seen on a rack at a poultry farm in Eugenie les Bains, France, January 24, 2017, as France scales back preventive slaughtering of ducks to counter bird flu after the culling of 800,000 birds this month helped slow the spread of the disease. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

France will cull a further 360,000 ducks as part of efforts to prevent a spread of the H5N8 bird flu virus, the country's farm ministry said on Tuesday.

The latest cull will take place in the Landes and the Pyrennees-Atlantiques regions in southwest France, which is home to most of the country's foie gras producers, it said in a statement.

French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll had earlier earlier told France Bleu regional radio station the government intended to order the slaughtering of all 600,000 ducks still alive in the Landes region.

France and Hungary have been the countries hardest hit by the highly contagious H5N8 virus that has been spreading across Europe, the Middle East and Africa countries in the past three months.

France launched a massive cull in January to try to contain the virus and said a month ago it would scale back preventative slaughtering after the spread of the virus slowed, but the number of farms infected has nevertheless continued to rise.

Foie gras producers have estimated the number of poultry killed or culled due to bird flu in France at more than 3.2 million birds, and have forecast this would rise to 3.4 million as the government extended its culling measures.

(Reporting by Claude Canellas and Sybille de La Hamaide; Writing by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Mark Potter)



 Bird flu strain hitting China may be getting more infectious [New Scientist, 21 Feb 2017]

By Debora MacKenzie

gettyimages-635563542-800x533.jpg


Threatwatch is your early warning system for global dangers, from nuclear peril to deadly viral outbreaks. Debora MacKenzie highlights the threats to civilisation – and suggests solutions

Another bird flu is on the rampage in China. Already this winter there have been 424 cases in humans, more than a third of all those identified since the virus emerged in 2013. And it is spreading. This week it was announced that it seems poised to acquire mutations that could make it a much worse problem.

H7N9 first started infecting people in China in 2013. Like its cousin H5N1, the virus that drew attention to bird flu in 2004, it mainly infects birds and doesn’t readily pass from human to human – but should it acquire this ability a deadly pandemic could ensue.

H7N9 seems to jump to people from poultry more easily than H5N1, staging regular winter outbreaks in the last 4 years. By mid-2016 there were 798 known cases, and around 40 per cent of the people died. But since last October alone, there have been 424, the most ever seen in one season – and it isn’t over yet.

“I suspect the spike in cases of H7N9 is real,” says Malik Peiris of Hong Kong University, and not due to better diagnosis. He thinks the jump is due to an increase in poultry infections. Tests in poultry markets are finding H7N9 more often, he says, and it is spreading: this winter has seen human cases in 18 provinces of mainland China, including for the first time in southern Yunnan province, and it could spread to Vietnam from there.

When people fall ill

But we only know this because someone in Yunnan became severely ill with the virus. H7N9 spreads in poultry without making birds visibly sick. It is often only discovered when people fall ill.

Most were exposed to the virus in live poultry markets. Despite calls to close them, public demand for freshly killed chicken keeps markets open – although four of the hardest-hit provinces in China have now temporarily closed some markets.

But H7N9 could be coming out of hiding. This week both mainland China and Taiwan reported human cases in which the virus’s haemagglutinin surface protein had a mutation that makes it lethal to chickens. This would make it a “highly pathogenic” bird flu like H5N1 and its descendants such as H5N8, which is killing birds across Eurasia.

While the mutation doesn’t affect illness in people, it allows the virus to replicate much faster in chickens. If the mutation spreads in poultry, as it has with other kinds of bird flu, H7N9 will rip through flocks, making its presence much easier to spot.

But the trouble is these sick birds will shed much more of the virus, meaning more cases in people and perhaps other mammals such as pigs, each an opportunity for H7N9 to adapt to mammals and learn to spread from person to person. H7N9 already has some of the mutations thought to be required before bird flu can do this, and it is already capable of limited spread between ferrets, the best animal model for human flu.

There could also be more cases of H7N9 in people than we think, says Ab Osterhaus of the Research Centre for Emerging Infections and Zoonoses in Hannover, Germany. Usually, only people sick enough to require a trip to hospital are tested to see which virus they have. Two of the cases reported by the World Health Organisation this week were mild, but the individuals were tested because of exposure to known cases. There could be many more mild cases.

Our only real defence, say the virologists, is a vaccine. The WHO has approved eight vaccine strains of H7N9, and last week China launched clinical trials of four strains by a state-owned vaccine company.

But even if the trials are successful, WHO officials admit that we still have no means of making enough flu vaccine in time to protect large numbers of people, should H7N9, or any other flu virus, go pandemic.



 China reports more severe form of bird flu, threat to poultry: WHO [Reuters, 21 Feb 2017]

By Stephanie Nebehay | GENEVA

China has detected an evolution in the H7N9 avian flu virus that is capable of causing severe disease in poultry and requires close monitoring, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.

Samples of the virus taken from two infected humans were injected into birds in a laboratory and became "highly pathogenic" for poultry, it said.

But that designation applies only to birds, not humans, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said, and there is "no evidence that the changes in the virus affect the virus' ability to spread between humans."

A total of 304 new laboratory-confirmed human infections were reported in mainland China between Jan. 19 and Feb. 14, along with 36 deaths, the WHO said in its latest update on Monday.

The evolution of the virus may mean that the disease will become more apparent in some flocks, if birds begin to die off, making detection and control easier.

"This is the first time these changes have been detected. These are the only two cases in Guangdong province, China. So far, there have been no reports if similar changes have occurred elsewhere," Lindmeier said.

"It is a reminder that we have to keep looking closely," he told Reuters.

Animal health experts say bird flu infection rates on Chinese poultry farms may be far higher than previously thought, because the strain of the deadly virus in humans is hard to detect in chickens and geese.

In all, since the "fifth wave" of the virus, first identified in 2013, began in October 2016, 425 human cases have been recorded in China, including 73 deaths officially reported by authorities, according to WHO figures.

"Most of these cases had known exposure to poultry or its environment, that is the main important link to this influenza type," Lindmeier told a news briefing.

In all since 2013, there have been 1,200 laboratory-confirmed cases in China, including more than one-third since October, he said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)



 H5N6 spreads to Hsinchu Countyת Taiwan [EJ Insight, 21 Feb 2017]

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There have been 16 confirmed human cases of H5N6 infections worldwide since the virus was identified in 2014, all of which were from mainland China. Photo: Bloomberg

The Center of Health Protection (CHP) is denying any outbreak of human infection from the H5N6 avian flu virus in Hong Kong.

This comes after online rumors that the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital has held urgent meetings to discuss the risk of an outbreak, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

A recording being circulated on WhatsApp said the death rate from the H5N6 virus is as high as 60 percent.

It urged people to wear masks and refrain from visiting mainland China.

On Monday, CHP and Hong Kong Sanatorium said the rumors are not true.

Meanwhile, United Christian Hospital confirmed that two patients who died of pneumonia recently had visited Guangdong.

It said test results on the patients came back negative for influenza A and B viruses.

There have been 16 confirmed human cases of H5N6 infections worldwide since the virus was identified in 2014, all of which were from mainland China.

Eleven of the patients have died but there is no evidence that H5N6 is human-to-human infection.

In mainland China, 355 cases of H7N9 have been reported between November last year and February 13, according to CHP.

Poultry Wholesalers Association chairman Tsui Ming-tuen said they will cooperate with the government in its tests for avian flu viruses.

A chicken stall in Prince Edward has recorded a 40 percent drop in business because of the rumors, SkyPost reported.

In Taiwan, the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine reported that the H5N6 virus might have spread to other poultry like geese.

The Taipei Zoo has increased preventive measures and stopped all wild bird rescues. All birds and poultry in the park have been limited to activity within the park to prevent infections.



 (Avian flu) Mutant virus poses greater danger, China alerts WHO [Hong Kong Standard (press release), 21 Feb 2017]

The H7N9 bird flu virus has mutated to a new strain in southern China, which is proven more dangerous to poultry but poses no new threat to humans, the disease control and prevention authorities said on its website.

The mutation was found in January in two people who had been infected with H7N9 bird flu in Guangdong Province. Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed the finding and reported the case to the World Health Organization, according to China CDC's website.

The agricultural sector has also found the mutation in four poultry samples from Guangdong, China CDC said.

On the basis of joint study with experts from the agricultural sector, China CDC has concluded that the mutation "does not make the virus more infectious to humans at the moment."-Xinhua



 Vietnam: Bird Flu Outbreaks In Neighbouring Nations Prompt Action [Bernama, 21 Feb 2017]

HANOI, Feb 21 (Bernama) -- An urgent meeting was held here on Monday to discuss measures to prevent avian influenza viruses, especially A/H7N9, which are spreading in some neighbouring countries, Vietnam news agency (VNA) reported.

Director of the Health Ministry's Department of Preventive Medicine Tran Dac Phu cited the World Health Organisation as saying, the A/H7N9 virus is raging in 14 provinces and cities of China with a sharp rise in incidences and a high mortality rate (about 40 percent).

From Oct 6 last year to recent Feb 19, China recorded 425 people with A/H7N9, mostly in Yunnan and Guangxi provinces which border Vietnam.

Last January, some hotbeds of A/H5N1 in poultry were reported in the Cambodian province of Svay Rieng, which also borders Vietnam, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health.

There is a high risk that these bird flu viruses will enter Vietnam, Phu said.

Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long said avian influenza viruses, especially A/H7N9, are likely to enter Vietnam if effective preventive measures are not taken.

He asked the health sector and relevant ministries and agencies to carry out preventative measures to prepare for all circumstances. The agriculture sector should monitor poultry-related epidemics, thoroughly deal with hotbeds, and share information with health agencies.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Public Security and the border guard force need to prevent fowl smuggling and deal with illegal poultry business activities strictly.

Long also requested the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology and Pasteur institutes in the central and southern regions to focus on suspected cases in localities bordering countries with bird flu outbreaks.

In 2016, Vietnam recorded A/H5N1 outbreaks in poultry in seven communes and wards of six districts and townships in Nghe An province, Ca Mau province and Can Tho city. There haven't been any A/H5N1 outbreaks in 2017, according to the Preventive Medicine Department.

The flu viruses of A/H7N9, A/H5N8 and A/H5N1 have yet to be reported in humans in Vietnam. The A/H3N2 and A/H1N1 viruses and type B viruses are seasonal influenza viruses in the country.



 Vietnam takes action against bird flu [VietNamNet Bridge, 21 Feb 2017]

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H5N1 and H5N6 bird flu outbreaks are spreading in Quang Ngai and Bac Lieu province. Tens of thousands of fowls have been culled over the past two weeks. Relevant agencies are taking steps to contain the outbreak.

Two H5N6 bird flu outbreaks have been reported in Quang Ngai city and Duc Pho district.
Poultry farmers in the infected areas have been provided with disinfectant and clear instructions. Relevant agencies in Quang Ngai province have cleaned infected areas.

Bac Lieu province has reported 5 H5N1 bird flu cases and culled 4,500 birds. Local agencies are taking necessary measures to contain the outbreak.

Lam Chi Trung, Head of the Animal Health Station of Phuoc Long district, Bac Lieu province said
“We told farmers how to clean their farms, cull sick birds, and spray disinfectant. We also vaccinated the bird flocks using vaccines provided by the province.”

The Ministry of Health has asked cities and provinces to take necessary disease control measures, strictly deal with illegal cross-border trade of poultry and prevent the trading of poultry without proof of origin.

The Provincial Departments of Agriculture and Rural Department have been requested to make prompt reports of outbreaks and increase surveillance of birds. In case of contact with sick or dead birds, samples should be collected for testing and isolation and treatment measures need to be applied.

Mr. Vu Ngoc Long, Head of the Border Disease Control Section of the Preventive Medicine Department of the Ministry of Health said “Don’t eat poultry that are not thoroughly processed.
Wash your hands with soap to prevent being infected by sick poultry. Buy only chickens or chicken products with clear proof of origin”.

Border areas on alert for bird flu

Customs officials of Quảng Ninh Province seize smuggled chickens in Móng Cái City.

The Ministry of Health has ordered provinces and cities across the country to urgently conduct appropriate measures to prevent the entry of the A/H7N9 virus, commonly known as bird flu.

Localities, especially border provinces between Việt Nam and China, have been required to crack down on the transportation, trade and slaughter of poultry and poultry products without quarantine and clear origins.

Việt Nam is on high alert after the bird flu strain A/H7N9 caused more than 100 deaths in neighbouring China, the Thanh Niên (Young People) online newspaper reported.

The ministry also recommends that citizens avoid poultry and poultry products without quarantine and clear origins, including frozen chicken.

Trần Đắc Phu, head of the General Department of Preventative Medicine warned people that infected frozen chicken and chicken eggs could still transmit the A/H7N9 virus to humans.

Price of chicken

The price of chicken has decreased in some provinces, causing trouble for poultry farmers and breeders, as well as concerns of illegal chicken imports from China.

In Bình Dương Province, the owner of a chicken farm in Bến Cát District said a kilo of live chicken now cost about VNĐ25,000 (US$1.1).

The price was VNĐ37,000 ($1.6) before Tết (Lunar New Year), even reaching VNĐ42,000 ($1.8) per kilo at times, he said.

The price for a kilo of a white-feather chicken was also down from VNĐ22,000 ($1) to VNĐ17,000 ($0.74), he said.

In HCM City, the owner of a chicken farm in Hóc Môn District said frozen chicken was for sale in rural markets with a retail price of VNĐ22,000 ($1) per kilo of chicken leg or breast, whereas it was previously between VNĐ28,000 to 30,000 ($1.2-1.3) per kilo.

According to farmers in the two provinces of Đồng Nai and Bình Dương, the reduction in demand for chicken meat after Tết was blamed on health concerns. Additionally, a large number of frozen chickens being sold at bargain prices at rural markets also exacerbated the problem.

Nguyễn Đăng Vang, chairman of the Animal Husbandry Association of Việt Nam, said we were facing a high risk that chickens from China’s bird-flu affected areas were being illegally imported into Việt Nam via unofficial channels.

Statistics from the association showed that about 100,000 tonnes of ‘waste’ chickens are still illegally imported into Việt Nam via unofficial channels each year, he said.

‘Waste’ chickens are only fit for livestock feed. However, these chickens were still found to have been brought into Việt Nam and sold on to customers.

Vang also said some companies were claiming that the poor-quality chickens were imported in order to re-export them. Thus, supervision will need to be tightened on firms engaging in such practices.

Bird flu outbreaks in neighbouring nations prompt action

An urgent meeting was held in Hanoi on February 20 to discuss measures to prevent avian influenza viruses, especially A/H7N9, which are spreading in some neighbouring countries.
Director of the Health Ministry’s Department of Preventive Medicine Tran Dac Phu cited the World Health Organisation as saying that the A/H7N9 virus is raging in 14 provinces and cities of China with a sharp rise in incidences and a high mortality rate (about 40 percent). From October 6, 2016, to February 19 this year, China recorded 425 people with A/H7N9, mostly in Yunnan and Guangxi provinces which border Vietnam.

Last January, some hotbeds of A/H5N1 in poultry were reported in the Cambodian province of Svay Rieng, which also borders Vietnam, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health.

There is a high risk that these bird flu viruses will enter Vietnam, Phu said.

Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Thanh Long said avian influenza viruses, especially A/H7N9, are likely to enter Vietnam if effective preventive measures are not taken.

He asked the health sector and relevant ministries and agencies to carry out preventative measures to prepare for all circumstances. The agriculture sector should monitor poultry-related epidemics, thoroughly deal with hotbeds, and share information with health agencies.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Public Security and the border guard force need to prevent fowl smuggling and deal with illegal poultry business activities strictly.

Long also requested the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology and Pasteur institutes in the central and southern regions to focus on suspected cases in localities bordering countries with bird flu outbreaks.

In 2016, Vietnam recorded A/H5N1 outbreaks in poultry in seven communes and wards of six districts and townships in Nghe An province, Ca Mau province and Can Tho city. There haven’t been any A/H5N1 outbreaks in 2017, according to the Preventive Medicine Department.

The flu viruses of A/H7N9, A/H5N8 and A/H5N1 have yet to be reported in humans in Vietnam.

The A/H3N2 and A/H1N1 viruses and type B viruses are seasonal influenza viruses in the country.



 France slaughtering 600,000 ducks due to bird flu [New York Post, 21 Feb 2017]

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Duck farmers drive birds out of an enclosure as they prepare to slaughter ducks in southwestern France

PARIS — France’s agriculture ministry has ordered all remaining 600,000 ducks in a key poultry-producing region slaughtered to try to stem a growing outbreak of bird flu.

A previous cull in southwestern France failed to stop the spread of the H5N8 virus, which has hit ducks and other birds in more than 300 French farms in the last few months. Most are in the Landes, a foie gras-producing region where the new slaughter is focused.

Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said on France Bleu radio Tuesday that the flu spread faster than expected. He said all 600,000 farmed ducks in the Landes would be killed and measures would be taken to better secure transport of poultry and limit their mobility.

The virus does not transmit via food and is harmless to humans.



 China discovers new bird flu mutation [NEWS.com.au, 21 Feb 2017]

China has discovered a new mutation of the H7N9 bird flu virus, which is being considered the deadliest till now, news agency Xinhua reports.

The new strain is more dangerous to poultry but poses no new threats to humans, the report added.

It "does not make the virus more infectious to humans at the moment," according to the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

The centre alerted the World Health Organisation to the new development, after it confirmed the new strain that was found in four poultry samples from China's southern region.

The new strain was also discovered in January in two people, who were infected by the virus in the Guandong province.

The centre added that Chinese health and agricultural authorities will continue studying the new strain's source and impact.



 New Mutation of H7N9 Bird Flu in China Risks Creating Deadlier Virus to Humans [YIBADA, 21 Feb 2017]

by Arthur Dominic Villasanta

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Electron microscope image of the deadly H7N9 virus. (Photo : U.S. CDC)

China is bracing for further mutations of the deadly H7N9 avian flu virus that has killed 88 Chinese since January following the recent alarming discovery of a new mutation of the killer virus in southern China.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) reported the mutated H7N9 bird flu strain in southern China has been proven as more dangerous to poultry. The mutation was found in January in two people who had contracted H7N9 bird flu in Guangdong Province.

China CDC said it has confirmed the finding and reported the case to the World Health Organization (WHO). On the basis of a joint study with experts from the agricultural sector, China CDC concluded that the mutation "does not make the virus more infectious to human at the moment."

The wording of this statement has raised fears new mutations might be deadlier to humans than the existing strain.

Scientists warn that bird flu can easily mutate. China CDC is concerned a mutation might make H7N9 more infectious to humans, and hence deadlier.

Chinese health and agricultural authorities will continue to study the mutated strain's source and its impact. They will also intensify monitoring to detect H7N9's further mutations, said China CDC.

China has stepped up its campaign to prevent the wider spread of the H7N9 avian flu. Apart from causing 88 deaths since January, H7N9 has infected 271 other persons. China CDC said most infected humans came into contact with poultry or dead birds.

In its latest update, WHO reported that between Jan. 19 and Feb. 14, a total of 304 additional laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection were reported to it from mainland China.

At the time of notification, there were 36 deaths; two cases had mild symptoms and 82 cases were diagnosed as either pneumonia (34) or severe pneumonia (48).



 China’s H7N9 bird flu mutates, no threat to humans: Officials [The Indian Express, 21 Feb 2017]

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Chinese CDC has concluded that the mutation "does not make the virus more infectious to human at the moment."

The H7N9 bird flu virus, which has been linked to at least 88 fatal cases in China since January, has mutated into a new strain, but officials said it poses more danger to poultry. The mutation was found in January in two people who had contracted H7N9 bird flu in Guangdong province.

On the basis of a joint study with experts from the agricultural sector, Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has concluded that the mutation “does not make the virus more infectious to human at the moment.”

The CDC has lately confirmed the finding and reported the case to the World Health Organisation (WHO), state-run Xinhua news agency reported. The agricultural sector has also found the mutation in four poultry samples from Guangdong, the CDC said. The centre said 105 people who were in close contact with the patients were being monitored, but none had developed symptoms of bird flu. Bird flu is known to easily mutate. The people are concerned that a mutation might make it more infectious to humans, they said.

Chinese health and agricultural authorities will continue to study the mutated strains source and its impact while intensifying monitoring to detect H7N9’s further mutations, it said. China has stepped up prevention of H7N9 avian flu transmission. It has been linked to at least 88 deaths since January. About 271 human infections cases were reported. Most infected humans have had contact with poultry or dead birds. Among them were the two patients from Guangdong province, CDC said.



 WHO: Over 300 infected with H7N9 in a month [NHK WORLD, 21 Feb 2017]

The World Health Organization says more than 300 people were infected with the H7N9 strain of bird flu in China in less than a month.

On Monday the organization released its latest update on outbreaks of bird flu in the country.

The data shows that, from January 19th to February 14th, 304 people were infected in more than 10 cities and regions, including Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Shanghai and Beijing. Cases range in age from 3 to 85 years.

At least 36 people died. 2 people developed mild symptoms and 82 others were diagnosed with pneumonia.

144 of them were known to have been exposed to poultry or live poultry markets, while 11 had no clear exposure. 149 other cases are still being investigated.

The WHO has yet to call for travel restrictions and other measures, saying that there is so far no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission.

It said the total number of people infected with the virus since last October has topped 400.

The organization is encouraging countries to step up screening.

It is also advising travelers to regions with known outbreaks to avoid markets with live birds and take other preventive measures, such as washing hands.

NHK News  



 Avian Flu [Southeast AgNet, 21 Feb 2017]

There hasn’t been much in the news recently about Avian Flu but it is out there. I should say it is over there because it has not been found in America yet. It is mostly in Asian and European countries. Japan and South Korea in the Pacific region have been struggling with commercial poultry production and wild birds. Officials in the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom have had their problems too.

My report indicated that the problem has been confirmed in chickens, ducks, turkeys and wild birds of several kind.

They are dealing with more than one kind.

There is HPIA and H5N8. Both are serious and difficult to deal with. So far North America has been lucky. But, keep your fingers crossed. It could happen yet.

That’s Agri View for today. I’m Everett Griner.

Everett Griner talks about Avian Flu spreading overseas in today’s Agri View.
Avian Flu  



 China's H7N9 Bird Flu Virus Mutates [Sputnik International, 21 Feb 2017]

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The Chinese authorities reported the first genetic mutation of the H7N9 bird flu virus, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) said in a statement, adding that it posed no new threat to humans.

BEIJING (Sputnik) — According to the statement, issued on Monday, the mutation made the virus deadlier to poultry.

The mutation was found in samples collected from two patients in Guangdong province last month. China CDC had already reported the case to the World Health Organization.

Avian influenza A (H7N9) continues to spread through parts of China. Early in January, China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission called for extra efforts to control and prevent the spread of the H7N9 avian flu virus amid high season for bird flu.

The first case of a human contracting avian influenza virus of the H7N9 strain was registered in China in March 2013. China has imposed bans on poultry imports from affected countries. Curbs are already in place against some 60 nations, including Japan and South Korea.

According to the media reports, at least ten people died from the virus since the beginning of 2017.



 China's H7N9 bird flu mutates, no immediate added threat to human [CRIENGLISH, 21 Feb 2017]

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 Most infected humans have had contact with poultry or dead birds.[Photo: gb.cri.cn]

The H7N9 bird flu has mutated to a new strain in south China, which is proven more dangerous to poultry but poses no new threat to humans, the country's disease control and prevention authorities said Sunday on its website.

The mutation was found in January in two people who had contracted H7N9 bird flu in Guangdong Province. Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC) has lately confirmed the finding and reported the case to the World Health Organization (WHO), according to China CDC's website.

The agricultural sector has also found the mutation in four poultry samples from Guangdong, China CDC said.

On the basis of joint study with experts from the agricultural sector, China CDC has concluded that the mutation "does not make the virus more infectious to human at the moment."

Chinese health and agricultural authorities will continue to study the mutated strain's source and its impact while intensifying monitoring to detect H7N9's further mutations, according to China CDC's website.

China has stepped up prevention of H7N9 avian flu transmission. It has been linked to at least 88 deaths since January. About 271 human infections cases were reported.

Most infected humans have had contact with poultry or dead birds. Among them were the two patients from Guangdong.

Bird flu is known to easily mutate. The public are concerned that a mutation might make it more infectious to humans, China CDC said on its website.

Zoonotic Bird Flu News - from 19 Feb 2017



 Vietnam enhances prevention of A/H7N9 virus entrance [SGGP, 19 Feb 2017]

images254578_bird-flu SGGP.jpg
Staffs of quanrantine stations in border crossing tighten monitor on illegal poultry smuggling (Photo: SGGP)

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development February 17 sent an urgent dispatch to cities and provinces and ministries, asking to enhance preventative measures against the entrance of bird flu virus A/H7N9 and other viruses into Vietnam.

As per the World Health Organization, in January, 2017, China has recorded 109 infection cases of bird flu meanwhile the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Animal Health said that in the month, many outbreaks of bird flu occurred in China; accordingly it is highly likely the virus will enter Vietnam.

Administrations in locals and the ministries of National Defense, of Public Security, of Industry and Trade, of Health, of Finance, of Transport liaised to prohibit transportation of poultry via border crossings and set up disease prevention management board which will work with the Department of Animal Health to increase monitoring illegal sales and transportation of water fowl and early detect the entrance of the fatal viruses.

Provincial people’s committees must establish quarantine stations to curb the wide spreading.

Health authority warned people not to sell, slaughter or eat ill or dead poultry without origin.

People should eat well-done food. Once discovering diseased or dead chicken, people must inform local administration immediately or animal heal body and they should go to medical facilities for timely treatment if they experience fever, cough, pain in chest, and breathing problem. 

According to the Ministry of Health, the Southeast Asian nation has not reported infection cases of A(H7N9) bird flu on human.



 H7N9 avian influenza: Vaccine trials approved, Hong Kong letter to providers [Outbreak News Today, 19 Feb 2017]

by ROBERT HERRIMAN

H7N9 21Feb2017.jpg
H7N9 avian influenza/ Cynthia S. Goldsmith and Thomas Rowe-CDC

Since the first human case of avian influenza A(H7N9) four years ago in Shanghai, the closest “official” tally of human cases now stand at 1160, according to the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection (CHP) as of Feb. 13.

In fact, since November 2016, at least 362 human cases have been reported in this most current “wave” of the disease.

According to a report today in the South China Morning Post, the Beijing Food and Drug
Administration has approved human trials of four vaccines for the H7N9 bird flu virus. The trials would comprise several phases. Scientists began testing potential H7N9 vaccines on animals soon after the first human case was reported in March 2013.

Researchers were initially hopeful that a human vaccine would be available “soon” but success has been hampered by technical, business and regulatory hurdles.

Hong Kong health authorities issued a letter to physicians this week concerning awareness of the avian flu virus and case criteria.

"In this regard, we would like to urge you to pay special attention to patients who presented with fever or influenza-like illness (ILI). Travel history and relevant exposure history during travel should be obtained from them. Please note that the history of possible exposure to poultry or contaminated environments may not be voluntarily told by the patients in the beginning. If patients report seeing any live poultry during their travel in the Mainland, detailed information on possible exposure to environments contaminated by poultry should be solicited from them. Any patients with acute respiratory illness or pneumonia, and with at-risk exposure (including live poultry – 3 – workers, history of visiting market with live poultry, contact with poultry, etc.) in affected areas within the incubation period (i.e. 10 days before onset of symptoms) should be managed as suspected cases and immediately reported to the Central Notification Office of the Centre for Health Protection (CHP)

Lastly, Avian Flu Diary reports on the discovery of virus mutation affecting the pathogenicity of the virus.



 Number of H5N6 bird flu cases rises to 17 (update) [Focus Taiwan News Channel, 19 Feb 2017]

Taipei, Feb. 19 (CNA) Two cases of the highly pathogenic H5N6 avian influenza infection were confirmed in Hsinchu and Tainan Sunday, bringing the total number of H5N6 cases around the country to 17 since Feb. 6, when Taiwan reported its first case, according to statistics released Sunday by the Council of Agriculture.

The council's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine said the latest two cases involve a chicken that was discarded in Hukou Township of Hsinchu County that was confirmed to have contracted H5N6 virus and a pheasant in Qigu, Tainan that was confirmed to have been infected with both H5N6 and H5N2.

Earlier in the day, the bureau reported three new cases confirmed Saturday, including one found on a chicken farm in Yunlin County, one on a goose farm in Chiayi County and the other involving ducks at a slaughter house in Yilan County.

As of Sunday, all the cases had been reported from 8 poultry farms in Hsinchu County, Yunlin County, Chiayi County, Tainan, Yilan County and Hualien County.

The recent outbreaks of the highly pathogenic H5N6 bird flu virus has put the authorities on high alert because it is highly contagious and transmittable to humans.

As part of ongoing efforts to contain the spread of the disease, the COA has banned the transportation and slaughtering of poultry for seven days starting from Feb. 17.

The outbreaks have led to the culling of 188,696 birds in 28 poultry farms across the island, including 18 in Yunlin, 5 in Chiayi, 3 in Tainan, and one each in Yilan and Hualien, according to the bureau.

(By Yang Su-ming, Evelyn Kao and S.C. Chang)



 Guangxi reports one H7N9 fatality [Shanghai Daily (subscription), 19 Feb 2017]

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A WOMAN infected with the H7N9 strain of bird flu in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region has died.

The patient, a 41-year-old woman with the surname Li, died around 8 a.m. Sunday in Nanning, the capital of Guangxi, the regional Health and Family Planning Commission said.

According to the commission, Li, who worked as a live poultry saleswoman, had complained of a fever and cough on Feb. 11. She was hospitalized on Feb. 16 and tests on Saturday confirmed she had contracted the disease.

None of those who had close contact with the woman have shown signs of infection. The commission has taken measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

H7N9 was first reported to have infected humans in China in March 2013. Infections are most likely in winter and spring.



 Vietnam enhances prevention of A/H7N9 virus entrance [SGGP, 19 Feb 2017]

By Van Phuc - Minh Khang, translated by Uyen Phuong

images254578_bird-flu.jpg
Staffs of quanrantine stations in border crossing tighten monitor on illegal poultry smuggling (Photo: SGGP)

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development February 17 sent an urgent dispatch to cities and provinces and ministries, asking to enhance preventative measures against the entrance of bird flu virus A/H7N9 and other viruses into Vietnam.

As per the World Health Organization, in January, 2017, China has recorded 109 infection cases of bird flu meanwhile the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Animal Health said that in the month, many outbreaks of bird flu occurred in China; accordingly it is highly likely the virus will enter Vietnam.

Administrations in locals and the ministries of National Defense, of Public Security, of Industry and Trade, of Health, of Finance, of Transport liaised to prohibit transportation of poultry via border crossings and set up disease prevention management board which will work with the Department of Animal Health to increase monitoring illegal sales and transportation of water fowl and early detect the entrance of the fatal viruses.

Provincial people’s committees must establish quarantine stations to curb the wide spreading.

Health authority warned people not to sell, slaughter or eat ill or dead poultry without origin.

People should eat well-done food. Once discovering diseased or dead chicken, people must inform local administration immediately or animal heal body and they should go to medical facilities for timely treatment if they experience fever, cough, pain in chest, and breathing problem. 

According to the Ministry of Health, the Southeast Asian nation has not reported infection cases of A(H7N9) bird flu on human.



 Number of H5N6 bird flu cases rises to 15 [Focus Taiwan News Channel, 19 Feb 2017]

201702190005t0001.jpg


Taipei, Feb. 19 (CNA) Three more cases of the highly pathogenic H5N6 avian influenza infection were confirmed Saturday, bringing the total number of H5N6 cases around the country to 15 since Feb. 6, when Taiwan reported its first case, according to statistics released Sunday by the Council of Agriculture.

The council's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine said the three confirmed new cases include one found on a chicken farm in Yunlin County, one on a goose farm in Chiayi County and the other involving ducks at a slaughter house in Yilan County.

As of Sunday, all the cases had been reported from poultry farms in Yunlin County, Chiayi County, Tainan, Yilan County and Hualien County.

The recent outbreaks of the highly pathogenic H5N6 bird flu virus has put the authorities on high alert because it is highly contagious and transmittable to humans.

As part of ongoing efforts to contain the spread of the disease, the COA has banned the transportation and slaughtering of poultry for seven days starting from Feb. 17.

The outbreaks have led to the culling of 7,955 birds, including 4,678 chickens, 2,690 ducks and 587 geese. In addition, 6,855 duck carcasses have been destroyed, according to the bureau.

(By Yang Su-ming and Evelyn Kao)



 Hard to detect, deadly China bird flu virus may be more widespread [The Japan Times, 19 Feb 2017]

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Chickens are seen at a poultry farm outside Hefei, China, in this file photo. | REUTERS

BEIJING – Bird flu infection rates on Chinese poultry farms may be far higher than previously thought, because the strain of the deadly virus that has killed more than 100 people this winter is hard to detect in chickens and geese, animal health experts say.

Poultry that have contracted the H7N9 strain of the avian flu virus show little or no sign of symptoms. That means any infection is only likely to be detected if farmers or health authorities carry out random tests on a flock, the experts said.

But in humans, it can be deadly.

That is different from other strains, such as the highly pathogenic H5N6 that struck South Korean farms in December, prompting the government to call in the army to help cull some 26 million birds.

But that strain didn’t kill any people.

There have been multiple outbreaks of bird flu around the world in recent months, with at least half a dozen different strains circulating. The scale of the outbreaks and range of viral strains increases the chances of viruses mixing and mutating, with new versions that can spread more easily between people, experts say.

For now, H7N9 is thought to be relatively difficult to spread between people. China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention has said the vast majority of people infected by H7N9 reported exposure to poultry, especially at live markets.

“There are very few, if any, clinical signs when this (H7N9) virus infects birds, and that’s the main reason we’re not seeing reporting coming from poultry farms in China,” said Matthew Stone, deputy director general for International Standards and Science at the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

As many as 79 people died from H7N9 bird flu in China in January alone, up to four times higher than the same month in past years.

While spikes in contamination rates are normal in January — the main influenza season — the high level of human infections has prompted fears the spread of the virus among people could be the highest on record — especially as the number of bird flu cases reported by farmers has been conspicuously low.

The high number of human infections points to a significant outbreak in the poultry population that is not being detected, says Guan Yi, director of the State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Center of Influenza Research at the University of Hong Kong.

“If we have so many human infections, naturally it reflects activity, an intensive outbreak in chickens. They are highly associated,” he said.

China has the world’s largest flock of chickens, ducks and geese, and slaughtered more than 11 billion birds for meat in 2014, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The last major bird flu outbreak in China, in 2013, killed 36 people and cost the farming industry around $6.5 billion.

The experts’ assessment underscores the challenge for China’s government and health ministry in monitoring and controlling the H7N9 outbreak in both people and poultry.

While, with few visible signs of infection in birds, it’s easier for farmers to flout the reporting rules and continue selling poultry at market, Stone at the OIE said China has a “very significant” surveillance program at live markets.

The government promised on Thursday to tighten controls on markets and poultry transport to help battle the virus.

The agriculture ministry last month collected more than 102,000 serum samples and 55,000 virological samples from birds in 26 provinces. Of the latter samples, only 26 tested positive for the virus, according to data on the ministry’s website.

But the rapid rise in human infections and spread to a wider geographic area is likely to increase pressure on Beijing to do more poultry testing at markets and on farms.

The ministry did not respond to faxed questions on its surveillance efforts.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission said on Thursday the spread of H7N9 among people was slowing.

Some Chinese netizens have called for more timely reports on infections, and some experts have said China has been slow to respond to the human outbreak. The authorities have warned the public to stay alert for the virus, cautioning against panic.

Others played down the threat to humans, as long as they stay away from live markets.

“As scientists, we should be watching this outbreak and the effectiveness of any control measures,” said Ian Mackay, a virologist and associate professor at the University of Queensland in Australia. “We don’t have a vaccine available for H7N9 in humans, but we do have effective anti-virals.”

“So far, the virus does not spread well between humans,” he added. “As members of the public, who do not seek out live poultry from markets in China, we have almost nothing to worry about from H7N9 right now.”



 China approves human trials of vaccine for deadly bird flu strain [South China Morning Post, 19 Feb 2017]

by Stephen Chen

Scientists say mild outbreaks in previous years had limited commercial interest in a solution

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The Chinese mainland has approved human trials of four vaccines for the H7N9 bird flu virus as authorities struggle to contain the deadliest outbreak of the disease to hit the country.

In January alone, the virus killed 79 people. Among the latest victims were a 23-year-old woman and her three-year-old daughter in Yunnan province.

The trials would comprise several phases, Xinhua reported on Thursday. Scientists began testing potential H7N9 vaccines on animals soon after the first human case was reported in March 2013.

Researchers were initially hopeful that a human vaccine would be available “soon” but success has been hampered by technical, business and regulatory hurdles.

Dr Shi Yi, viral infection researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Microbiology, described H7N9 as a “serial killer with two faces”.

Shi’s team, which studied the viral strain after the 2013 outbreak, was puzzled by the virus’ ability to spread and kill. The virus in humans spread quickly too, but was far less lethal, Shi said.

It affects the upper respiratory tract – which allows it to be transmitted easily through saliva – but usually spares the lungs. Other deadly bird flu viruses, such as H5N1, usually affect the lungs and cause great discomfort for their victims but spread less effectively.

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H7N9 targeted both the upper throat and the lungs, enabling it to not only spread quickly but also to inflict lethal damage on its victims, Shi said.

The unique nature of this viral strain posed technological challenges to developing a human vaccine for it, but there were also other obstacles, Shi said.

With the H7N9 outbreaks being relatively mild in recent years, commercial interest to develop the vaccine had been limited as there was little demand, he said.

“It is hard to persuade a vaccine company [to invest] without the promise of profit,” Shi said.

A publicly available vaccine could take eight to 20 years, ­according to mainland media ­reports.
“We should work harder to speed up the pace of vaccine development because it is the only method to save a large population from a possible outbreak of the deadly virus,” Shi said.

Professor Zhou Demin, dean of Peking University’s School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, said he felt sorry for patients who were suffering or dying from diseases that could be cured by drugs under development.

Zhou’s team published a study last year on Science, a US academic journal, about a groundbreaking technology to quickly develop vaccines for almost any virus and effectively cure ongoing infections.

Since then, patients with HIV/Aids and other presently incurable diseases have sought him out in his office frequently, he said.

But the technology requires at least three to five years to pass regulatory checks before it can be tested on humans, according to Zhou.

“It is really sad to watch people dying with a possible cure in hand,” he said. “But we are scientists, not doctors. All we can do is communicate with government regulators to accelerate approval for new drugs.”

Zoonotic Bird Flu News - from 17 till 18 Feb 2017



 China Fights Spread of Deadly Avian Virus [New York Times, 18 Feb 2017]

By CHRIS BUCKLEY

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A patient infected with the H7N9 flu virus was recently treated at a hospital in Wuhan, in China’s Hubei Province. Credit Chinatopix, via Associated Press

BEIJING — The Chinese authorities are battling a surge in H7N9 “bird flu” infections, and have shuttered live poultry markets across the country after dozens of people in recent weeks were killed by the disease.

As of Friday, health officials confirmed eight deaths and 77 diagnosed cases just in February, according to Xinhua, the state news agency.

Last month, 192 people in China learned they had the virus, and 79 of them died, according to official numbers released on Tuesday. The strain, H7N9, is an avian influenza virus that can infect people who come in close contact with infected live or newly killed birds.

The latest deaths include a woman in her twenties and her young daughter, who both had contact with live poultry. In rural and small-town China, many residents prefer to buy live chickens, ducks and geese that are slaughtered on the spot or at home. China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission has banned sales of live poultry in some areas across eastern, southern and southwestern China. The eastern province of Zhejiang ordered all live-poultry markets closed.

Nearly all of the confirmed infections have come from direct contact with birds. But experts worry that the virus could eventually mutate into one that passes easily between people.

The first confirmed outbreak of H7N9 in humans was in 2013 in China. Each subsequent winter and spring has seen a spike in new cases. This year’s resurgence is the deadliest in four years.

In January 2016, Chinese health authorities recorded 28 human infections, including five deaths. Since November, there have been at least 355 confirmed H7N9 cases in mainland China, according to the Hong Kong Center for Health Protection.

An outbreak of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which spread across China in 2003, deeply damaged public trust in the government after senior officials tried to conceal its spread. At least 336 people died in China from the outbreak, and hundreds more died abroad. Since then, the Chinese government has improved its monitoring of communicable diseases.

In Chongqing, a sprawling municipality in southwest China, three people were detained by the police for spreading rumors that bird flu had been found there, the police said on Friday. The police in Hubei Province in central China also detained a woman accused of spreading false rumors about the virus.



 Taiwan culls 150,000 poultry following bird flu outbreak across island [South China Morning Post, 18 Feb 2017]

by Minnie Chan

Eleven farms confirmed infected with variant of virus transmittable to humans

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Animal quarantine authorities in Taiwan have slaughtered at least 150,000 poultry after an outbreak of the bird flu in many counties and cities on the self-ruled island.

On Saturday, 11 farms in Hualien, Tainan, Chiayi and Yunlin were confirmed as having been infected with the H5N6 virus, which is highly contagious and transmittable to humans, according to the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine under the Council of Agriculture.

In Yunlin county, Taiwan's top poultry producer, more than 22,000 chickens on a farm in Shuilin were culled with the help of the military on Saturday as part of efforts to fight the virus, the official Central News Agency reported.

At least nine farms around Taiwan were confirmed as having been infected with the H5N6 virus since February 6, according to the agriculture council. The authorities identified the island’s first case of a type H5 virus in a dead goose in Hualien on February 2, putting the island’s poultry industry on high alert.

More type H5 virus was found on many farms, including 400 dead chickens discarded by farmers in Hsinchu county on Thursday.

In order to contain the spread of the virus, the council banned the transportation and slaughter of poultry for seven days, starting from Friday.

The Taipei city government said on Friday it had detected bird flu in a chicken slaughtered at the city’s poultry wholesale market two days ago.

The bird was one in a batch of 2,450 chickens from a farm in southern Taiwan’s Kaohsiung that had been sent to Taipei for sale, according to Taipei’s Department of Economic Development.

It was reported to animal quarantine authorities for tests after it was found with suspicious symptoms including swollen eyes; red skin on its abdomen, legs and wings; and intestinal bleeding, decay and necrosis, while being slaughtered on Wednesday, the department said.

Test results released on Friday indicate the chicken was infected with the H5N2 virus, which is not transmittable to humans, the department said, urging the public not to panic.

The recent outbreaks of the highly pathogenic H5N6 bird flu in Taiwan have put authorities on high alert because that variant is highly contagious and transmittable to humans.

Last year, the agriculture council encouraged poultry farmers to report outbreak by subsidising them for up to 60 per cent of any losses.



 China Bird Flu Is Hard to Detect [US News, 17 Feb 2017]

Poultry that have contracted the H7N9 strain of the avian flu virus show little or no sign of symptoms. In humans, however, it can be deadly.

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A quarantine researcher checks on a chicken at a poultry farm in Xiangyang, Hubei province, China, earlier this month. (REUTERS/STRINGER)

By Dominique Patton

BEIJING (Reuters) - Bird flu infection rates on Chinese poultry farms may be far higher than previously thought, because the strain of the deadly virus that has killed more than 100 people this winter is hard to detect in chickens and geese, animal health experts say.

Poultry that have contracted the H7N9 strain of the avian flu virus show little or no sign of symptoms. That means any infection is only likely to be detected if farmers or health authorities carry out random tests on a flock, the experts said.

But in humans, it can be deadly.

That's different to other strains, such as the highly pathogenic H5N6 that struck South Korean farms in December, prompting the government to call in the army to help cull some 26 million birds.

But that strain didn't kill any people.

There have been multiple outbreaks of bird flu around the world in recent months, with at least half a dozen different strains circulating. The scale of the outbreaks and range of viral strains increases the chances of viruses mixing and mutating, with new versions that can spread more easily between people, experts say.

For now, H7N9 is thought to be relatively difficult to spread between people. China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention has said the vast majority of people infected by H7N9 reported exposure to poultry, especially at live markets.

"There are very few, if any, clinical signs when this (H7N9) virus infects birds, and that's the main reason we're not seeing reporting coming from poultry farms in China," said Matthew Stone, deputy director general for International Standards and Science at the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

INTENSIVE OUTBREAK

As many as 79 people died from H7N9 bird flu in China in January alone, up to four times higher than the same month in past years.

While spikes in contamination rates are normal in January - the main influenza season - the high level of human infections has prompted fears the spread of the virus among people could be the highest on record - especially as the number of bird flu cases reported by farmers has been conspicuously low.

The high number of human infections points to a significant outbreak in the poultry population that is not being detected, says Guan Yi, director of the State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Center of Influenza Research at the University of Hong Kong.

"If we have so many human infections, naturally it reflects activity, an intensive outbreak in chickens. They are highly associated," he said.

China has the world's largest flock of chickens, ducks and geese, and slaughtered more than 11 billion birds for meat in 2014, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The last major bird flu outbreak in China, in 2013, killed 36 people and cost the farming industry around $6.5 billion.

CONTROL CHALLENGE

The experts' assessment underscores the challenge for China's government and health ministry in monitoring and controlling the H7N9 outbreak in both people and poultry.

While, with few visible signs of infection in birds, it's easier for farmers to flout the reporting rules and continue selling poultry at market, Stone at the OIE said China has a "very significant" surveillance program at live markets.

The government promised on Thursday to tighten controls on markets and poultry transport to help battle the virus.

The agriculture ministry last month collected more than 102,000 serum samples and 55,000 virological samples from birds in 26 provinces. Of the latter samples, only 26 tested positive for the virus, according to data on the ministry's website.

But the rapid rise in human infections and spread to a wider geographic area is likely to increase pressure on Beijing to do more poultry testing at markets and on farms.

The ministry did not respond to faxed questions on its surveillance efforts.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission said on Thursday the spread of H7N9 among people was slowing.

Some Chinese netizens have called for more timely reports on infections, and some experts have said China has been slow to respond to the human outbreak. The authorities have warned the public to stay alert for the virus, cautioning against panic.

Others played down the threat to humans, as long as they stay away from live markets.

"As scientists, we should be watching this outbreak and the effectiveness of any control measures," said Ian Mackay, a virologist and associate professor at the University of Queensland in Australia. "We don't have a vaccine available for H7N9 in humans, but we do have effective antivirals."

"So far, the virus does not spread well between humans," he added. "As members of the public, who do not seek out live poultry from markets in China, we have almost nothing to worry about from H7N9 right now."

(Reporting by Dominique Patton in BEIJING, with additional reporting by Ben Hirschler in LONDON; Editing by Josephine Mason and Ian Geoghegan)



 Woman detained for spreading bird flu rumors [ORI English, 18 Feb 2017]

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Around 269 H7H9 human infections from nearly 16 provinces have been reported this year. [Photo: finance.sina.com]

A woman in central China's Hubei Province was detained for spreading rumors of a deadly bird flu outbreak, police said Saturday.

A post went viral on China's biggest social network, WeChat, Thursday saying an outbreak of H7N9 human infection had attacked eight medical workers and some family members after a villager in the suburbs of Xiantao City came down with the epidemic.

The post caused widespread panic and police launched an investigation, only to find it was sheer fabrication.

A woman surnamed Chen surrendered herself to police Thursday night, saying she had fabricated the rumor and spread it on WeChat.

She was put in detention for five days starting Friday.

China has stepped up prevention of human H7N9 avian flu which has led to 87 deaths at least nationwide since January. In addition, 269 H7N9 human infections have been reported in China this year.

The latest case was reported in southwest China's Guizhou Province on Friday. The patient, 45, was from Danzhai County in the Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture of Qiandongnan.

All close contacts were under clinical observation and no signs of infection had been detected so far, the provincial health and family planning commission said Saturday.



 Bird Flu Spread in China Slowing Down [China Christian Daily, 18 Feb 2017]

By Mei Manuel

4935 By Mei Manuel.jpg


On Thursday, Chinese health authorities announced that the deadly strain of bird flu affecting China is now slowing down and that they are now working on enforcing stricter policies to control the market and the transport of live poultry to stop the spread of the virus.

In January, at least 79 people died from the H7N9 bird flu virus according to the government.

These numbers are up to four times more than the previous record in previous years. Some even say this is the worst bird flu crisis felt by the country on record.

Authorities have warned against panic and urged precautions to be enforced by the public against the outbreak. Nevertheless, the numbers triggered concern of a repeat of previous health crises, such as the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2002.

From Sunday to Tuesday this week, eight new human infections of H7N9 avian flu were reported, indicating the rate had slowed from the previous weeks according to the announcement of the National Health and Family Planning Commision.

"The national epidemic situation clearly shows a downwards trend," it said.

From Feb. 6 to Feb. 12, 69 new cases, including 8 deaths, had been reported, with just three of the 69 reported on Sunday.

To fight the spread of the virus even further, the commission is urging stronger monitoring, besides suspending or permanently closing live poultry markets and tightening curbs on bird transport.

"Once the virus is discovered, immediately investigate and take targeted measures to prevent the epidemic's spread," as cited in the statement.

Chicken prices have sunk in the world's second largest poultry consumer due to the outbreak.

The spread of the virus among fowl in China follows major outbreaks in poultry flocks in neighboring South Korea and Japan.

Exposure to live poultry markets is the "crucial factor" in human infections according to the Chinese health commission and added that the virus had not mutated to spread from human to human.

The greatest fear is that a deadly strain of avian flu could mutate into a pandemic form that can be passed easily between people.

The World Health Organization has said it had not been able to rule out limited human-to-human spread in two clusters of China's cases.

Though H7N9 has spread widely and early this year, most cases were confined to the same areas similar to previous years, which includes the Yangtze River delta and the southern region of Guangdong.

On Saturday, Beijing reported its first human H7N9 case this year, a 68-year-old man from Langfang city, Hebei Province. A second human case was reported in the same region on Tuesday.



 Woman held for spreading rumours about bird flu [India Today, 18 Feb 2017]

by K J M Varma

Beijing, Feb 18 (PTI) A Chinese woman has been detained for allegedly spreading rumours of a deadly bird flu outbreak, causing widespread panic in Chinas central Hubei Province.

A post went viral on Chinas biggest social network, WeChat, saying an outbreak of H7N9 human infection had attacked eight medical workers and some family members after a villager in the suburbs of Xiantao City was infected with bird flu.

The post caused widespread panic and police launched an investigation, only to find it was sheer fabrication, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

A woman, surnamed Chen, surrendered herself to police on Thursday night, saying she had fabricated the rumour and spread it on the social networking website.

She has been put in detention for five days starting yesterday.

China has stepped up prevention of human H7N9 avian flu which has led to 87 deaths nationwide since January.

In addition, 269 H7N9 human infections have been reported in China this year.

The latest case was reported in Chinas southwestern Guizhou Province yesterday. The patient, 45, was from Danzhai County in Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture of Qiandongnan.

All close contacts were under clinical observation and no signs of infection have been detected so far, the provincial health and family planning commission said.



 People warned against feeding wild birds amid avian flu scare [Focus Taiwan News Channel, 18 Feb 2017]

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Courtesy of the Taichung City Government

Taipei, Feb. 18 (CNA) Several cities have warned the public not to feed wild birds in parks, at risk of stiff fines, amid an avian flu scare.

The Taipei City government has stepped up its campaign, posting warning signs in 14 of the city's bigger parks.

City officials said people could be exposed to bird excrement when feeding the birds, increasing the risk of infection.

As the feeding could also pollute the environment, bird feeders could face fines of between NT$1,200 (US$39) and NT$6,000 for violation of the Waste Disposal Act, the officials said.

The Taichung City government said Saturday that it will step up inspections of its parks, and said that people who do not heed the warning and feed birds will face fines of up to NT$10,000.

The Tainan City government issued a similar warning Saturday, urging the public to keep away from birds or face fines.

Tainan has also disinfected locations frequented by wild doves, and has stepped up a crackdown on people feeding birds in public areas.

Since Feb. 6, 11 farms in Hualien, Tainan, Chiayi and Yunlin have been confirmed as having been infected with the highly pathogenic H5N6 avian influenza virus, according to the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine under the Council of Agriculture.

The outbreak of H5N6 has put authorities on high alert because it is both highly contagious and transmittable to humans.

The government banned the transportation of poultry for seven days starting on Feb. 17, as part of ongoing efforts to contain the spread of the disease.

(By Hau Hsueh-ching, Chang Jung-hsiang and Lilian Wu)



 CHINA BATTLING BIRD FLU SURGE [KTIC, 18 Feb 2017]

Thinkstock_021817_Lab.jpg
Image Source/Thinkstock

(BEIJING) — China is experiencing a surge in H7N9 “bird flu” infections.
According to the New York Times, on Friday, officials have confirmed eight deaths and 77 new diagnoses in February.

Authorities have closed live poultry markets across the country in an attempt to slow down the spread of the deadly virus.

The ban was implemented after a woman in her twneties and her young daughter both died after coming in contact with live poultry, the New York Times reported.

Experts fear that the virus could mutate into one that can easily pass between people.



 10 steps to prevent contracting bird flu [Taiwan News, 18 Feb 2017]

By Keoni Everington

Taiwan CDC lists 10 steps to minimize the risk of being exposed to the H5N6 bird flu virus

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Chicken farmer in Kaohsiung (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- With reports of H5N6 bird flu being detected in Taipei on Friday, and though human cases of the disease are rare, it has a high mortality rate of up to 70 percent according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), therefore it is prudent to take some common sense measures to avoid contracting this deadly disease.

The Council of Agriculture (COA) announced on Thursday that the transportation of poultry will be banned for seven days beginning Friday as a measure to combat the spread of bird flu.

The new transportation ban will not apply to one-day-old chicks, chickens raised indoors and sent to slaughterhouses straightaway, and to eggs washed or sanitized and certified by officially approved veterinarians, the COA said.

To better inform the public, the CDC has provided a list of 10 ways to minimize the risk of contracting H5N6:

1. Maintain good air circulation when indoors

2. Wash your hands with soap
Avoid touching nose and eyes.

3. Develop good personal hygiene habits
Maintain a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and get plenty of rest.

4. Be sure to cook poultry and eggs thoroughly
Immediately wash hands after handling raw poultry and eggs and thoroughly wash knives and cutting boards before re-use.

5. Do not buy the meat of birds or eggs of unknown origin

6. Do not purchase or feed birds of unknown origin, or smuggle birds

7. Avoid contact with birds and their secretions
If you inadvertently come in contact with either, carefully wash your hands with soap.

8. Avoid poultry slaughter houses, poultry farms, and live poultry markets
Avoid such facilities unless absolutely necessary and wear protective gear when going to such locations.

9. Poultry workers should wear protective gear
During the course of operations, poultry workers should wear protective gear such as protective suits, masks, gloves, shoes, and goggles to avoid infection through direct or indirect contact (such as touching the eyes, nose and mouth). Carry out a thorough cleaning after work is complete.

10. Seek medical attention if you exhibit severe flu-like symptoms
If you experience symptoms such as fever, runny nose, sneezing, muscle soreness, headache, extreme fatigue and other flu-like symptoms, wear a mask and seek medication attention as soon as possible. Be sure to inform the doctor of any contact with you have had birds, type of work done and recent travel history to facilitate treatment.

Is it safe to eat chicken?

So far, there have been no known cases of people becoming infected after eating "cooked" poultry products.

However in the case of smuggled food that lacks quality control and supervision of its acquisition, storage, slaughter, processing, and delivery, it is difficult to assess its level of sanitation and safety. Therefore, avoid buying meat sources from unknown origins to minimize the risk of infection.

The CDC has also provided a list of "5 Dos and 6 Don'ts" to avoid bird flu:
5 Do's
1. Poultry and eggs should be cooked thoroughly
2. Wash hands thoroughly with soap after handling poultry
3. If suspicious symptoms arise, wear a mask and seek medical treatment immediately, and be sure to mention any recent contact with poultry
4. Those who frequently come in contact with birds should get flu shots
5. Eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly

6 Don'ts
1. Don't eat raw poultry or egg products
2. Do not smuggle or buy unidentified poultry meat
3. Do not come into contact with or feed migratory birds or resident birds
4. Do not release birds into the wild or let them roam free
5. Do not go to places with poor air circulation or very crowded areas

If you have further questions about bird flu, go to the CDC website or call the free epidemic prevention hotline at 1922 or 0800-001922



 China fights new wave of bird-flu virus as dozens die [The Seattle Times, 18 Feb 2017]

By CHRIS BUCKLEY

Health officials confirmed eight deaths and 77 diagnosed cases in February alone, according to Xinhua, the state news agency. Last month, 192 people in China learned they had the virus, and 79 of them died.

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China halted sales at many poultry markets because people can contract bird flu by contact with infected birds. (AP)

BEIJING — Chinese authorities are battling a surge in H7N9 bird-flu infections and have shuttered live poultry markets across the country after dozens of people in recent weeks were killed by the disease.

As of Friday, health officials confirmed eight deaths and 77 diagnosed cases in February alone, according to Xinhua, the state news agency.

Last month, 192 people in China learned they had the virus, and 79 of them died, according to official numbers released Tuesday. The strain, H7N9, is a bird virus that can infect people who come in close contact with infected live or newly killed birds.

The latest deaths include a woman in her twenties and her young daughter, who both had contact with live poultry.

In rural and small-town China, many residents prefer to buy live chickens, ducks and geese that are slaughtered on the spot or at home. China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission has banned sales of live poultry in some areas across eastern, southern and southwestern China. The eastern province of Zhejiang ordered all live-poultry markets closed.
Nearly all the confirmed infections have come from direct contact with birds. But experts worry the virus could mutate into one that passes easily between people.

The first confirmed outbreak of H7N9 in humans was in 2013 in China. Each subsequent winter and spring have seen a spike in new cases. This year’s resurgence is the deadliest in four years. In January 2016, Chinese health authorities recorded 28 human infections, including five deaths. Since November, there have been at least 355 confirmed H7N9 cases in mainland China, according to the Hong Kong Center for Health Protection.

An outbreak of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which spread across China in 2003, damaged public trust in the government after senior officials tried to conceal its spread. At least 336 people died in China from the outbreak, and hundreds more died abroad. Since then, the Chinese government has improved its monitoring of communicable diseases.

In Chongqing, a sprawling municipality in southwest China, three people were detained by the police for spreading rumors that bird flu had been found there, the police said Friday.



 ‘Largest pandemic in 100 years’ threatens China as bird flu spreads [RT, 18 Feb 2017]

China could be facing the worst bout of bird flu to hit the country in a century, with Avian Influenza A(H7N9) accounting for the deaths of 79 people in January from the 192 human cases reported so far.

The outbreak has been described as the “worst season since the virus first appeared in the country in 2013,” by members of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Guan Yi, an expert in emerging viral diseases at the University of Hong Kong in China, said the surge in human cases is a cause for grave concern. “We are facing the largest pandemic threat in the last 100 years,” he told Science.

Between December 20, 2016 and January 16, 2017, a total of 918 laboratory-confirmed cases of human infections as well as 359 deaths from H7N9 worldwide have been reported to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Until it was detected in China in March 2013, the virus hadn’t been seen in people or animals, apart from birds. Although it “does not appear to transmit easily from person to person,” the disease is raising concern because “most patients have become severely ill,” the WHO says.

As a rule, infection with the A(H7N9) virus is marked by fever, cough, respiratory problems and rapidly progressing pneumonia. “Severe illness and fatal outcome have been more frequently observed in pregnant women, in older persons and those with underlying chronic conditions,” according to research published by the WHO last week.

At this stage, it’s thought that most of the cases of human infection can be traced to “recent exposure to live poultry or potentially contaminated environments,” with poultry markets of particular concern. To date, A(H7N9) virus has not been reported in poultry populations outside China, according to the WHO.

Four previous epidemics have been observed in China between February 2013 and September 2016, with this outbreak now officially classed as the fifth.

Among the possible reasons for the sudden increase of H7N9 cases is “increased environmental contamination by the H7N9 virus,” while Ni Daxin, deputy director of emergency response for the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Wednesday that weather conditions and “the local habits of buying live or freshly slaughtered chickens,” have also helped spread the virus.

The closing of live poultry markets has helped to slow down the spread of the virus, however, according to Ni. “If the public buys only frozen poultry, control of the epidemic will be much easier. The nutritional value is equal to that of freshly slaughtered poultry, but it involves far fewer health risks.”



 China says bird flu spread slows, vows to stiffen controls [Arab News, 17 Feb 2017]

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H7N9 bird flu patient being treated in a hospital in Wuhan, central China's Hubei province. (AFP)

BEIJING: The spread of a deadly strain of bird flu in China is slowing, health authorities said on
Thursday, as they vowed to tighten controls on markets and the transport of live poultry to battle the virus.

As many as 79 people died from H7N9 bird flu in January, the government has said, or up to four times more than the corresponding figure in previous years, stoking worries this season’s spread of the virus could be the worst on record.

Authorities have warned against panic and urged precautions, but nevertheless the numbers triggered concern of a repeat of previous health crises, such as the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2002.

From Sunday to Tuesday this week, eight new human infections of H7N9 avian flu were reported, indicating the rate had slowed from the previous reporting period, the National Health and Family Planning Commision (NHFPC) said on its website.

“The national epidemic situation clearly shows a downwards trend,” it said.

From Feb. 6 to Feb. 12, 69 new cases, including 8 deaths, had been reported, with just three of the 69 reported on Sunday.

To fight the spread, the commission is urging stronger monitoring, besides suspending or permanently closing live poultry markets and tightening curbs on bird transport, it said. “Once the virus is discovered, immediately investigate and take targeted measures to prevent the epidemic’s spread,” it added.

Chicken prices have sunk in the world’s second largest poultry consumer.

The spread of the virus among fowl in China follows major outbreaks in poultry flocks in neighboring South Korea and Japan.



 Bird Flu Infection Rate In China Higher Than Estimated, Virus Harder To Detect [The Marshall Town, 17 Feb 2017]

BY JAMES BROWN

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Photo: Ella Mullins | Flickr

Bird Flu has reared its ugly head in China, leading to fears of a worldwide epidemic, with the discovery that the H7N9 strain of avian flu virus is responsible for the outbreak.

It is believed that infection rates due to Bird Flu on poultry farms in the country are possibly higher than thought earlier, as the H7N9 strain has been instrumental in killing over 100 people this winter.

Animal experts share that this strain of the virus is deadly as it is difficult to detect the same in geese and chicken.

According to the experts, poultry which has been affected by the H7N9 strain show no symptoms or negligible signs of being affected. This implies that the infection can only be detected if health officials or the farmers themselves conduct sporadic tests on their poultry.

“There are very few, if any, clinical signs when this (H7N9) virus infects birds, and that’s the main reason we’re not seeing reporting coming from poultry farms in China,” shared Matthew Stone, the Deputy Director General For International Standards and Science at the World Organization for Animal Health,.

However, while the poultry may not be impacted by the virus’ effects, it is a different story when it comes to humans. The H7N9 strain of avian flu can be detrimental in the case of humans per experts.

In December 2016, South Korean farms were affected by the H5N6 strain of the avian flu. This prompted the culling of nearly 26 million birds in the country. However, this strain was not responsible for any deaths.

On the other hand, the H7N9 has impacted humans, killing more than 100 people in China, which bears testimony to its detrimental effects.

China saw a massive outbreak of the H7N9 virus in January, which according to reports are considered to be four times higher than the 2015 outbreak and around 79 people died due to the same this year.

The main reason behind this massive death is due to lack of early detection of the virus strain in the poultry farms.

According to the reports by the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), China is considered to have the largest group of ducks, chicken, and geese, out of which around 11 billion birds were slaughtered in 2014.

Per the Centre For Disease Control and Prevention in China, people who were affected with the H7N9 virus were found to have direct connection with poultry, as well as the live markets there.

In light of the latest outbreak, on Thursday, Feb. 16, the Chinese Government promised to exercise more control on poultry farms and the transport of chicken and geese to help battle the epidemic, which poses a grave threat to human life.



 Woman detained for spreading bird flu rumors [China.org, 17 Feb 2017]

A woman in central China's Hubei Province was detained for spreading rumors of a deadly bird flu outbreak, police said Saturday.

A post went viral on China's biggest social network, WeChat, Thursday saying an outbreak of
H7N9 human infection had attacked eight medical workers and some family members after a villager in the suburbs of Xiantao City came down with the epidemic.

The post caused widespread panic and police launched an investigation, only to find it was sheer fabrication.

A woman surnamed Chen surrendered herself to police Thursday night, saying she had fabricated the rumor and spread it on WeChat.

She was put in detention for five days starting Friday.

China has stepped up prevention of human H7N9 avian flu which has led to 87 deaths at least nationwide since January. In addition, 269 H7N9 human infections have been reported in China this year.

The latest case was reported in southwest China's Guizhou Province on Friday. The patient, 45, was from Danzhai County in the Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture of Qiandongnan.

All close contacts were under clinical observation and no signs of infection had been detected so far, the provincial health and family planning commission said Saturday.



 (Avian flu) Poultry from Poland, Italy, and Britain banned [Hong Kong Standard (press release), 17 Feb 2017]

Poultry meat and eggs from Poland, Italy and Briatin have been have been banned in view of outbreaks of highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza in cenratin area of those countries, the Centre for Food Safety announced.

A spokesman said Hong Kong imported 20,500 tons of frozen poultry meat and 4.8 million poultry eggs from Poland, 3,300 tons of frozen poultry meat and 250,000 poultry eggs from Italy, and 16,000 tons of frozen and chilled poultry meat and 700,000 poultry eggs from the UK last year.



 Understanding waterfowl patterns to assess risk of bird flu [Delaware First Media, 17 Feb 2017]

By KATIE PEIKES

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 A chicken shows signs of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza: Swelling of the tissue around the eyes and neck. FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF USDA.

The Delmarva Peninsula lies under the Atlantic Migratory flyway, a path waterfowl migrate through. As Europe deals with recent outbreaks of a severe strain of Avian Influenza, some local poultry growers worry that just one infected bird passing through the region could contaminate and kill whole flocks of chickens.

That’s why poultry growers across Delmarva take precautions to avoid the possibility of the virus traveling from outside of the farm to the respiratory systems of their chickens. And research is being done that could help farmers better understand waterfowl patterns so they can prepare for when the virus surfaces.

Delaware Public Media's Katie Peikes reports on possible repercussions an avian flu could have and new research that could help avert that scenario.

Before Georgie Cartanza can check on her chickens at her Dover farm, she has to disinfect. She zips up a pair of disposable coveralls, veils her hair underneath a hair net, steps in dry chlorine and applies hand sanitizer. It’s all part of biosecurity to protect chickens at her farm from disease - including deadly strains of bird flu.

Delmarva has not seen a fatal case of bird flu in over 10 years; but the devastation it could bring keeps farmers like Cartanza on their toes. The virus naturally occurs in waterfowl, but if a highly pathogenic form gets into a chicken’s respiratory system, it could cause severe disease and increased mortality. And with every breath, one chicken can spread it to the rest of the flock.

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 CREDIT KATIE PEIKES / DELAWARE PUBLIC MEDIA

“The reality is right now we go in with the mindset that it’s here and we’ve got to prevent it from getting in here,” Cartanza said. “We assume that any migratory bird can be a carrier."
Delaware’s State Veterinarian Heather Hirst said with the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza - a highly fatal form of the flu now in Europe and the Middle East - that's the right approach.

“Wild birds migrate and can carry the virus in their feces,” Hirst said. “And so wherever they fly over, they can introduce the virus to domestic poultry. Just because the highly pathogenic flu is in Europe and the Middle East doesn’t mean those birds can’t travel over here this winter or next winter and spread the same virus to our birds.”

Part of the reason poultry farmers are always taking precautions to prevent the possibility of the Avian Flu from coming to their farms is because an outbreak in the 4,700 chicken houses across Delmarva could shut down the region’s $3.2 billion dollar poultry industry. Maryland State Veterinarian Michael Radebaugh said if an extreme case like that happened, it could even close trade overseas.

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 CREDIT KATIE PEIKES

“It only takes one duck that is infected with this virus who is not showing any signs - a grain of fecal material in that duck that’s infected with the virus - can spread to one million birds,” Radebaugh said.

So understanding the comings and goings of waterfowl is crucial, and that’s what University of Delaware and University of California Davis researchers are trying to do. University of Delaware wildlife ecology professor Jeff Buler said the group is using weather surveillance radar to chart migration - following waterfowl like a meteorologist watches precipitation moving.

“One idea is we could use it to basically have a risk threat assessment based on where the waterfowl are located in certain areas, that could alert farmers to know, ‘your farm is at a high risk now because there are waterfowl located near your farm’,” Buler said.

This research is mostly being done in California but the team conducted a preliminary trial in Delaware.

“We identified six hotspot locations of where waterfowl tend to congregate here in Delaware,” Buler said.

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 "Radar reflectivity depicting the average densities of waterfowl gathered in agricultural fields and wetlands during the winter of 2014-2015 near Sacramento, CA.” CREDIT COURTESY OF JEFF BULER

One of those is Bombay Hook - just 10 miles from Cartanza’s poultry farm in Dover. Another hotspot is the Choptank River along Maryland’s eastern shore.

Buler said it’s the first time weather radar is being used in a disease ecology framework, and Georgie Cartanza said it sounds like it could help her Dover farm.

“We may learn the behaviors of the birds and it may also help us, to me, track if the Midwest has had an outbreak and it was as devastating as it was - what was different about the patterns of those birds that it didn’t get here?” Cartanza said.

But Buler points out the virus isn’t only spread by waterfowl. “Bridge species” are species that travel between wetlands and farms, and those species, like mice and rats, could carry the virus from waterfowl to chickens.

Buler said his team would like to study those species’ movements next. And it could ultimately keep farms on Delmarva like Cartanza’s - and the region’s poultry industry - aware of the possible spread of bird flu.

Chesapeake: A Journalism Collaborative is funded with grant support from the Clayton Baker Trust, The Bancroft Foundation, Michael and Ann Hankin, The Jim and Patty Rouse Foundation, The Rob and Elizabeth Tyler Foundation, and the Mid-Shore Community Foundation.

USDA Avian Flu Guidance by Delaware Public Media on Scribd☞ USDA Avian Flu Guidance 




 Bird Flu Infection Rate In China Higher Than Estimated, Virus Harder To Detect [The Marshalltown, 17 Feb 2017]

BY JAMES BROWN

chicken BY JAMES BROWN .jpg
Photo: Ella Mullins | Flickr

Bird Flu has reared its ugly head in China, leading to fears of a worldwide epidemic, with the discovery that the H7N9 strain of avian flu virus is responsible for the outbreak.

It is believed that infection rates due to Bird Flu on poultry farms in the country are possibly higher than thought earlier, as the H7N9 strain has been instrumental in killing over 100 people this winter.

Animal experts share that this strain of the virus is deadly as it is difficult to detect the same in geese and chicken.

According to the experts, poultry which has been affected by the H7N9 strain show no symptoms or negligible signs of being affected. This implies that the infection can only be detected if health officials or the farmers themselves conduct sporadic tests on their poultry.

“There are very few, if any, clinical signs when this (H7N9) virus infects birds, and that’s the main reason we’re not seeing reporting coming from poultry farms in China,” shared Matthew Stone, the Deputy Director General For International Standards and Science at the World Organization for Animal Health,.

However, while the poultry may not be impacted by the virus’ effects, it is a different story when it comes to humans. The H7N9 strain of avian flu can be detrimental in the case of humans per experts.

In December 2016, South Korean farms were affected by the H5N6 strain of the avian flu. This prompted the culling of nearly 26 million birds in the country. However, this strain was not responsible for any deaths.

On the other hand, the H7N9 has impacted humans, killing more than 100 people in China, which bears testimony to its detrimental effects.

China saw a massive outbreak of the H7N9 virus in January, which according to reports are considered to be four times higher than the 2015 outbreak and around 79 people died due to the same this year.

The main reason behind this massive death is due to lack of early detection of the virus strain in the poultry farms.

According to the reports by the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), China is considered to have the largest group of ducks, chicken, and geese, out of which around 11 billion birds were slaughtered in 2014.

Per the Centre For Disease Control and Prevention in China, people who were affected with the H7N9 virus were found to have direct connection with poultry, as well as the live markets there.

In light of the latest outbreak, on Thursday, Feb. 16, the Chinese Government promised to exercise more control on poultry farms and the transport of chicken and geese to help battle the epidemic, which poses a grave threat to human life.



 China steps up prevention of human H7N9 avian flu [Shanghai Daily (subscription), 17 Feb 2017]

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THE mother of a three-year-old girl in southwest China's Yunnan Province has become the latest victim of the H7N9 bird flu.

The 23-year-old died in hospital on Tuesday night, a week after her daughter died from the same virus. The family went to east China's Jiangxi Province for the Spring Festival holiday on Jan. 21 and had contact with live poultry there.

Similar tragedies have been reported in other parts of the country. Since January, at least 269 H7N9 human infections have been reported in China, with at least 87 fatalities. Most cases were around the Yangtze and Pearl river deltas.

The situation has prompted health authorities to step up prevention and control measures. The
National Health and Family Planning Commission is training workers in screening and early diagnosis, and in treatment of critically ill patients. The commission has also ordered a ban on the live poultry trade in places where H7N9 cases have been reported.

On Thursday, Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, stopped live poultry trading for the rest of the month, with all poultry markets to be thoroughly disinfected.

Exposure to live poultry is the major source of infections, particularly in rural areas. All human infections in Guangdong originated in live poultry and February - March is a crucial time for epidemic control, according to the local health commission.

Zhejiang, with 35 human infections and 11 fatalities in January, is suffering the worst epidemic in three years. The virus was found in 40 percent of live poultry markets this month, compared with 10 percent in September. All rural live poultry markets there were closed from Saturday.

The trade has been banned in the cities since 2014.

Live poultry sales have also been suspended in Xiamen, Suzhou and several cities in Hunan and Sichuan provinces.

The bans have greatly reduced the number of new infections in many regions, said Ni Daxin, deputy director of the emergency response center at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Ni suggested replacing live poultry with frozen birds to reduce the risk of infection.

The disease control and prevention center in Jiangxi has set up four emergency response teams to tackle outbreaks. Zhang Wei, vice president of Nanchang University No. 1 Hospital in Jiangxi, said the warm winter and wet weather in the south had helped the virus grow and spread.

The animal husbandry department in Jiangxi, where 28 human infections and seven deaths have been reported this year, has sent out 1,500 staff to screen 500 markets and 2,000 farms.

Wu Huanyu with the Shanghai center for disease control and prevention, said breeders and frail or vulnerable people suffering from other illnesses are the most susceptible groups and the general public should avoid contact with poultry.

On Thursday, the Beijing Food and Drug Administration announced that four vaccines have received the greenlight for clinical tests, bringing hope for better prevention and control in the future.

H7N9 was first reported in humans in China in March 2013. It is most likely to strike in winter and spring.



 Cull of 23,000 birds at Redgrave site where bird flu found is complete [East Anglian Daily Times, 17 Feb 2017]

by Sarah Chambers Author End

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The warning sign at Redgrave. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

A bird cull being carried at a farm at Redgrave has been completed.

A spokesperson for the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) said the cull of around 23,000 birds at the breeder poultry unit run by Banham Group finished late on Thursday.

“The cull is complete. We’ll be moving shortly to cleansing and disinfecting the premises,” he said.

Meanwhile, an epidemiological investigation looking at how the disease might have entered the enclosed unit, and whether it might have spread by looking at the movements off the site, is ongoing.

Foot patrols by Suffolk and Norfolk County Council officials are handing out information packs as they visit premises, primarily within an inner 3km zone, and moving out into a wider 10km radius surveillance zone. An epidemiological report on the first UK outbreak - Redgrave is the ninth - in Lincolnshire on December 16 is still awaited.



 Proposed new label for eggs, as bird flu threatens to scupper 'free range' status [Irish Independent, 17 Feb 2017]

by Ciaran Moran

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Ireland's free range status for eggs will cease on March 17.

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A new label is being proposed to deal with issues surrounding the use of the‘free range’ label, which poultry farmers will be no longer be able to use within weeks.

FarmIreland.ie can reveal that a new over-lay label explaining why ‘free range’ birds have been housed is being considered as a means to keep the use of the 'free-range' label which the poultry industry says is vital.

As a result of an increased risk of avian influenza affecting commercial poultry flocks in Ireland, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine introduced regulations requiring flock keepers to confine their poultry in a secure building, which wild birds or other animals do not have access to.

These regulations have a particular impact on free range poultry flocks, as EU regulations lay down detailed rules regarding marketing standards for eggs and poultry meat. These regulations set down minimum requirements that must be met to use the term 'free range'.

Under these regulations, to protect public and animal health, eggs and poultry meat can marketed as 'free range' for the duration of the restriction but not for more than 12 weeks.
In Ireland's case, the 12-week period expires on March 17.

Key industry stakeholders met with the Department of Agriculture this week to discuss practical solutions to the labelling free range poultry after 17 March should the restriction remain.

According to the Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture, Andrew Doyle industry representatives are considering the proposals.

Among the proposals he said is an over-lay label that explains the context of the birds confinement.

“In reality, if poultry has to stay inside, the produce will be deemed to be barn produced meat or eggs.

“An over-lay for free range stock temporarily confined could explain the position to the consumer.

“That option is being looked at,” he said.

Free range egg production represents approximately 40pc of total egg production in Ireland, while free range meat production represents approximately 5pc of total poultry meat production.



 Keighley Town Council issues warning to fend off bird flu threat [Keighley News, 17 Feb 2017]

by Miran Rahman

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Keighley Town Council allotments officer Lee Senior

OUTBREAKS of avian flu creeping closer to Keighley have prompted Keighley Town Council's allotments officer to issue a warning to allotment holders who keep poultry or other captive birds.

Lee Senior said the council is aware of instances of this disease as close as Gargrave and
Addingham, adding that the town council is continuing to take advice from the Government's Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. (DEFRA)

He said: "It's essential that everyone complies with the latest DEFRA ruling.

"These measures have to be enforced in England by anyone keeping poultry and other captive birds, even as pets.

"They apply whether the birds are being kept domestically, on an allotment or a larger enclosure.

"Due to the seriousness of the situation, the town council will be issuing final warning letters to anyone who has birds on their allotment found not to be complying.

"Allotment holders keeping birds must ensure the birds are kept indoors, or take other practical steps to keep them separate from wild species.

"Birds should be moved into a suitable building, or if that isn’t possible sensible precautions must be taken, such as putting up netting to create a temporary enclosure and keeping food and water supplies inside where they can't be contaminated by wild birds.

"Even indoors there is still a risk of infection. So disinfect footwear and equipment and wash clothes and vehicles after contact.

"Good biosecurity must be practised to minimise the risk of infection spreading via items such as feed, clothing or equipment.

"And effective vermin control needs to be implemented around buildings where bird are kept."

People can contact DEFRA at gov.uk/government/news/avian-influenza-bird-flu-in-winter-2016-to-2017 or call its Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301 for up-to-date guidelines.



 Taipei confirms bird flu in chicken [Focus Taiwan News Channel, 17 Feb 2017]

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Taipei, Feb. 17 (CNA) The Taipei City government on Friday said it has detected bird flu in a chicken slaughtered at the city's poultry wholesale market two days ago.

The bird was one in a batch of 2,450 chickens from a farm in southern Taiwan's Kaohsiung City that had been sent to Taipei for sale, according to Taipei's Department of Economic Development.

It was reported to animal quarantine authorities for tests after it was found with suspicious symptoms including swollen eyes, red skin in the abdomen, legs and wings, and intestinal bleeding, decay and necrosis, during the slaughtering process on Wednesday, the department said.

The results of tests released Friday indicated that the chicken was infected with the highly pathogenic H5N2 virus, which is not transmittable to humans, the department said, urging the public not to panic.

The sick chicken as well as the other 35 that were slaughtered together with it have all been destroyed to prevent the virus from spreading, the department said.

The recent outbreaks of the highly pathogenic H5N6 bird flu in Taiwan has put authorities on high alert because it is highly contagious and transmittable to humans.

Since Feb. 6, nine farms around Taiwan have been confirmed as having been infected with the H5N6 virus, according to the Council of Agriculture (COA).

As part of ongoing efforts to contain the spread of bird flu, the COA has banned the transportation and slaughtering of poultry for seven days starting on Friday.

(By Chu Che-wei and Y.F. Low)



 Suffolk egg producer hit by bird flu measures ‘nervous of the future’ [Ipswich Star, 17 Feb 2017]

by Sarah Chambers

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Riddlesworth free range chicken farmer Ben Chandler pictured in his free range egg store. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

A free range egg producer from Riddlesworth, near Diss, has said he is “incredibly nervous of the future” after being caught up in a 10km surveillance zone set up around the Redgrave poultry farm at the centre of the latest bird flu outbreak.

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Riddlesworth free range chicken farmer Ben Chandler's free range egg store. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Ben Chandler, of Home Farm, Riddlesworth, near Diss, had to apply for a licence to send eggs from his 16,000 bird unit to Anglia Free Range Eggs at Attleborough, which he received today.

He is doubly affected by the measures to contain the disease as his farm also lies within an area currently designated by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) as ‘higher risk’, meaning that it would not benefit from a planned partial lifting of a housing order across England which was imposed on outdoor producers in December.

After February 28, free range poultry which remains indoors stands to lose its status. The ‘higher risk’ status would mean he could put up nets to control the threat instead of housing the birds, which would retain the status, but he and other producers believe this is impractical. He is concerned about his proximity to this week’s bird flu outbreak at Redgrave, although biosecurity on his farm was already high before the imposition of the zone.

“It’s very close. We are only six or seven miles away,” he said. “It’s awful what’s going on.”

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Riddlesworth free range chicken farmer Ben Chandler's free range egg store. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

There were a lot of producers in the area, he pointed out.

“This coming along doesn’t help,” he said. “I would be very nervous of letting my birds out.”

He runs a 16,000 bird unit and is still paying off the loan on the unit which he built to house the diversification to his 800 acre arable business in 2008. The business produces about 15,000 eggs a day and he believes he stands to lose about 20p a dozen if he loses his free range status, which he described as “massive”, translating as a £82,000 a year drop.

“We couldn’t sustain that,” he said. “I’m incredibly nervous of the future of what I’m going to be doing because I can’t take a price drop.” He believes that the birds need to be shut up while the threat of infection from migratory birds remains. “The guidance out there is pretty poor really,” he said. “It’s all been very vague to be honest.”

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Riddlesworth free range chicken farmer Ben Chandler pictured in his free range egg store. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Ben should be ordering birds for his next flock soon, but says: “This higher risk zone has put a real handicap on us.”

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Riddlesworth free range chicken farmer Ben Chandler's free range egg store. Picture: ANTONY KELLY



 HUNGARY MAY LIFT BIRD FLU RESTRICTIONS IN MARCH AS VIRUS HAS NOT SHOWN ITSELF SINCE JANUARY [Hungary Today, 17 Feb 2017]

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Poultry farms in Hungary have shown no sign of bird flu since the end of January, and if the virus does not resurface, restrictions on poultry farmers could be lifted in early March, the National Chamber of Agriculture quoted Hungary’s chief veterinarian as saying.

Since the first outbreak of the H5N8 strain of the virus last November, bird flu has been detected at 231 poultry farms in a total of seven counties, Lajos Bognár was quoted as saying at a conference. Among them, 192 farms kept more than 500 birds each, he said. A total of 3.2 million birds have had to be culled, 80% of which were ducks and geese.

Earlier this month, Bognár ordered poultry farms all over Hungary to keep their flocks indoors to prevent their infection by wild birds. Bognár said the bird flu outbreak has caused about 3 billion forints (EUR 9.7m) in direct losses to Hungary’s economy. He said at Thursday’s forum that Hungary was the only country in the European Union to offer 100% compensation to farmers whose flocks have had to be culled due to the epidemic.

In addition, the farm ministry will pay will pay out 1.5 billion forints to farmers in compensation for their losses. He said Hungary was also in talks with competent EU authorities over other potential forms of compensation. However, due to nature of the EU’s decision-making process, it will likely be months until further decisions are made in the matter, he added. In the coming days, the chief veterinarian authority will publish a resolution aimed at reducing the risks of bird-flu infection, he noted.



 Virulent bird flu strain spreads across Europe [Asia Times, 17 Feb 2017]

By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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Breeders of the French farmers union demonstrate with a placard reading 'Let me live on my farm, I got infected on a truck' in Toulouse, southwestern France in February 2017. AFP PHOTO

A highly contagious strain of the H5N8 avian virus that has already affected 15 European countries has now been detected in Belgium

The H5N8 avian virus was identified late Wednesday among birds at a home in the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders between the cities of Brussels and Ghent.

“The virus that has hit our neighbours in the past months has now reached Belgium,” said Belgian Agriculture Minister Willy Borsus.

“Professional farmers have not been affected, but we must be vigilant,” he added.

Belgium in November preventively implemented confinement measures in order to stop an epidemic during the bird migratory season.

Authorities on Thursday expanded them to include private owners of poultry and other birds.

The H5N8 strain can spread quickly in affected farms, often leading to the culling of thousands of birds.

Since October, the strain has been detected in 15 other European countries including Britain, France and Germany.

Hungary has had the highest number of outbreaks in the past three months, with 201 cases reported in farms and four in wild birds.



 Bird Flu Crisis: China Shuts Down Poultry Markets in South Central Region [Chinatopix, 17 Feb 2017]

By Girish Shetti

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Most of the bird flu-related deaths in China have reportedly occurred in Yangtze and Pearl river delta region where major cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong are located. (Photo : Getty Images)

Chinese authorities have ordered the closure of live poultry markets in the south central region amid growing fear over fast-spreading bird flu virus. The H7N9 virus has already killed nearly 100 people across China, the highest death toll numbers in recent years, according to latest data released by the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

Additionally, the commission said that it would be training volunteers to make early screening, which would enable early diagnosis and successful treatment of the diseases.

Most of the bird flu-related deaths in China have reportedly occurred in Yangtze and Pearl river delta region where major cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong are located. The region's mild, wet winter climate makes it conducive for transmission of the H7N9 virus.

China has witnessed two major epidemics killing dozens of people and causing enormous economic losses as well. The first was Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002 and the second was bird flu outbreak in 2013.

Both epidemics gave Chinese authorities a wealth of experience in dealing with a health crisis.

However, the latest spate of bird flu cases is still causing a lot of worry among officials and citizens alike.

The H7N9 is not restricted to China alone. Other countries in the region like Japan and South Korea as well as the semi-autonomous region of Hong Kong have also reported bird flu deaths.

Meanwhile, China's poultry industry is already feeling the heat due to the bird flu crisis, with prices of Chinese chicken plunging to their lowest levels in recent decades. Chicken is one of the basic staple of Chinese citizens, making the country one of the topmost poultry traders in the world.



 Bird flu strain taking a toll on humans [Science Magazine, 17 Feb 2017]


By Dennis Normile

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A quarantine researcher checks on a chicken at a poultry farm in Hubei province in China earlier this month.

SHANGHAI, CHINA—An avian influenza virus that emerged in 2013 is suddenly spreading widely in China, causing a sharp spike in human infections and deaths. Last month alone it sickened 192 people, killing 79, according to an announcement this week by China's National Health and Family Planning Commission in Beijing.

The surge in human cases is cause for alarm, says Guan Yi, an expert in emerging viral diseases at the University of Hong Kong in China. "We are facing the largest pandemic threat in the last 100 years," he says.

As of 16 January, the cumulative toll from H7N9 was 918 laboratory-confirmed human infections and 359 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Despite its high mortality rate, H7N9 had gotten less attention of late than two other new strains—H5N8 and H5N6—that have spread swiftly, killing or forcing authorities to cull millions of poultry. But so far, H5N8 has apparently not infected people; H5N6 has caused 14 human infections and six deaths.

All human H7N9 cases have been traced to exposure to the virus in mainland China, primarily at live poultry markets. The strain likely resulted from a reshuffling of several avian influenza viruses circulating in domestic ducks and chickens, Guan's group reported in 2013. Studies in ferrets and pigs have shown that H7N9 more easily infects mammals than H5N1, a strain that sparked pandemic fears a decade ago. There have been several clusters of H7N9 cases in which human-to-human transmission "cannot be ruled out," but there is "no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission," according to an analysis of recent developments that WHO posted online last week. WHO’s analyses of viral samples so far "do not show evidence of any changes in known genetic markers of virulence or mammalian adaptation," WHO's China Representative Office in Beijing wrote in an email to Science.

Still, there are worrisome riddles. One is that H7N9 causes severe disease in people but only mild or even no symptoms in poultry. The only previous example of that pattern, Guan says, is the H1N1 strain responsible for the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed 50 million to 100 million people.

Because poultry infected with H7N9 show few symptoms, the virus has spread stealthily, coming to the attention of authorities only after human victims appeared. Determining where the virus is circulating requires testing chickens and collecting environmental samples from live poultry markets.

Human infections have followed a consistent pattern, dropping to zero during summer, picking up in the fall, and peaking in January. During the fifth wave of H7N9 that began last fall, authorities noticed an early and sudden uptick in cases, with 114 human infections from September to December 2016, compared with 16 cases during the same months in 2015 and 31 in 2014, according to a surveillance report. The report notes that the virus has spread geographically, with 23 counties in seven eastern Chinese provinces reporting their first human cases last fall.

"It is too late to contain the virus in poultry," Guan says. He predicts that the virus will continue to spread in China's farms, possibly evolving into a strain that would be pathogenic for poultry.

Authorities have culled more than 175,000 birds this winter to stamp out local outbreaks of H7N9 and other avian flu strains. Further spread of H7N9 "will naturally increase human infection cases," Guan says.

H7N9 may also spread beyond China's borders, either through the poultry trade or through migratory birds. The virus has not been reported in poultry outside China. However, warns WHO's Beijing office, "continued vigilance is needed."



 In China, consumers seem to shrug off deadly bird flu outbreak [Reuters, 17 Feb 2017]

By Adam Jourdan | SHANGHAI

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A quarantine researcher checks on a chicken at a poultry farm in Xiangyang, Hubei province, China, February 3, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

Four years ago, a bird flu outbreak in China killed at least three dozen people, triggered mass poultry culling, put masks on millions of Chinese faces and hammered shares in fast food and travel companies.

This winter, more than 100 people have died, but few birds have been slaughtered, there are few masks on the streets and little sign of any consumer reaction, let alone the panic seen in 2013.

The number of posts mentioning "bird flu" or "H7N9" on China's popular Sina Weibo microblog - a useful proxy for gauging consumer interest or concern - peaked at just over 40,000 on Wednesday after the health ministry said as many as 79 people died from H7N9 bird flu in January alone. (For a graphic on bird flu in China click tmsnrt.rs/2lqwuGw)

At the peak of the 2013 outbreak, daily posts topped 850,000.

"Everyone's just used to it now," said Yuan Haojie, 24, a real estate worker in Shanghai. "Every year we seem to have some sort of bird flu outbreak, but it never seems to affect anyone I know. Gradually you stop worrying about it."

The 2013 outbreak was the first in China of the H7N9 bird flu strain. The virus this year appears to be less pathogenic among poultry, which show few symptoms, but more deadly among humans in direct contact with infected birds at live markets and on farms.

Four years ago, the outbreak cost the economy an estimated $6.5 billion, took chicken off the menu at schools and on airplanes, and prompted the widespread slaughter of millions of birds.

The biggest impact this year is that Chinese chicken prices have dropped to their lowest levels in more than a decade.

"In 2013, there was a great panic in the consumer market, and people were afraid to eat poultry," said Pan Chenjun, Hong Kong-based senior analyst at Rabobank. "Consumer market sentiment now isn't so bad. People are more resilient because coverage has been quite limited."

"ONLINE RUMOR?"

Many consumers and fast food chain workers Reuters spoke to were unaware of the severity of this season's outbreak.

"Is this one of those online rumors?" asked the duty manager at one KFC outlet in the northern mining city of Shuangyashan. The fried chicken brand is operated locally by Yum China Holdings Inc.

Yum, which reported a "significant, negative impact" during the 2013 outbreak, did not respond to requests for comment. The company's U.S.-listed shares are down less than 5 percent so far this year.

A worker at local chicken chain Dicos in Shanghai said this winter's bird flu outbreak had not hit sales, and the firm had not given staff any specific directives on how to respond to diners' concerns.

Dicos, owned by Taiwan's Ting Hsin International Group, declined to comment.

Global health bodies and government organizations in China have long said properly cooked chicken is not a safety risk.

Some netizens and experts have said Beijing was slow to respond to the outbreak this year and data on human infections and deaths was not disclosed soon enough.

China's health authorities said on Thursday they would tighten controls on poultry markets and the transport of live birds, but noted the spread of the virus among people was slowing.

China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention has said the vast majority of people infected by H7N9 reported exposure to poultry, indicating little person-to-person infection.

In southern Guangzhou, 24-year-old office administrator Li Lishan said there were bans on poultry markets in her area and people were quite worried about the disease. However, she said she was still eating chicken.

"The days before the trading ban I went crazy buying up chicken," she said, acknowledging there was a risk. "I know, I know. I'm just used to eating it."

(Reporting by Adam Jourdan and SHANGHAI newsroom and Sue-Lin Wong in SHUANGYASHAN; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)



 China closes live poultry markets amid bird flu outbreak [BreakingNews.ie, 17 Feb 2017]

China has ordered the closure of live poultry markets in south-central regions after the deaths of at least 87 people in the worst outbreak of bird flu in years.

State media reported on Friday that the National Health and Family Planning Commission had ordered closures anywhere with cases of the H7N9 strain.

Most reported cases have been found in the densely populated Yangtze and Pearl river deltas from Shanghai to Hong Kong. Those areas generally experience mild, wet winters which are ideal for the virus transmission.

In all, more than 250 cases have been reported from 16 provinces and regions, including as far away as the south-western province of Yunnan.

The death toll since the start of the year has been unmatched since at least 2013.

In addition to the market closures, the commission is training health workers in the screening, early diagnosis and treatment of the disease, while urging people to avoid contact with live birds.

H7N9 is considered to be less virulent than the H5N1 strain which the World Health Organisation has linked to hundreds of deaths worldwide over the last decade. H7N9 is not believed to be transmitted between humans, but rather by infected poultry.

China has gained extensive experience in dealing with such crises since being hit by the 2003 Sars outbreak that was believed to have originated among animals in southern China. A preference among Chinese for live-bought, freshly-slaughtered poultry complicates the government's efforts to eradicate such diseases.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the market closures this time have "greatly reduced the number of new infections in many regions", citing Ni Daxin, deputy director of the emergency response centre at the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.



 Hard to Detect, China Bird Flu Virus May Be More Widespread [U.S. News & World Report, 17 Feb 2017]

By Dominique Patton

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A quarantine researcher checks on a chicken at a poultry farm in Xiangyang, Hubei province, China, February 3, 2017. Picture taken February 3, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer REUTERS

BEIJING (Reuters) - Bird flu infection rates on Chinese poultry farms may be far higher than previously thought, because the strain of the deadly virus that has killed more than 100 people this winter is hard to detect in chickens and geese, animal health experts say.

Poultry that have contracted the H7N9 strain of the avian flu virus show little or no sign of symptoms. That means any infection is only likely to be detected if farmers or health authorities carry out random tests on a flock, the experts said.

But in humans, it can be deadly.

That's different to other strains, such as the highly pathogenic H5N6 that struck South Korean farms in December, prompting the government to call in the army to help cull some 26 million birds.

But that strain didn't kill any people.

There have been multiple outbreaks of bird flu around the world in recent months, with at least half a dozen different strains circulating. The scale of the outbreaks and range of viral strains increases the chances of viruses mixing and mutating, with new versions that can spread more easily between people, experts say.

For now, H7N9 is thought to be relatively difficult to spread between people. China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention has said the vast majority of people infected by H7N9 reported exposure to poultry, especially at live markets.

"There are very few, if any, clinical signs when this (H7N9) virus infects birds, and that's the main reason we're not seeing reporting coming from poultry farms in China," said Matthew Stone, deputy director general for International Standards and Science at the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

INTENSIVE OUTBREAK

As many as 79 people died from H7N9 bird flu in China in January alone, up to four times higher than the same month in past years.

While spikes in contamination rates are normal in January - the main influenza season - the high level of human infections has prompted fears the spread of the virus among people could be the highest on record - especially as the number of bird flu cases reported by farmers has been conspicuously low.

The high number of human infections points to a significant outbreak in the poultry population that is not being detected, says Guan Yi, director of the State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Center of Influenza Research at the University of Hong Kong.

"If we have so many human infections, naturally it reflects activity, an intensive outbreak in chickens. They are highly associated," he said.

China has the world's largest flock of chickens, ducks and geese, and slaughtered more than 11 billion birds for meat in 2014, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The last major bird flu outbreak in China, in 2013, killed 36 people and cost the farming industry around $6.5 billion.

CONTROL CHALLENGE

The experts' assessment underscores the challenge for China's government and health ministry in monitoring and controlling the H7N9 outbreak in both people and poultry.

While, with few visible signs of infection in birds, it's easier for farmers to flout the reporting rules and continue selling poultry at market, Stone at the OIE said China has a "very significant" surveillance program at live markets.

The government promised on Thursday to tighten controls on markets and poultry transport to help battle the virus.

The agriculture ministry last month collected more than 102,000 serum samples and 55,000 virological samples from birds in 26 provinces. Of the latter samples, only 26 tested positive for the virus, according to data on the ministry's website.

But the rapid rise in human infections and spread to a wider geographic area is likely to increase pressure on Beijing to do more poultry testing at markets and on farms.

The ministry did not respond to faxed questions on its surveillance efforts.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission said on Thursday the spread of H7N9 among people was slowing.

Some Chinese netizens have called for more timely reports on infections, and some experts have said China has been slow to respond to the human outbreak. The authorities have warned the public to stay alert for the virus, cautioning against panic.

Others played down the threat to humans, as long as they stay away from live markets.

"As scientists, we should be watching this outbreak and the effectiveness of any control measures," said Ian Mackay, a virologist and associate professor at the University of Queensland in Australia. "We don't have a vaccine available for H7N9 in humans, but we do have effective antivirals."

"So far, the virus does not spread well between humans," he added. "As members of the public, who do not seek out live poultry from markets in China, we have almost nothing to worry about from H7N9 right now."

(Reporting by Dominique Patton in BEIJING, with additional reporting by Ben Hirschler in LONDON; Editing by Josephine Mason and Ian Geoghegan)



 With 87 dead of bird flu, China pledges better controls [Bangkok Post, 17 Feb 2017]

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An H7N9 bird flu patient is treated in a hospital in Wuhan, central China's Hubei province in this photo taken Sunday. (EPA photo)

BEIJING - The spread of a deadly strain of bird flu in China is slowing, health authorities said on Thursday, as they vowed to tighten controls on markets and the transport of live poultry to battle the virus.

As many as 79 people died from H7N9 bird flu in January, the government has said, or up to four times more than the corresponding figure in previous years, stoking worries this season's spread of the virus could be the worst on record.

Authorities have warned against panic and urged precautions, but nevertheless the numbers triggered concern of a repeat of previous health crises, such as the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2002.

From Sunday to Tuesday this week, eight new human infections of H7N9 avian flu were reported, indicating the rate had slowed from the previous reporting period, the National Health and Family Planning Commission said on its website.

"The national epidemic situation clearly shows a downwards trend," it said.

From Feb 6 to Feb 12, 69 new cases, including 8 deaths, had been reported, with just three of the 69 reported on Sunday.

To fight the spread, the commission is urging stronger monitoring, besides suspending or permanently closing live poultry markets and tightening curbs on bird transport, it said.

"Once the virus is discovered, immediately investigate and take targeted measures to prevent the epidemic's spread," it added.

Chicken prices have sunk in the world's second largest poultry consumer.

The spread of the virus among fowl in China follows major outbreaks in poultry flocks in neighbouring South Korea and Japan.

Exposure to live poultry markets is the "crucial factor" in human infections, the health commission said, adding that the virus had not mutated to spread from human to human.

The greatest fear is that a deadly strain of avian flu could mutate into a pandemic form that can be passed easily between people.

The World Health Organization has said it had not been able to rule out limited human-to-human spread in two clusters of China's cases.

Though H7N9 has spread widely and early this year, most cases were confined to the same areas as in previous years, including the Yangtze River delta and the southern region of Guangdong, said influenza expert Shu Yuelong.

On Saturday, Beijing reported its first human H7N9 case this year, a 68-year-old man from Langfang city in the neighbouring province of Hebei. A second human case was reported on Tuesday.

MERS-CoV News update from 17 Jan 2017



 Gov't provides 178 bln won to MERS-hit hospitals and others [Yonhap News, 19 Feb 2017]

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SEOUL, Feb. 19 (Yonhap) -- The government has compensated a total of 233 hospitals, shops and other agencies that suffered from massive losses in the wake of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak in 2015, a report showed Sunday.

According to the report submitted to Rep. Kim Seung-hee of the ruling Liberty Korea Party, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said a total of 178 billion won (US$155 million) was provided to cover their losses incurred in dealing with the respiratory disease through shutdowns and preventive measures.

The respiratory disease, first confirmed on May 20, 2015, was brought into the country by a person who visited the Middle East. By the time the government officially declared the country free of MERS on Dec. 23, 38 people here had died. A total of 187 people were infected overall, with thousands more placed under quarantine as a precaution.



 South Korea Seals Off 2 Hospitals Due to Outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome [Santa Monica Observed, 16 Feb 2017]

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Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or Coronavirus has caused a health scare in Asia

Total number of MERS cases globally to 1,275, based on WHO data, 450 deaths.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or Coronavirus has caused a health scare in Asia While we're experiencing a Norovirus health scare in Santa Monica, simultaneously Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) has infected 126 people in South Korea and killed 11. It was first diagnosed just over three weeks ago in a businessman who had returned from a trip to the Middle East.

Reuters: South Korea has sealed off two hospitals that treated people with a deadly respiratory disease, officials said today, even as the outbreak that has been spreading through health facilities could have peaked.

The outbreak is the largest outside Saudi Arabia, where the disease was first identified in humans in 2012, and has stirred fears in Asia of a repeat of a 2002-03 scare when Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) killed about 800 people worldwide.

The 68-year-old man who brought the virus back from the Middle East visited several health centres for treatment of a nagging cough and fever before he was diagnosed, leaving a trail of infection in his wake.

The danger of the virus in hospitals had led to two being sealed off with at least 133 people - patients and staff - inside. They would be sealed off for at least the next 11 days, given the incubation period of the virus, officials said.

"No patients can get out of their rooms," said a city government official in the capital, Seoul, who declined to be identified.

"Nurses in protective gear are giving them food. No one can get in from outside."

All but one of South Korea's cases have been confirmed as originating with the businessman who travelled to the Middle East and happening in health-care centres, and the last one is likely to be confirmed as such too, the Health Ministry said.

Worst over?

MERS is caused by a coronavirus from the same family as the one that caused Sars. It is more deadly than Sars but does not spread as easily, at least for now. There is no cure or vaccine.

World Health Organisation (WHO) experts are in South Korea working with the government and a delegation of Saudi Arabian health officials is meeting authorities today.

The Health Ministry reported four new cases today, the lowest daily increase in 11 days, raising hope the worst might be over.

The number of people in quarantine, either at home or in medical facilities, also declined for the first time, by 125 to 3,680, the ministry said.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or Coronavirus is believed to have originated in camels.

The incubation period for many people exposed to infected patients is ending, which should mean a decline in new cases, said infectious disease expert Jacob Lee.

"There may be a third wave from hospitals that MERS patients had stayed at but it won't spread as much as it has," Lee told Reuters.

The central bank cut interest rates yesterday in the hope of softening the blow to an economy already beset by slack demand and plunging visitor arrivals.

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Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or Coronavirus is believed to have originated in camels.

Alarm has spread throughout the region even though only one case has been reported outside South Korea in this outbreak, that of a South Korean man who travelled to China via Hong Kong after defying a suggestion from health authorities that he stay in voluntary quarantine at home.

South Korea's new cases bring the total number of Mers cases globally to 1,275, based on WHO data, with at least 450 related deaths.



 Saudi Arabia reports more MERS cases; WHO announces Buraydah outbreak over [CIDRAP, 13 Feb 2017]

by Stephanie Soucheray

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M&R Glasgow/ Flickr cc

The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health (MOH) reported three new MERS-CoV cases over the weekend and two deaths, while the World Health Organization (WHO) released details on 17 cases of MERS, noting that a small healthcare-associated outbreak in Buraydah was officially over.

New cases connected to camels

On Saturday, the MOH said an 80-year-old Saudi man from Al Asyah was diagnosed as having MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) illness. He is in stable condition after presenting with symptoms of the virus. The MOH said that the man had direct contact with camels.

Today another patient, a 71-year-old Saudi man from Al Makhwah, was also diagnosed with MERS-CoV after having direct contact with camels. He is currently in critical condition. Also today, a 53-year-old Saudi man from Khaybar was listed in critical condition. The source of his infection is listed as primary, meaning he did not contract the disease from another person.

On Friday, the MOH reported the passing of two previously reported MERS-CoV patients: A 59-year-old Saudi man from Turubah and a 60-year-old expatriate man from Mecca.

The newly reported cases lift the country's MERS total to 1,557 cases, including 648 deaths. Eight patients are still being treated for the disease.

Camel exposure linked to January deaths

Late last Friday the WHO released details on 17 cases of MERS reported between Jan 10 and Feb 3 in Saudi Arabia. Four of the patients died.

Nine of the 17 cases reported were linked to camel exposure, a known risk factor for contracting the disease. Camels are reservoirs for the virus, and direct and indirect contact with camels, including drinking raw camel milk, has been implicated in hundreds of the Saudi cases reported since 2012. All but two of the nine cases reported consuming raw camel milk in the weeks prior to infection.

A 74-year-old woman from Taif who reported direct exposure with camels died, as did a 58-year-old man from the same city who also reported camel exposure. A 48-year-old man from Jeddah died. He reportedly drank camel milk. The fourth death was in a 67-year-old woman from Buraydah. She had no known risk factors for contracting MERS-CoV.

One case detailed in the WHO's report is a healthcare worker, and represents the last case associated with a healthcare outbreak in the city of Buraydah. A total of six cases were linked to that outbreak, and according to the WHO, contacts have been followed for the 14-day incubation period and no further cases have been identified.

The cities of Taif and Jeddah reported three cases each. Twelve of the cases were reported in male patients.

Since September 2012, the WHO has reported 1,905 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, including at least 677 related deaths.



 Saudi Arabia: MERS case reported in Mecca [Outbreak News Today, 11 Feb 2017]

by ROBERT HERRIMAN

The Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health reported an additional infection of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) from a patient in Mecca. The 60-year-old male expatriate is reportedly hospitalized in critical condition.

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Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus /National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID

The probable source of the infection is noted as direct contact with camels. The World Health Organization (WHO) says people may acquire the infection after exposure to animals or animal products (for example, following contact with dromedaries).

They recommend that patients with underlying conditions like diabetes, renal failure, chronic lung disease, and immunocompromised persons avoid close contact with animals, particularly camels, when visiting farms, markets, or barn areas where the virus is known to be potentially circulating. General hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing before and after touching animals and avoiding contact with sick animals, should be adhered to.

To date, Saudi Arabia officials put the MERS-CoV tally at 1,554 cases, including 646 deaths (41 percent CFR).



 Gov't not to compensate Samsung Medical Center for losses from MERS [Yonhap News, 10 Feb 2017]

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SEOUL, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korean health authorities on Friday decided not to compensate a Seoul hospital for losses incurred by the temporary shutdown due to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2015, citing the hospital's violation of relevant laws and protocols.

A medical compensation committee under the Ministry of Health and Welfare refused to pay the compensation worth 60.7 billion won (US$52.7 million) sought by Samsung Medical Center (SMC) in southern Seoul, officials said.

Samsung Medical Center, one of the largest in the country and blamed as an epicenter of infections, argued that it has received between 80 billion and 110 billion won in losses due to the shutdown.

The ministry said Samsung Medical Center did not promptly cooperate with the authorities to provide information on the people who were in contact with one of its MERS patients in time.

The ministry said the hospital also delayed quarantine measures.

The hospital said it will consider seeking legal action against the government decision.

The respiratory disease, first confirmed on May 20, 2015, was brought into the country by a person who visited the Middle East. By the time the government officially declared the country free of MERS on Dec. 23, 38 people had died. A total of 187 people were infected overall, with thousands more placed under quarantine as a precaution.



 Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – Saudi Arabia [World Health Organization, 10 Feb 2017]

Between 10 January and 3 February 2017 the National International Health Regulations Focal Point of Saudi Arabia reported seventeen (17) additional cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) including four (4) fatal cases. Three (3) deaths among previously reported MERS cases (case no. 1 and 2 in DON published on 26 January 2017 and case no. 6 in DON published on 17 January 2017) were also reported.

Detailed information concerning these cases can be found in a separate document (see link below). One of the cases reported is a health care worker (case no. 5). The limited outbreak in Buridah, Saudi Arabia reported in the previous DON (published on 26 January 2017) is now over. A total of 6 cases were linked to this hospital outbreak. All contacts have been followed for the 14 day period and no further cases have been identified.

Globally, since September 2012, 1905 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV including at least 677 related deaths have been reported to WHO.

WHO risk assessment

MERS-CoV causes severe human infections resulting in high mortality and has demonstrated the ability to transmit between humans. So far, the observed human-to-human transmission has occurred mainly in health care settings.

The notification of additional cases does not change the overall risk assessment. WHO expects that additional cases of MERS-CoV infection will be reported from the Middle East, and that cases will continue to be exported to other countries by individuals who might acquire the infection after exposure to animals or animal products (for example, following contact with dromedaries) or human source (for example, in a health care setting). WHO continues to monitor the epidemiological situation and conducts risk assessment based on the latest available information.

WHO advice

Based on the current situation and available information, WHO encourages all Member States to continue their surveillance for acute respiratory infections and to carefully review any unusual patterns.

Infection prevention and control measures are critical to prevent the possible spread of MERS-CoV in health care facilities. It is not always possible to identify patients with MERS-CoV early because like other respiratory infections, the early symptoms of MERS-CoV are non-specific.

Therefore, health-care workers should always apply standard precautions consistently with all patients, regardless of their diagnosis. Droplet precautions should be added to the standard precautions when providing care to patients with symptoms of acute respiratory infection; contact precautions and eye protection should be added when caring for probable or confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection; airborne precautions should be applied when performing aerosol generating procedures.

Until more is understood about MERS-CoV, people with diabetes, renal failure, chronic lung disease, and immunocompromised persons are considered to be at high risk of severe disease from MERS-CoV infection. Therefore, these people should avoid close contact with animals, particularly camels, when visiting farms, markets, or barn areas where the virus is known to be potentially circulating. General hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing before and after touching animals and avoiding contact with sick animals, should be adhered to.

Food hygiene practices should be observed. People should avoid drinking raw camel milk or camel urine, or eating meat that has not been properly cooked.

WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event nor does it currently recommend the application of any travel or trade restrictions.



 Daewoong hires ex-health chief responsible for MERS spread [Korea Times, 8 Feb 2017]

By Park Jae-hyuk

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Yang Byung-guk

Daewoong Pharm is under fire for appointing a former top government official who failed to prevent the 2015 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak, as head of its bio business unit.

The country's major pharmaceutical company on Monday named Yang Byung-guk, a former director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), as the CEO of Daewoong Bio.

The Seoul National University College of Medicine graduate, who built his 20-year public career in the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the KCDC, vowed to foster the company as a global health care group.

However, critics point out that Yang, who retired in disgrace from the government office last year, was disciplined for being responsible for the spread of the fatal disease that threatened the nation.

Last January, the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) of Korea called for Yang's dismissal following a two-month inspection on 18 institutions, including the health ministry and the KCDC.

Although the BAI emphasized Yang's belated countermeasures against the MERS at that time, the Ministry of Personnel Management suspended him for three months, and Yang stepped down last October.

Yang also was reportedly investigated by the independent counsel last month over allegations that the government took only belated measures against Samsung Medical Center, which was partly responsible for the spread of the disease.

Industry observers have also been dubious of Yang's capabilities, noting that public officials have rarely been appointed as heads of pharmaceutical companies.



 Be alert for MERS-CoV and Avian flu, doctors told [The Star Online, 4 Feb 2017]

SEREMBAN: Doctors have been told to report any Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and Avian influenza (AI) cases to the health authorities within 24
hours to allow them to take immediate precautionary measures.

Apart from confirmed cases, it is also mandatory for medical practitioners to report suspected cases.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said action could be taken against any doctor who failed to do so as provided under the Prevention And Control of Infectious Diseases Act.

“It is important that we are notified immediately of any confirmed, probable or suspected case so that we can take measures to control its spread and treatment of the patient,” he said, adding that the notification should also be entered into the ministry’s eNotifikasi or infectious diseases information system.

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Dr Noor Hisham said in a directive that although the authorities cannot ascertain the number of MERS-CoV confirmed cases in Malaysia, the number of suspected cases had increased from 125 in 2013 to 726 in 2015.

A 54-year-old Malaysian was the first to die of the disease in April 2014. The victim had returned after performing umrah in Saudi Arabia when he fell ill.

He said based on investigations by international medical authorities, the MERS-CoV virus was believed to have originated from camels and was prevalent in the Arab peninsula.

To date, MERS-CoV cases have been reported in 27 countries, with the majority being in Saudi Arabia.

On the AI cases which include the H5N1, H9N2 and H7N9 strains reported in 16 countries, Dr Noor Hisham said humans can only be infected if exposed to chickens, ducks and other birds infected with the bird flu virus.

He said those with high fever and cough or breathing problems and had been in contact with a dead fowl at least 10 days before falling sick becomes a suspected case.



 Saudi Arabia reports 2 new MERS cases [Xinhua, 29 Jan 2017]


RIYADH, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- The Saudi Health Ministry on Sunday registered two fresh cases of
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) corona virus infection, bringing to nine the total cases posted in the past eight days, Al Arabiya local news reported.

The two patients, both in their seventies, were listed as in critical condition. They had lived in different localities but both had direct and indirect "interaction" with camels, it said.

Saudi health authorities have been warning of MERS risks from direct interactions with camels without taking precautions like wearing masks, though many believe camels are not the main cause and transmitters of the virus.

Saudi Arabia registered 1,549 MERS cases in the last four years, including 641 deaths.

According to the health ministry, a quarter of the cases contracted the virus at health facilities.

Saudi Arabia registered the first and highest MERS cases in the world. Although the number of new cases has dropped drastically over the years, such cases usually rise during cold weather.



 Two expats in Saudi critical after being infected with MERS virus [Gulf Business, 29 Jan 2017]

The two men are among six others infected with the virus in the last week

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Two expatriates in Saudi Arabia are currently in a critical condition after being infected with the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus, local media reported.

The two men – aged 27 and 48 years old in Jubail and Jeddah respectively – are among six others infected with the virus in the last week, Arab News reported.

The four other patients, including two women, are from Turbah, Taif, Riyadh and Al-Qararah.
In a briefing on January 26, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that nine new MERS cases had been reported by Saudi Arabia between January 2-7, including two fatal cases.

The two deceased were both women from Buridah, one aged 88 and another aged 63.

Overall, five cases were reported from Buridah and were part of a small health care setting outbreak involving 2 hospitals, the WHO said.

A Saudi Ministry of Health rapid response team has been dispatched and measures to prevent further cases including contact tracing, and strengthening of infection, prevention and control have been put in place, the report added. None of the cases reported are health care workers.

Globally, since September 2012, 1,888 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV including at least 670 related deaths have been reported to WHO.

Several of those cases have been registered in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia has replaced its health ministers twice since the outbreak of the disease in 2012.

Health authorities in the kingdom have also urged residents to refrain from consuming raw camel meat or milk over fears of the disease spreading.

The virus is known to be contracted through exposure to infected individuals, from hospitals and by direct contact with camels – believed to be carriers of the virus.

MERS, a virus similar to SARS, is a respiratory disease that causes coughing, fever and breathing problems, and can lead to pneumonia and kidney failure.

WHO said it expects that “additional cases of MERS infection will be reported from the Middle
East, and that cases will continue to be exported to other countries by individuals who might acquire the infection after exposure to animals or animal products or human sources”.



 Saudi Arabia: Nine MERS virus cases in eight days [AL Arabiya English, 29 Jan 2017]


Nine people have been infected with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) during the past eight days in Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Health said. (File: AFP)

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Nine people have been infected with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) during the past eight days in Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Health said.

A Saudi man, 75 years old, in Taif and a Saudi woman, 74 years, in al-Khorma are both in critical condition. The man caught the virus from direct contact with camels while the woman caught it from indirect contact with camels, the ministry said on its website.

On Saturday, the ministry said that in the past 24 hours, a Saudi woman, 70 years old, recovered in Buraidah. This brings the total number of recoveries to four.

Among those infected are two male expats in Jubail and Jeddah. One is 27 years old while the other is 48 years old. Both are in critical condition.

On Friday the ministry said that a Saudi male who is a 30 years old health care worker had caught the virus. His condition is stable and he caught the virus inside a health facility.

MERS-CoV has infected 1549 people in Saudi Arabia since 2012 and it has so far claimed the lives of 641 people.



 SAUDI ARABIA 2 expats infected with MERS in critical condition [Arab News, 28 Jan 2017]
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Particles of the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS coronavirus that emerged in 2012 are seen in an undated colonized transmission electron micrograph from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID). (Reuters)

by Mohammed Rasooldeen


RIYADH: Two expatriates are among six people infected with the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronavirus in the past six days.

The two men, 27 and 48 years old in Jubail and Jeddah respectively, are in critical condition, said Health Ministry doctors.

The other four patients, including two women, are from Turbah, Taif, Riyadh and Al-Qararah. The patient from Al-Qararah was infected directly from camels, according to doctors.

Since July 2012, 1,546 people have been infected throughout the Kingdom, of which 641 have died, 896 have recovered and nine are being treated.

The Health Ministry has repeatedly issued warnings to stay away from camels. Those working in farms have been advised to take maximum precautions by wearing face masks, isolating infected animals and following basic principles of hygiene.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), studies have found MERS antibodies in camels across Africa and the Middle East. Human and camel genetic sequence data demonstrate a close link between the virus found in camels and that found in people.

As a general precaution, anyone visiting farms, markets, barns or other places where animals are present should regularly wash their hands before and after touching animals, and avoid contact with sick animals.

Consumption of raw or under-cooked animal products, including milk and meat, carries a high risk of infection from a variety of organisms that may cause disease in humans.

Animal products processed appropriately by cooking or pasteurization are safe for consumption, but should also be handled with care to avoid cross‐contamination with uncooked foods.

Camel meat and camel milk are nutritious products that can be consumed after pasteurization, cooking or other heat treatments.

Three major hospitals in Dammam, Riyadh and Jeddah have been designated as centers of excellence to treat MERS patients. The Health Ministry has assigned 20 other well-equipped hospitals to look after infected patients.

In December, the ministry conducted a survey among 160 camels in Jeddah, 50 of which were found to be carrying the virus.



 Ministry, Samsung Medical Center playing blame game on MERS outbreak [The Korea Herald, 24 Jan 2017]

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President Park Geun-hye visits a medical facility during the MERS outbreak in May 2015 (Yonhap)

South Korea’s most prestigious hospital is at odds with the Ministry of Health and Welfare over who is to blame for the outbreak of a deadly virus in 2015.

Samsung Medical Center in Seoul on Tuesday submitted to the ministry a 100-page statement of an argument denying that its missteps contributed to the spread of the Middle East respiratory syndrome which killed 37 here in the summer of 2015.

The move was in response to the ministry’s decision in December to request the police impose a 15-day suspension and a fine of up to 2 million won ($1,715) on the SMC as a punitive measure for its mishandling of MERS patients. Nearly half of all confirmed MERS cases were traced to the SMC.

“We organized and presented our opinion to the ministry, but it does not mean that we agree or disagree with the ministry’s order,” the SMC official told the Korea Herald.

A ministry official, however, said a vast part of the documents appear to be intended at refuting the ministry’s view and defending the medical center’s response to the epidemic.

The SMC was at the epicenter of the MERS outbreak in 2015. Out of a total of 186 MERS patients in South Korea that year, nearly half were infected either directly or indirectly via the SMC. Some 6,000 people were quarantined nationwide until the nation was declared MERS-free at the end of the year, almost eight months after the first case was reported.

According to the ministry, a patient, later found to be a “super-spreader” of the virus, transmitted the disease to at least 80 people at the SMC, before being diagnosed and quarantined.

Critics, however, say both sides are to blame.

“The SMC, which detected the first case, made a serious mistake and failed to prevent the spread of the virus. But it was the ministry’s decision not to reveal to the public the list of hospitals with MERS cases,” said a medical industry insider who wished to be unnamed.

During the early stages of the outbreak, the ministry blocked the Korean Hospital Association’s disclosure of a list of hospitals that treated MERS patients, including the SMC, for no clear reason. The ministry later explained that it was to prevent unnecessary public confusion.

The SMC is known as one of the finest medical facilities in the country led by a former head of the Korean Society of Infectious Diseases.

The Chairman of Samsung Group Lee Kun-hee has been hospitalized at the SMC, in a 20th-floor VIP room, since he suffered a heart attack in 2014.



 These Are the 3 Diseases Scientists Say We Really Need to Worry About Becoming Epidemics [ScienceAlert, 21 Jan 2017]

by JOSH HRALA

It's always the quiet ones...

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Charities, governments, and scientists from across the world gathered in Switzerland on Thursday to hammer out a plan of action to stop three of the world’s most potentially devastating diseases from turning into full-blown, global epidemics.

And the diseases they're focussing on aren't the headline-makers you might expect. The three disease targets are: Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Lassa fever, and the Nipah virus (NiV) – all of which are highly contagious, and currently have no vaccines or treatments in the pipelines.

The plan of attack, according to the announcement made by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) on Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, is to fund vaccination research into these three diseases now, before they get out of hand.

So far, various charities and governments around the world have created a US$460 million initiative to get the ball rolling.

"We know that epidemics ... are among the significant threats we face to life, health and prosperity," said Jeremy Farrar, director of the health research charity Wellcome Trust.

"Vaccines can protect us, but we've done too little to develop them... CEPI is our chance to learn the lessons of recent tragedies and outsmart epidemics with new vaccine defences."

The current goal is to develop at least two trial vaccinations for each of the three diseases.
Having multiple trial vaccinations ready to go will allow treatment of an immediate outbreak to jump straight into 'Phase III' testing of the drug, which is the step right before it is licenced as an actual vaccination.

Ideally, researchers would investigate five or six vaccines at a time. Yet according to tech billionaire and CEPI backer Bill Gates, at current funding levels it is more likely that they will only do two or three.

The first disease the group plans on attacking is MERS, a contagious respiratory disease that was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012.

"[MERS] is an illness caused by a virus (more specifically, a coronavirus) called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)," reports the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"Most MERS patients developed severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. About 3 to 4 out of every 10 patients reported with MERS have died."

Right now, MERS has only been spread by people travelling from Saudi Arabia to other places, such as in South Korea, where an outbreak occurred in 2015.

Following MERS, the next targets will be Lassa fever and NiV, two viruses that are both highly contagious and could present a global threat if left without proper vaccinations.

Lassa fever, which was discribed in 1969 in Nigeria, is contracted when people are exposed to contaminated rat urine or excrement. Once infected, the virus can transfer from person to person through body fluids. Every year the virus kills around 5,000 people, with most of the deaths occurring in West Africa.

NiV – also called Nipah – was discovered in 1998 in Kampung Sungai Nipah, Malaysia, and is contracted by eating food contaminated by fruit bats.

NiV can also spread from human to human, mostly in hospital settings, just like Lassa fever. So far, NiV has killed 196 people since 2001.

The announcement by CEPI to start pre-emptively trying to defeat these three diseases comes only a short while after the world recovered from its biggest Ebola outbreak since the disease’s discovery. A reported 11,300 people died from Ebola during the most recent outbreak, which lasted from 2013 to 2016.

Besides Ebola, the Zika virus has also been causing havoc in countries such as Brazil where, in 2015, 2,200 babies were born with microcephaly, a deformation of the head that stems from pregnant mothers contracting the virus through either mosquito bites or sexual transmission.
"Ebola and Zika showed that the world is tragically unprepared to detect local outbreaks and respond quickly enough to prevent them from becoming global pandemics," Gates said in a press release.

While ensuring a healthy population is the goal of the new plan, these outbreaks also have serious economic repercussions, too, which can really impact the countries suffering most from the diseases.

"Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia suffered an economic loss of at least US$3 billion as a result of Ebola, and we know that SARS cost US$40 billion," Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg said at the World Economic Forum.

Hopefully, the plan to defeat the viruses before they become global epidemics will succeed, but only time will tell how tough it will be to create the vaccinations needed to stop them.




 $656m vaccine initiative launched at Davos forum [The Straits Times, 19 Jan 2017]

It aims to stop outbreaks from going global, with priority for Mers, Lassa, Nipah viruses

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Governments and charities launched an initiative aimed to develop safe vaccines to contain outbreaks before they become global health emergencies. PHOTO: AFP

DAVOS • Governments and charities have launched a US$460 million (S$656 million) initiative to tackle infectious epidemics, as the world still reels from outbreaks of Ebola and baby-deforming Zika.

The priority will be vaccines against the highly contagious and fatal Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) as well as the Lassa and Nipah viruses, which could cause serious epidemics.

The goal is to develop safe vaccines to contain outbreaks before they become global health emergencies, the creators of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi) announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos yesterday.

"We want to prioritise vaccine development for what we have defined as the most important threats," Cepi's interim chief executive, Mr John-Arne Rottingen, told journalists. "But we need also to be prepared for the unknown."

The initiative aims to create two vaccines each for Mers, Lassa and Nipah "so that these are available without delay if and when an outbreak begins", the coalition said in a statement.

Cepi will also look into supporting vaccines being developed against multiple strains of the Ebola and Marburg viruses, and against Zika.

"Ebola and Zika showed that the world is tragically unprepared to detect local outbreaks and respond quickly enough to prevent them from becoming global pandemics," said billionaire Bill Gates, who backs the project.

About 11,300 people died in the Ebola epidemic from 2013 to 2016 in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - the worst outbreak by far in the disease's 40-year history.

And since 2015, more than 2,200 babies in Brazil have been born with microcephaly, a crippling deformation of the head and brain, in an unprecedented outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

The race is on to develop vaccines against both diseases, but none has been registered yet.
So far, Cepi has received money from Germany, Japan, Norway, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Wellcome Trust medical research charity. The US$460 million it has raised is almost half the US$1 billion needed for its first five years of operation.

"Cepi will need significant additional investment, and the initial Cepi funders are calling today for other governments and philanthropic organisations to join them in helping to protect the world against future epidemics," the statement said.

Other participants in the initiative include the World Health Organisation and pharmaceutical groups such as GSK, Pfizer and Sanofi.



 Billion-dollar project aims to prep vaccines before epidemics hit [Nature, 18 Jan 2017]

by Declan Butler

Massive effort plans to stockpile vaccines against future outbreaks.

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In 2015 a MERS outbreak in South Korea took months to get under control. Now researchers want to develop and stockpile vaccines against this and other threats.


SARS, Zika, Ebola – when some of the world’s most terrifying disease outbreaks occur, health workers often find themselves powerless. A billion-dollar initiative launched on 18 January aims to change that situation by pre-emptively developing and stockpiling vaccines to combat potential epidemic threats.

“I'm thrilled. This is only the formal launch, and to have near $500 million — and likely more — to get started is great,” says Jeremy Farrar, director of biomedical charity the Wellcome Trust in London, one of the new project’s backers.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) launched on 18 January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, with an initial US$460 million of backing from Norway, Germany, Japan, the Wellcome Trust and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The organization expects to raise the full $1 billion that it needs for the next 5 years by the end of 2017, says John-Arne Røttingen, CEPI's interim chief executive. It is by far the largest vaccine development initiative ever against viruses that are potential epidemic threats.

The first targets for CEPI are vaccines against the Nipah virus and those that cause Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and Lassa fever, which might be next to cause outbreaks similar in scale to SARS, Ebola or Zika.

Vaccine researchers welcome the initiative. “I’m delighted to see the launch of CEPI — it's very much needed,” says vaccine researcher Adrian Hill, director of the Jenner Institute in Oxford, UK.

CEPI is well placed to help: “This group is distinctive in being a large, very inclusive effort spanning academia, public-health agencies, large and small companies and a range of philanthropic and government funders,” says Hill.

Stocking the pipelines

The Ebola epidemic that began in December 2013 in West Africa shows the need to develop vaccines pre-emptively, says Farrar. No vaccine against Ebola was available when the outbreak started, but researchers were able to develop a safe and effective vaccine against the Zaire strain responsible in record time — just a year and a half. Making a vaccine from scratch usually takes years, or even decades.

They were able to move fast because US and Canadian researchers had already developed experimental Ebola vaccines. Researchers fighting Ebola lost valuable time, however, because the experimental vaccines, which had sat on the shelf for years, had been tested for safety in animals, but not humans.

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“We had to spend what was 9–12 months getting safety data for those vaccines, and that was 9–12 months where ultimately many people lost their lives,” says Farrar.

By contrast, CEPI's planned work on MERS, Nipah and Lassa vaccines will take experimental vaccine candidates — two for each disease — through testing in humans to establish that they are safe and produce an immune response that is likely to be protective. It would then create sufficient stockpiles of promising candidates to rapidly test for efficacy, and possible use, in the event of an outbreak. For the three diseases initially targeted, CEPI aims to have stockpiles by 2021.

Market failure

CEPI intends to support research at every stage, from basic lab work to vaccine discovery and clinical trials. It also made its first call for research proposals on 18 January, and teams have until 8 March to submit preliminary proposals for grants.

“For too long, we have separated out the academic work from the next step of taking it into all that is actually required to make a vaccine,” says Farrar. There is also no market for vaccines against 'potential' epidemic threats, he notes, which explains why there is no commercial incentive to take research leads out of the lab and into clinical development.

CEPI aims to change this state of affairs by bringing together sustained long-term funding from governments and philanthropies to encourage collaboration with biotechnology companies and large vaccine makers.

Industry involvement will be crucial, says Farrar. Pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi, Pfizer, Takeda and several other companies have said that they will support CEPI, but details about their involvement are still under negotiation.

CEPI is particularly keen for the United States to join, but discussions will take time given the change in administration, adds Røttingen. “Irrespective of the government, it was a bad time to engage the United States on that."

Nature 541, 444–445 (26 January 2017) doi:10.1038/nature.2017.21329



 Scientists fight to beat emerging diseases before deadly outbreaks [ITV News 18 Jan 2017]


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・Video report by ITV News Science Correspondent Alok Jha

Scientists are trying to create vaccines for new, emerging and unknown diseases before they potentially cause global health emergencies.

Researchers have said they are first targeting diseases which have the potential to cause serious epidemics.

These include Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), Lassa and Nipah viruses.

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 The global alliance was officially launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Credit: PA

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is aiming to develop two promising vaccine candidates against each disease before an epidemic strikes.

The initial investment of £375m ($460m) for the work has come from the governments of Germany, Japan and Norway, plus the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust.

・Zika virus 'no longer a global public health emergency'

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 The World Health Organisation announced the end of the Zika epidemic in November 2016. Credit: AP

The coalition was just officially launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
It is now calling for more investors to come forward to raise another half billion US dollars by the end of this year.

Medical research charity the Wellcome Trust has already pledged to donate another £81.5m ($100m) over the next five years to the project.

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 Bill and Melinda Gates were both awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for their work to 'provide lifesaving medical care to millions'. Credit: AP

Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has said: "Ebola and Zika showed that the world is tragically unprepared to detect local outbreaks and respond quickly enough to prevent them from becoming global pandemics.

"Without investments in research and development, we will remain unequipped when we face the next threat.

"The ability to rapidly develop and deliver vaccines when new 'unknown' diseases emerge offers our best hope to outpace outbreaks, save lives and avert disastrous economic consequences."

・The world is 'vulnerable' to pandemics, says Bill Gates



 More MERS cases linked to camel exposure in Saudi Arabia [CIDRAP, 17 Jan 2017]


In recent days the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health (MOH) announced three more MERS-CoV cases, two in the city of Al Hofuf and one in Najran.

Two Saudi men, 61 and 57, from Al Hofuf were diagnosed as having MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) on Jan 13. Both are in stable condition after presenting with symptoms of the disease, and both are listed as having primary exposure to the virus, which means they did not contract the disease from another person. The MOH said the 61-year-old man had direct contact with camels.

On Jan 14 a 66-year-old man from Najran was also listed in stable condition with MERS. He is likewise listed as having a primary exposure to the respiratory virus.

The new cases raise Saudi Arabia's MERS-CoV total to 1,539, including 640 deaths. Eleven people are still in treatment or monitoring.

Today the World Health Organization (WHO) released new details on 15 cases of MERS-CoV reported in Saudi Arabia between Dec 16 and 31, which included 2 fatal cases.

Five of the cases were in patients who had direct contact with camels, including drinking raw camel milk. Two cases were in expatriate healthcare workers, and one case involved an asymptomatic household contact of a patient. The remaining cases had unspecified primary sources of infection.



 Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – Saudi Arabia [WHO, 17 Jan 2017]


Between 16 and 31 December 2016 the National IHR Focal Point of Saudi Arabia reported fifteen (15) additional cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) including two (2) fatal cases. Five (5) deaths among previously reported MERS cases were also reported.

Details of the cases

1• A 49-year-old male national living in Khurmah city, Taif Region. He developed symptoms on 25 December and was admitted to hospital on 29 December. The patient who has comorbidities tested positive for MERS-CoV on 30 December. He has a history of contact with camels and consumption of their raw milk in the 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms. Currently the patient is in stable condition and admitted to a negative pressure isolation room on a ward. Ministry of Agriculture has been informed and investigation of camels is ongoing.

2• A 41-year-old female non-national health care worker living in Abha city, Assir Region. She is asymptomatic and was identified through tracing contacts of the 50-year-old MERS case reported to WHO on 28 December (See case no. 7 below). She tested positive for MERS-CoV on 28 December. She has a history of caring for the MERS cases between 25 to 26 December. Currently she is asymptomatic in stable condition at home isolation.

3• A 30-year-old female non-national health care worker living in Abha city, Assir Region. She is asymptomatic and was identified through tracing contacts of the 50-year-old MERS case reported to WHO on 28 December (See case no. 7 below). She tested positive for MERS-CoV on 28 December. She has a history of caring for the MERS cases between 25-26 December. Currently she is asymptomatic in stable condition at home isolation.

4• A 66-year-old male national living in Madinah city, Madinah Region. He developed symptoms on 21 December and was admitted to hospital on 26 December. The patient who has comorbidities tested positive for MERS-CoV on 28 December. He has a history of contact with camels and consumption of their raw milk in the 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms. Currently the patient is in stable condition and admitted to a negative pressure isolation room on a ward. Ministry of Agriculture has been informed and investigation of camels is ongoing.

5• A 46-year-old female national living in Riyadh city, Riyadh Region. She developed symptoms on 21 December and was admitted to hospital on 26 December. The patient who has comorbidities tested positive for MERS-CoV on 27 December. Investigation of history of exposure to the known risk factors in the 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms is ongoing. Currently the patient is in stable condition and admitted to a negative pressure isolation room on a ward.

6• An 82-year-old male national living in Najran city, Najran Region. He developed symptoms on 21 December and was admitted to hospital on 24 December. The patient who has comorbidities tested positive for MERS-CoV on 26 December. Investigation of history of exposure to the known risk factors in the 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms is ongoing. Currently the patient is in critical condition and admitted to the intensive care unit on mechanical ventilation.

7• A 50-year-old male national living in Abha city, Assir Region. He developed symptoms on 21 December and was admitted to hospital on 25 December. The patient who has comorbidities tested positive for MERS-CoV on 26 December. Investigation of history of exposure to the known risk factors in the 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms is ongoing. Currently the patient is in critical condition and admitted to the intensive care unit on mechanical ventilation.

8• A 44-year-old male national living in Riyadh city, Riyadh Region. He developed symptoms on 20 December and was admitted to hospital on 24 December. The patient who has no comorbidities tested positive for MERS-CoV on 25 December. Investigation of history of exposure to the known risk factors in the 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms is ongoing. Currently the patient is in stable condition and admitted to a negative pressure isolation room on a ward.

9• A 64-year-old female national living in Najran city, Najran Region. She developed symptoms on 17 December and was admitted to hospital on 21 December. The patient who had comorbidities tested positive for MERS-CoV on 23 December. She was admitted to a negative pressure isolation room on a ward. However, her conditions deteriorated and she passed away on 30 December 2016. Investigation of history of exposure to the known risk factors in the 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms is ongoing.

10• A 78-year-old male national living in Riyadh city, Riyadh Region. He developed symptoms on 18 December and was admitted to hospital on 19 December. The patient who has comorbidities tested positive for MERS-CoV on 21 December. He has a history of contact with camels in the 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms. Currently the patient is in stable condition and admitted to a negative pressure isolation room on a ward. Ministry of Agriculture has been informed and investigation of camels is ongoing.

11• A 24-year-old male national living in Makkah city, Makkah Region. He was asymptomatic and identified through tracing of household contacts of the 47-year-old MERS case reported to WHO on 20 December (See case no. 12 below). The case tested positive for MERS-CoV on 21 December. He has no comorbidities and no history of exposure to the other known risk factors in the 14 days prior to detection. Currently he is asymptomatic in stable condition at home isolation.

12• A 47-year-old male national living in Makkah city, Makkah Region. He developed symptoms on 17 December and was admitted to hospital on 18 December. The patient who has comorbidities tested positive on 19 December. He has a history of contact with camels and consumption of their raw milk in the 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms. Currently the patient is in stable condition and admitted to a negative pressure isolation room on a ward.

13• A 57-year-old male national living in Riyadh city, Riyadh Region. He developed symptoms on 13 December and was admitted to hospital on 18 December. The patient who has no comorbidities tested positive for MERS-CoV on 19 December. Investigation of history of exposure to the known risk factors in the 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms is ongoing. Currently the patient is in stable condition and admitted to a negative pressure isolation room on a ward.

14• A 22-year-old female national living in in Taif city, Taif Region. She developed symptoms on 14 December and was admitted to hospital on 16 December. The patient who has comorbidities tested positive for MERS-CoV on 18 December. Investigation of history of exposure to the known risk factors in the 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms is ongoing. Currently the patient is in stable condition and admitted to a negative pressure isolation room on a ward.

15• A 60-year-old male national living in Mahd Aldhahab city, Madinah Region. He developed symptoms on 1 December and was admitted to hospital on 6 December. The patient who had comorbidities tested negative for MERS-CoV on 11 December. Another nasopharyngeal swab was collected on 14 December and tested positive for MERS-CoV on 15 December. The patient was admitted to a negative pressure isolation room on a ward. However, his conditions deteriorated and he passed away on 24 December 2016. He had a history of contact with camels and consumption of their raw milk in the 14 days prior to the onset of symptoms. Ministry of Agriculture has been informed and investigation of camels is ongoing.

The National IHR Focal Point for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also notified WHO of the death of 5 MERS-CoV cases that were reported in previous DONs published on 28 November (case no. 2), 19 December (1) (case no. 6), and 19 December (2) (case no. 1, 2, and 9).

Contact tracing of household and healthcare contacts is ongoing for these cases.

Globally, since September 2012, 1879 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV including at least 666 related deaths have been reported to WHO.

WHO risk assessment

MERS-CoV causes severe human infections resulting in high mortality and has demonstrated the ability to transmit between humans. So far, the observed human-to-human transmission has occurred mainly in health care settings.

The notification of additional cases does not change the overall risk assessment. WHO expects that additional cases of MERS-CoV infection will be reported from the Middle East, and that cases will continue to be exported to other countries by individuals who might acquire the infection after exposure to animals or animal products (for example, following contact with dromedaries) or human source (for example, in a health care setting). WHO continues to monitor the epidemiological situation and conducts risk assessment based on the latest available information.

WHO advice

Based on the current situation and available information, WHO encourages all Member States to continue their surveillance for acute respiratory infections and to carefully review any unusual patterns.

Infection prevention and control measures are critical to prevent the possible spread of MERS-CoV in health care facilities. It is not always possible to identify patients with MERS-CoV early because like other respiratory infections, the early symptoms of MERS-CoV are non-specific.

Therefore, health-care workers should always apply standard precautions consistently with all patients, regardless of their diagnosis. Droplet precautions should be added to the standard precautions when providing care to patients with symptoms of acute respiratory infection; contact precautions and eye protection should be added when caring for probable or confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection; airborne precautions should be applied when performing aerosol generating procedures.

Until more is understood about MERS-CoV, people with diabetes, renal failure, chronic lung disease, and immunocompromised persons are considered to be at high risk of severe disease from MERS-CoV infection. Therefore, these people should avoid close contact with animals, particularly camels, when visiting farms, markets, or barn areas where the virus is known to be potentially circulating. General hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing before and after touching animals and avoiding contact with sick animals, should be adhered to.

Food hygiene practices should be observed. People should avoid drinking raw camel milk or camel urine, or eating meat that has not been properly cooked.

WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event nor does it currently recommend the application of any travel or trade restrictions.

Zoonotic Bird Flu News - from 30 Jan 2017



 H7N9 bird flu resurges in China ahead of Lunar New Year [CNN, 30 Jan 2017]

By Madison Park

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A vendor's child is placed between poultry cages in Wuhan, China, in this file picture.

When Mr He, a 39-year-old furniture factory owner came down with flu symptoms late last year, he wasn't worried.

According to his family, the man, who worked in Guangdong province in southern China, had always been healthy.

Weeks later, He was on a ventilator. Hospitalized for about 20 days, he slipped into a vegetative state and later died, his family said.

He was diagnosed as having H7N9 virus, a new strain of avian flu that jumped from birds to humans for the first time last year, said his close cousin, who requested not to be identified.

"I couldn't believe it," she said. "How could this happen to him? It all came so suddenly to a healthy person."

In recent weeks, China has seen a spike in cases and experts are worried that infections will gather pace as the country celebrates the Lunar New Year this week - a peak time for travel and for poultry sales.

Fresh wave?

Since the strain was first reported in Shanghai in February 2013, it has affected 246 in mainland China, according to Hong Kong's Department of Health. The World Health Organization says that 56 have died from the disease.

The number of cases faded after May, but returned in late 2013. Like all flu strains, H7N9 cases increase during colder months.

In January alone, 19 deaths and 96 human cases have been reported, according to figures from the Chinese Center for Disease Control cited by state news agency Xinhua on Monday -- rivaling the initial wave of H7N9 cases seen in March 2013.

Cases have also been reported in Taiwan and in Hong Kong, which on Tuesday began culling 20,000 chickens after a sample of live chicken imported from mainland China tested positive for H7 viruses.

According to the WHO, most of the human cases were exposed to the H7N9 virus through contact with poultry or contaminated environments, such as live bird markets,

"When the chickens are very overcrowded, at the time of festivals like Christmas, Chinese New Year, and there are no bio-security measures taken, then the virus spreads through poultry very quickly," said Dr. Kwok-Yung Yuen, chair of infectious diseases at the University of Hong Kong.

"It's also possible that travelers will bring live poultry back to their own villages," he added.

The WHO does not plan to issue a special advisory ahead of the holiday, said Gregory Hartl, a spokesman with the organization.

"Further sporadic human cases are expected in affected and possibly neighboring areas, especially given expected increases in production, trade and transport of poultry associated with the upcoming Lunar New Year," the WHO warned.

The Lunar New Year is one of the biggest annual human migrations on the planet as most Chinese travel to spend the nearly two-week holiday with their families.

'Stringent measures needed'

The H7N9 virus appears deadlier than the seasonal flu, but less virulent than another bird flu strain, H5N1, with a crude 30% mortality rate, said Yuen, who has worked on major outbreaks including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and H5N1.

He said the key is to implement sanitation measures at the live poultry markets. He drew parallels of the current situation in China with the first case of H5N1, which appeared in Hong Kong in 1997.

The Hong Kong government implemented rules such as requiring regular cleaning of transport cages, mandating a rest day when no live poultry would be allowed at the marketplace and ordering all unsold birds at the market to be killed in the evening.

Yuen said such measures are crucial to avoid the spread of the virus.

"There will be an increasing number of cases in the coming February to May unless the mainland government takes more stringent measures to stop this spread," Yuen said.

Live poultry trading has been halted in three cities in the hardest-hit province of Zhejiang in eastern China, Xinhua reported.

And in Shanghai, the live poultry trade will shut starting January 31 to April 30 to prevent spread of bird flu, according to Xinhua.

However, not all H7N9 patients have had close contact with live birds, including the case of He, whose cousin said his closest poultry contact was eating chicken at a restaurant.

On January 19, a 31-year-old Shanghai doctor died, marking the first medical worker death from the strain. The doctor, according to Xinhua, appeared to have limited exposure to poultry or a contaminated environment, .

Infection of health care workers is closely watched because it might indicate human-to-human transmission in a medical setting.

"Sometimes we just don't know the source," said the WHO's Hartl.

Not having exposure to poultry doesn't equate human-to-human transmission, he added. H7N9 does not appear to transmit easily among humans, according to the WHO.

Loved ones suffer

Family members who've seen their loved ones suffer from H7N9 describe a long, harrowing illness, that resembled pneumonia.

Zhang Kewei's 57-year-old father, who lived in eastern province of Zhejiang, was diagnosed as having H7N9 after developing a 104 degree Fahrenheit fever in November. He did not survive.

"He, at first, felt cold and had a fever and later, his oxygen level in his blood dropped to 40 per cent," said his daughter Zhang Kewei.

His family struggled to transfer him to a bigger hospital. When they did, it took several days to confirm that he had H7N9, she said.

"We couldn't stop crying," said Zhang. "But we had to wipe away tears, and told my dad that he was ill, but assured him that he would recover, but needed to suffer a little because the needles could hurt."

"My father then said: 'It's OK. I'm not afraid.'"



 Recent upsurge of A(H7N9) flu cases in China [Science Daily, 30 Jan 2017]

At present, the most immediate threat to EU citizens is to those living or visiting influenza A(H7N9)-affected areas in China

A steep increase of human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) has been reported since the beginning of December 2016 from China. During this wave, the number of human cases is already higher than during the last two waves in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

The majority of recently reported human cases are associated with exposure to infected live poultry or contaminated environments, including markets where live poultry are sold. Influenza A(H7N9) viruses continue to be detected in poultry and their environments in the areas where human cases are occurring. In addition, the human cases are more geographically widespread and cases are also reported from rural areas, unlike in previous epidemics.

At present, the most immediate threat to EU citizens is to those living or visiting influenza A(H7N9)-affected areas in China concludes the updated rapid risk assessment by the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC). Caution should be taken by people travelling to China to avoid direct exposure to poultry, live poultry markets or backyard farms.

The recent upsurge of human cases indicates the possibility of imported cases to Europe.

However, the risk of the disease spreading within Europe between humans remains low as the virus does not appear to transmit easily from human to human: investigations do not support sustained human-to-human transmission.

Travellers that visited affected areas and develop respiratory symptoms and fever within up to 10 days after their return should consult a physician and inform him/her about their recent travel history to facilitate early diagnosis and treatment.

People in the EU presenting with severe respiratory or influenza-like infection and a history of travel to the affected areas in China- with potential exposure to poultry or live bird markets -- will require careful investigation, management and infection control.

Adequate samples for influenza tests should be rapidly taken and processed from patients with relevant exposure history within 10 days preceding symptom onset.

Early or presumptive treatment with neuraminidase inhibitors should be considered for suspect or confirmed cases, in line with relevant national and international recommendations.

Contacts of confirmed cases should be followed-up and tested. Offering post-exposure prophylaxis should be considered.



 Recent upsurge of A(H7N9) flu cases in China [European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), 30 Jan 2017]


At present, the most immediate threat to EU citizens is to those living or visiting influenza A(H7N9)-affected areas in China

A steep increase of human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) has been reported since the beginning of December 2016 from China. During this wave, the number of human cases is already higher than during the last two waves in 2014-15 and 2015-16.

The majority of recently reported human cases are associated with exposure to infected live poultry or contaminated environments, including markets where live poultry are sold. Influenza A(H7N9) viruses continue to be detected in poultry and their environments in the areas where human cases are occurring.

In addition, the human cases are more geographically widespread and cases are also reported from rural areas, unlike in previous epidemics.

At present, the most immediate threat to EU citizens is to those living or visiting influenza A(H7N9)-affected areas in China concludes the updated rapid risk assessment by the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC). Caution should be taken by people travelling to China to avoid direct exposure to poultry, live poultry markets or backyard farms.

The recent upsurge of human cases indicates the possibility of imported cases to Europe. However, the risk of the disease spreading within Europe between humans remains low as the virus does not appear to transmit easily from human to human: investigations do not support sustained human-to-human transmission.

Travellers that visited affected areas and develop respiratory symptoms and fever within up to 10 days after their return should consult a physician and inform him/her about their recent travel history to facilitate early diagnosis and treatment.

People in the EU presenting with severe respiratory or influenza-like infection and a history of travel to the affected areas in China- with potential exposure to poultry or live bird markets -- will require careful investigation, management and infection control.

Adequate samples for influenza tests should be rapidly taken and processed from patients with relevant exposure history within 10 days preceding symptom onset. Early or presumptive treatment with neuraminidase inhibitors should be considered for suspect or confirmed cases, in line with relevant national and international recommendations. Contacts of confirmed cases should be followed-up and tested. Offering post-exposure prophylaxis should be considered.



 A New, “Highly Aggressive” Bird Flu Has Been Found in Germany [Modern Farmer, 30 Jan 2017]

By Andrew Amelinckx

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A German disinfection station during an outbreak of avian influenza in 2006.Photo: Darkone via Wikimedia Commons

H5N5, a new, highly pathogenic sub-type of bird flu has been found on several turkey farms in northern Germany, adding to concerns of the spreading of new strains of avian influenza.

The Friedrich Loeffler Institute, Germany’s national institute for animal health, discovered H5N5 on Jan. 21 at four different locations, all owned by the same company, in Steinburg, in the state of Schleswig-Holstein. First, a farmer found a number of dead turkeys at a site housing 3,400 birds. The virus then spread to a larger facility housing 15,000 birds, according to the news agency Kieler Nachrichten. The birds were culled in an attempt to stop the virus virus, but on
Thursday, the Schleswig-Holstein Agriculture Minister Robert Habeck stated that two more nearby farms with another 15,000 birds had been infected and would also have to be culled.

Preventive measures, including closing down the sites, have been put in place to contain the virus, according to Habek.

Habek described the new subtype, which has never been found in European poultry, as “highly aggressive,” noting that it killed more than half of the flock of 3,400 birds where it was first discovered within 48 hours with the rest of the turkeys having shown disease symptoms. H5N5 had already been found in wild geese in Germany and in wild birds in the Netherlands, Italy, Montenegro, Italy, Croatia and Israel.

“This discovery shows how dynamic the bird flu is. The virus is still present and is changing,” Habeck told Deutsche Welle.

There hasn’t been a known case of H5N5 being contracted by humans, according to the Friedrich Loeffler Institute. In China, a different subtype of the virus, H7N9, has jumped to humans, sickening more than 1,000 people, and killing nearly 40 percent of those who contracted the illness.

Since October, poultry flocks in 23 European countries have been hit by a different subtype of avian influenza, H5N8, which led to the culling of more than 1.5 million poultry so far, according to Reuters.



 More Cases of Human Bird Flu in China Have Experts Worried [Modern Farmer, 30 Jan 2017]

By Andrew Amelinckx

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Colorized transmission electron micrograph of Avian influenza A H5N1.

More cases of human bird flu in China were confirmed last week while a variety of subtypes continue to wreak havoc on the poultry industry in Europe, Africa, and Asia. The confluence of these events has the World Health Organization on high alert with worries that a pandemic may be waiting in the wings.

This past Thursday, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported that a 67-year-old patient in Hengyang city was the latest person to contract the sometimes deadly H7N9 subtype. The man, who is in critical condition, is the 17th person in Hunan Province alone to have fallen ill with this flu this year. Five of the victims have died. Two days earlier, on Tuesday, Chinese media reported a 37-year-old woman had also been sickened and was also in critical condition. Both victims had been in contact with poultry before falling ill. No human-to-human transmission has been reported.

Since the first three cases of this type of human bird flu were reported in China in April 2013, more than 1,000 cases have been documented with a death rate of about 38.5 percent. There have also been periodic outbreaks of H5N1 of H9N2 bird flu subtypes in humans over the years, but in lower numbers than H7N9.

At the same time, two highly pathogenic bird flu subtypes, H5N8 in Europe and Africa, and H5N6 in Asia, have led to the culling of millions of poultry (more than 22 million in South Korea alone). This past week a third subtype, H5N5, was found on several turkey farms in Germany. These subtypes have not been found in humans.

Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Minnesota, told Reuters on Thursday that what we are seeing is “a fundamental change in the natural history of influenza viruses.”

With a large number of different subtypes of the disease infecting birds, both wild and domesticated, across the globe, there is a worry that it’s only a matter of time before another strain makes the jump to humans. The WHO, amidst concern of a possible pandemic in the human population, has called on all countries to closely monitor any avian flu outbreaks in birds and to report any human cases as soon as possible.

“The rapidly expanding geographical distribution of these outbreaks and the number of virus strains currently co-circulating have put WHO on high alert,” WHO director-general Dr. Margaret Chan said last week at the start of the U.N. agency’s 10-day executive board.

Dr. Caroline Brown, program manager for flu and other respiratory pathogens for the WHO’s Regional Office for Europe, said in a statement that although there haven’t been any cases of human H5N8 so far, “this does not mean this cannot happen, as experience tells us.”



 Avian Flu Fast Facts [CNN News, 30 Jan 2017]

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Health workers collect blood samples from chickens at a poultry farm on April 17, 2013 in Taizhou, China.

(CNN)Here's a look at avian flu.

Avian influenza, also called avian flu or bird flu, is an illness that usually affects only birds.

The official name for the most commonly seen and most deadly form of the virus is called "Influenza A (H5N1)," or the "H5N1 virus."

In March 2013, a strain of bird flu previously not seen in humans - H7N9 - was detected in China.

People have killed hundreds of millions of birds around the world in an attempt to control the spread of the avian flu.

There are many different strains of avian flu: 16 H subtypes and 9 N subtypes. Only those labeled H5, H7 and H10 have caused deaths in humans.

Diagnosis/Treatment:

Most cases of human bird flu infections are due to contact with infected poultry or surfaces that are contaminated with infected bird excretions: saliva, nasal secretions and feces.

Symptoms of avian flu include fever, cough, sore throat and sometimes severe respiratory diseases and pneumonia.

The FDA has approved four drugs to combat influenza - amantadine, rimantadine, oseltamivir (brand name: Tamiflu) and zanamivir (brand name: Relenza).

H5N1 is resistant to two of the FDA approved drugs used to combat influenza - amantadine and rimantadine.

The mortality rate is nearly 60% for infected humans.

Timeline:

Early 1900s -The avian flu is first identified in Italy.
1961 - The H5N1 strain is first isolated in birds in South Africa.

December 1983 - Chickens in Pennsylvania and Virginia are exposed to the avian flu, and more than five million birds are killed to stop the disease from spreading.

May 1997 - Eighteen people are infected by the H5N1 strain in Hong Kong, and six die. These are the first documented cases of human infection. Hong Kong destroys its entire poultry population (1.5 million birds) in three days.
1999 - Two children in Hong Kong are infected by the H9N2 strain.

February 2003 - Eighty-four people in the Netherlands are affected by the H7N7 strain of the virus, and one dies.

February 2, 2004 - The World Health Organization is investigating possible human-to-human transmission among a family in Vietnam. Three family members have died of the illness, and one has recovered. One member had no contact with infected poultry while the others did.

February 7, 2004 - Twelve thousand chickens are slaughtered in Kent County, Delaware, after they are found to be infected with an H7 virus.

February 23, 2004 - A flock of 6,600 broiler chickens in Gonzalez County, Texas, is destroyed after being diagnosed with an "extremely infectious and fatal" form of bird flu, the H5N2 strain.

February 5, 2005 - The Cambodian Health Ministry and WHO confirm the first human death in Cambodia (the H1N1 strain, on January 30, 2005).

October 7, 2005 - The avian flu reaches Europe. Romanian officials quarantine a village of about 30 people after three dead ducks there test positive for bird flu.

November 12, 2005 - A one-year-old boy in Thailand tests positive for the lethal H5N1 strain of avian influenza.

November 16, 2005 - WHO confirms two human cases of bird flu in China, including a female poultry worker who died from the H5N1 strain.

November 17, 2005 - Two deaths are confirmed in Indonesia from the H5N1 strain of avian influenza.

January 1, 2006 - A Turkish teenager dies of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza in Istanbul, and later that week, two of his sisters follow.

January 17, 2006 - A 15-year-old girl from northern Iraq dies after contracting bird flu.

February 20, 2006 - The French Health Ministry confirms that a duck in central France had the H5N1 strain of avian flu.

February 20, 2006 - Vietnam becomes the first country to successfully contain the disease. A country is considered disease-free when no new cases are reported in 21 days.

March 12, 2006 - Officials in Cameroon confirm cases of the H5N1 strain. The avian flu has now reached four African countries.

March 13, 2006 - The avian flu is confirmed by officials in Myanmar (Burma).

May 11, 2006 - Djibouti announces its first cases of H5N1 - several birds and one human.

December 20, 2011 - The US Department of Health and Human Services releases a statement saying that the government is urging scientific journals to omit details from research they intend to publish on the transfer of H5N1 among mammals. There is concern that the information could be misused by terrorists.

July 31, 2012 - Scientists announce that H3N8, a new strain of avian flu, caused the death of more than 160 baby seals in New England in 2011.

March 2013 - The official Chinese news agency Xinhua reports that two people in China have died after falling ill with a strain of bird flu, H7N9, not detected before in humans.

December 6, 2013 - A 73-year-old woman infected with H10N8 dies in China, the first human fatality from this strain.

January 8, 2014 - Canadian health officials confirm that a resident from Alberta has died from H5N1 avian flu, the first case of the virus in North America. It is also the first case of H5N1 infection ever imported by a traveler into a country where the virus is not present in poultry.

April 20, 2015 - Officials say more than five million hens will be euthanized after bird flu was detected at a commercial laying facility in northwest Iowa. According to the US Department of Agriculture, close to eight million cases of bird flu have been detected in 13 states since December. Health officials say there is little to no risk for transmission to humans with respect to H5N2. No human infections with the virus have ever been detected.

January 15, 2016 - The US Department of Agriculture confirms that a commercial turkey farm in Dubois County, Indiana, has tested positive for the H7N8 strain of avian influenza.

January 24, 2017 - Britain's Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs release a statement confirming that a case of H5N8 avian flu has been detected in a flock of farmed breeding pheasants in Preston, UK. The flock is estimated to contain around 10,000 birds. The statement adds that a number of those birds have died, and the remaining live birds at the premises are being "humanely" killed because of disease.



 In Kano FG deploys experts to assess poultry farms for bird flu [Pulse Nigeria, 30 Jan 2017]

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The Director of Veterinary Services in the state's Ministry of Agriculture disclosed this in Kano on Monday.

Some experts from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI), Jos, have visited Kano State to assess poultry farms affected by the recent outbreak of bird flu.

Dr Shehu Bawa, Director, Veterinary Services in the state`s Ministry of Agriculture, disclosed this in Kano on Monday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

He said that the federal government sent down the experts after the discovery of a new virus of Avian Influenza ‘H5N8,’ when the disease resurfaced in the state on Dec. 15, 2016.

Bawa said during the assessment, the team toured some affected poultry farms in addition to taking samples from live bird markets in Kano metropolis.

He said the team which had since returned to Abuja had discovered one of the samples to be positive.

According to him, the team had advised the state government to increase surveillance of live bird markets in the state.

He commended the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh for sending a team to assess the situation.

“During the visit, the team had also advised the state government on the need to intensify surveillance of live bird markets as a means of checking the spread of the disease."

“On our part, we will continue with the disinfection activities in order to prevent further spread of the disease,” Bawa said.

He called on farm owners to also take all necessary measures to minimise the disease`s entry into their farms.

“Our advice to farmers is that they should practice bio-security effectively so as to ensure adequate protection of their farms,” he added.



 Fifth case of bird flu in wild swan in Co Roscommon [The Irish Farmers Journal, 30 Jan 2017]

By Thomas Huber

627630-252072.jpg
The three cases of H5N8 bird flu detected so far this month were found in wild swans.

The Department has confirmed a case of the H5N8 strain of bird flu in Ballinturley, Co Roscommon.

The outbreak was confirmed in a whooper swan found on 19 January.

This is the third case of infection in whooper swans since the beginning of the year, with previous cases identified in Co Tipperary and Co Leitrim.

This comes as outbreaks continue to develop in Britain, with two cases confirmed in connected pheasant farms in Lincolnshire, England, in the past week.

Precaution measures, including the obligation to house all farmed birds and segregate them from wild birds, remain in place across the island of Ireland.




 USDA confirms H5N2 bird flu in a wild duck from Montana [AG News, 30 Jan 2017]

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently confirmed the presence of the H5N2 strain of avian influenza in a wild mallard duck in Fergus County, Montana. However, no illness or mortalities in the U.S. domestic poultry have been detected thus far.

The sample, taken from a hunter-harvested bird through routine surveillance, was tested at the Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and then forwarded to USDA's Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.

The H5N2 strain is the same strain that resulted in the death and euthanizing of millions of turkeys and chickens in Minnesota and several Upper Midwest states during the spring of 2015.

Wild migratory waterfowl are a natural reservoir for avian influenza, and these viruses can travel in wild birds without appearing sick.

Anyone involved with poultry production, from small backyard flocks to the large commercial producers, should review their biosecurity activities to assure the health and safety of their birds.

The United States has the strongest avian influenza surveillance program in the world, and USDA is continually working with its partners to look for the disease in commercial poultry operations, live bird markets and in migratory wild bird populations.

The Centers for Disease Control considers the risk to the general public from H5 strains of avian influenza to be low, and no human infections have occurred in the United States. However, people should avoid contact with sick or dead poultry or wildlife.



 Deadly bird flu strains created by industrial poultry farms [The Ecologist, 30 Jan 2017]

by Robert G. Wallace

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Some of the 17,000 poultry at an intensive chicken farm in Pennsylvania, USA, which produces 2.5 million chicks each year. Photo: Lance Cheung / US Department of Agriculture via Flickr (CC BY).

As deadly H5Nx bird flu strains diversify in giant, fast-rotation flocks and and adapt to poultry that tens of thousands of human handlers care for and process every day, the emergence of a deadly human-specific flu becomes ever more likely, writes Robert G. Wallace. The industry can no longer blame wild birds for the problems it is creating - and must urgently reform its own practices.

“Barns of thousands of poultry in packed homogeneous monoculture offer so much food for pathogens that the most virulent bird flu can be selected for, decimating fowl populations without running out of new hosts to infect.”

Multiple outbreaks of deadly H5 bird flu are decimating poultry across Europe,Asia, and the Middle East.

The epidemic, moving across Eurasia in wave after wave, follows an eruption of H5N2 here in the US in 2015.

All the new strains - H5N2, H5N3, H5N5, H5N6, H5N8, and H5N9, together called H5Nx - are descendants of the H5N1 subtype that first emerged in China in 1997 and since 2003 has killed 452 people.

Big Poultry and its collaborators in government are blaming wild waterfowl, which act as reservoirs for many influenza strains, for the new poultry outbreaks.

For instance, research under the aegis of University of Minnesota Professor Carol Cardona, who holds the industry-funded Pomeroy Chair in Avian Health, claims that climate change is driving shifts in wild waterfowl ecology and therefore in the influenza to which industrial poultry here in Minnesota are now exposed.

Contrary to the industry's claim, however, exhaustive sampling conducted by state ornithologists found no H5N2 in wild waterfowl in Minnesota. Yet Cardona's team continues to search for H5N2 in Spring 2015 samples.

Why? Simply because it claims the virus must be there. The absence of evidence is treated as no barrier to an expedient assumption in industry's favor about the nature of the outbreak.

Blaming waterfowl is based on another fallacy. Even if a search for H5N2 in waterfowl proved successful, what would it show? How would the presence of H5N2 in waterfowl here in Minnesota explain the damage the outbreak has caused to industrial turkey and chicken egg layers here in the Midwest in 2015 or across Eurasia today?

Deadly flu is the 'collateral blowback' of industrial agriculture

The industry's line of research omits addressing why multiple influenza strains, including H5N2 and many of the other new H5Nx strains, develop a deadliness in its poultry that isn't found in most waterfowl.

Indeed, no cases of highly pathogenic flu in wild waterfowl were recorded anywhere before 2005. Deadly flu in waterfowl has since been discovered only as collateral blowback from outbreaks on farms.

As agricultural production turns wetlands into farmland, migrating waterfowl that have traditionally visited wetlands along their flyways have switched to feeding on grain on industrial farms. That is, the expanding interface between waterfowl and intensive poultry production isn't caused exclusively by climatic changes, as the Cardona team suggests, as by the actions of the industrial agricultural sector itself.

Focusing on wild waterfowl and climate change shifts scrutiny from an industrial model of poultry production that a growing scientific literature indicates is itself a potentially catastrophic public health danger.

Mathematical models of pathogen evolution - reviewed here and here - show that intensive husbandry (raising barns of thousands of poultry in packed homogeneous monoculture) offers so much food for flu (and other pathogens), spurring the evolution of explosive deadliness.

The models infer that a continual supply of cramped-in genetic clones removes a cap on how deadly influenza can evolve. With one new batch of birds after another every six weeks, thousands of immunologically weak clones are always available.

The most virulent bird flu can be selected for, decimating fowl populations without running out of new hosts to infect. The now deadlier flu routinely spills back out among local smallholder flocks and wild waterfowl. But industrial scientists blame the resulting impact as the cause of the outbreak.

Now H5 viruses are adapted to industrial poultry production near urban centers

Now new research is showing that the broader environmental factors on which Cardona's team is banking as an explanation likely had at best only marginal effect on the emergence of the new H5 influenzas.

In a peer-reviewed paper recently published in eLIFE, a team led by Belgian spatial ecologist Marius Gilbert introduced models explaining the difference in spatial distributions in influenza outbreaks between the H5N1 subtype and its daughter H5Nx. Gilbert's team showed that models including popular eco-climatic variables, such as land surface temperature, open water, and vegetation, added little in explanatory value.

Instead, the study demonstrates, it's the combination of host species that best explained the distribution of outbreaks.

As shown in Figure 1 (above right), Gilbert's team inferred the relative contributions the various variables made in explaining the global spatial distributions of old school H5N1 (blue) and newbie H5Nx (red). We see that, yes, duck density (DuDnLg) is a major contributor to both kinds of bird flu - although less so for H5Nx - but we should keep in mind that ducks are also raised as poultry in intensive conditions in many European and Asian countries.

Fig1.jpg
Figure 1. Mean relative contributions (%) ± standard deviation of different sets of predictor variables for regression tree models for highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 (in blue) and H5Nx clade 2.3.4.4 (in red). the relative contribution is a measure of the relative importance of each predictor variable included in a regression model to compute the model prediction. details can be found in Dhingra et al. (2016) doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/elife.19571.005. Reprinted under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International.

The headline news here is that the H5 virus shifted from extensive chicken production (ChDnLgExt) characteristic of mostly smallholder production, to intensive chicken production (ChDNLgInt); urbanized human populations (HpDnLg); and managed horticulture (CultVeg). This means that the new strains now appear to be adapted to industrial poultry production near urban centers.

As shown in Figure 2 (above right), the Gilbert team globally mapped the resulting shift in influenza's environmental niche (the combination of factors supporting outbreaks) showing already documented hot spots for H5N1 (top) and H5Nx (bottom). As reported in the press, H5Nx is shown spreading in the US, Europe, China, and South Korea, among other hot zones.

Fig2.jpg
Figure 2. Predicted probability of occurrence of highly pathogenic H5N1 (top) and of H5Nx clade 2.3.4.4 (bottom). the dashed black line represents a buffer around the occurrence data for the HPAI H5N1 and H5Nx clade 2.3.4.4 predictions, corresponding to an area from which pseudo-absences were selected. The circle inset shows the prediction obtained when the effect of the variable ischina, a variable to account for the effect of mass vaccination of poultry in China, was removed. Details can be found in 30/01/2017 Dhingra et al. (2016) doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/elife.19571.005. Reprinted under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International.

But the maps also show areas in potential danger of the new virus, albeit under the constraint of applying data from the early stages of an ongoing outbreak. Bangladesh, Indonesia, Australia, parts of South America, and, prophetically it turns out, the Nile Delta, are in danger of hosting outbreaks, should H5Nx migrate there.

Virus evolving new infection mechanisms

H5Nx's rise isn't just a matter of a shift in where the virus is spreading, however. The new strains have also molecularly adjusted. That is, the virus is evolving new attributes fit for infecting poultry.

In another new paper, a team of virologists from Utrecht University and the Scripps Research Institute show an evolution in a particular molecule called hemagglutinin - the H of H5 - that the influenza virus uses to enter host cells.

A rare amino acid substitution in the receptor-binding part of the molecule permits the new H5Nx both broader and more efficient binding to target cells. The virus has switched from binding specifically to receptors in waterfowl intestines to expanding to receptors found in poultry throats. That means the virus is able to infect a broader range of host species, now including the poultry global agribusiness raises in the billions.

The molecular changes may also account for why there is a rapid rise in so many new strains of H5Nx, which swap gene segments by a process called reassortment.

As the virus begins to evolve more efficiently to target its hosts, new versions of the neuraminidase protein - the N in Nx - are apparently being swapped in and out of the various strains of H5Nx. How much virus is shed as a result during an infection and the rapidity of disease progression may also be affected.

Fortunately, the Utrecht team found no adaptation to mammalian receptors. So it seems no sustained transmission of the virus among humans is likely. But the researchers only tested
H5N8 in this study and human cases of H5N6 have already been documented in China.

As H5Nx diversifies and adapts to poultry that tens of thousands of human handlers care for and process every day, the likelihood of a deadly human-specific flu emerging increases.

What agribusiness does not want us to know

The immediate take-home is that we have here divergent ecological and evolutionary analyses converging upon the conclusion that the new H5Nx are increasingly influenzas adapted to intensively raised poultry. That is, a growing literature of scrupulously documented science is showing alarming trends that are beyond the control of agribusiness-funded research.

These findings are in stark contrast to the rosy narrative presented by extremely well-paid researchers backed by Big Poultry in what the University of Minnesota describes as the "Silicon Valley of food". Those teams continue to blame anything and anyone for bird flu other than the economic model at the heart of industrial poultry production.

Farmers around the world, and the populations they feed, deserve better. Growers are bearing the economic costs of a model of production that supports pathogens deadly to poultry and potentially dangerous to humans. The new research showing a newly adapted influenza must be heeded and adopted for a fundamental change in public policy.

Safer models of poultry production now being developed here in Minnesota and around the world must be supported before the next deadly pandemic sweeps the globe.



 Fifth case of bird flu confirmed in Ireland [RTE News, 30 Jan 2017]

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Three of the five cases of bird flu in Ireland have been in whooper swans

A fifth case of bird flu has been identified in Ireland.

The latest bird to test positive for H5N8 is a whooper swan in Ballinturley, Roscommon.

It is the third swan to have been found to be infected with the virus – the other cases were on the Longford-Leitrim border and in Tipperary.

The other two cases occurred in a species of duck known as wigeons.

In December, the Department of Agriculture activated regulations requiring all poultry and captive birds to be kept within a secure building amid concerns over bird flu.
The public is advised not to handle dead or sick birds.



 Lancashire bird flu: 63,000 birds to be culled [BBC News, 30 Jan 2017]

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The presence of bird flu has been confirmed at two farms in Lancashire

About 63,000 birds are due to be culled at a Lancashire farm to prevent the spread of bird flu, which has already been found at two nearby premises.

The decision was made after animal health investigators were unable to rule out the presence of H5N8 avian flu at a third farm in Wyre.

They said a "pro-active culling" would take place of birds including pheasants, partridges and ducks.

The Food Standards Agency said the disease was not a risk to food safety.

Public Health England said the risk to public health from the virus was very low.
'Restrictions in place'

The first outbreak was discovered last week at a farm in Wyre with 10,000 birds, followed by a second case involving a flock of about 1,000 birds.

Defra said the third premises would be cleansed and disinfected, "further reducing the risk that disease can be spread to other birds".

"Our investigations will continue and the restrictions already placed on the sites will remain in force until cleansing and disinfection is finished and the investigation is complete," a spokesperson said.

In January, there have been a number of other outbreaks of the virus, including at farms in Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire and in Carmarthenshire.

What is bird flu?

• There are two types of bird flu, the most serious of which - known as highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) - is often fatal in birds

• A less serious version - low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) - can cause mild breathing problems but affected birds do not always show clear signs of infection

• The NHS website says no humans have been infected with bird flu in the UK



 Macedonia reports outbreak of H5N8 bird flu at farm: OIE [The Reporter, 30 Jan 2017]

Macedonia reported an outbreak of the highly contagious H5N8 bird flu virus at a farm in the southwestern part of the country, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said on Monday, citing a report from the local veterinary authorities.

The infected birds were found at a farm in the region of Struga, the report sent by the Paris-based OIE said, without giving details on the type of birds contaminated.

The H5N8 bird flu virus has been spreading across Europe since late last year, leading to the large-scale slaughter of poultry in several countries, while other bird flu strains lead to some human deaths in China.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide, editing by Bate Felix)



 Bird Flu: Strain found in Uganda is less lethal [New Vision, 30 Jan 2017]

By Gerald Tenywa

Slaughtering sick birds is one of the main ways how the bird flu passed from the birds to the human population

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The strain of Avian Influenza that is behind the massive death of wild migratory birds along the shores of Lake Victoria is not as lethal as earlier thought.

According to Dr. Anthony Mbonye, Director Health Service (Clinical and Community Health), the strain of Avian Influenza also known as bird flu is H5N8 and not H5N1.

Mbonye stated that the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries had earlier confirmed the outbreak of bird flu and previously stated that it was H5N1.


“Laboratory results from the Uganda Virus Institute confirmed presence of H5N8 of Avian Influenza in all the samples collected, both domestic and wild migratory birds from Lutembe shores in Wakiso, and Bukakata in Masaka districts,” stated Mbonye. He added, “The H5N8 is a sub-type of Influenza A (called bird flu virus). H5N8 is considered as less pathogenic sub types for humans and no human cases have been confirmed in the

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Mbonye warned the public to be alert and to report any likely transmission from wild birds to humans. He warned against handling dead birds or slaughtering sick birds pointing out that is one of the main ways how the bird flu caught pass from the birds to the human population.

The virus, according to Mbonye’s statement does not survive at high temperatures and that poultry products should be thoroughly cooked. He also advised that if anybody gets a fever after slaughtering birds should report to health unit for further management of the condition.

Any sudden death of birds whether wild or domestic and suspicious signs among human beings should be reported to the district veterinary Officer and district health Officer and the village health team. Other signs are lack of coordination, discoloration of wattles, combs and legs, soft shelled eggs, lack of appetite, diarrhoea, swelling of the head and eyelids, according to Mbonye’s statement.

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As a team of experts works tirelessly to contain the disease, according to Mbonye, the farmers as well as tourists should stay calm. He also appealed to the public to report any suspected cases to the nearest health facility.

Three weeks ago, Christopher Kibazanga, the State Minister for Agriculture confirmed the outbreak of Avian Influenza in Uganda. He said migratory birds; the white winged black terns which migrate from Europe to escape winter could have come with the disease.

What is it?

Bird flu, is a contagious disease caused by a virus related to human influenza. Some strains of the disease have been passed to humans but this is very rare, and usually only occurs after very close contact with infected birds. While all bird species susceptible, domestic poultry are vulnerable to infection. Outbreaks can turn into epidemics among bird populations in short time.

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Symptoms

According to Dr. Mbonye, the Director Health Service (Clinical and Community Health) said the disease has similar symptoms with the common flu and has an incubation period of three to four days and is accompanied by sneezing as well as coughing, high temperature, chest pain, difficulty in breathing, muscle aches but it does not spread through air. The keepers of birds should watch out for symptoms such as swollen head, discoloration of the neck, throat and loss of appetite. Respiratory distress, diarrhoea and when birds lay fewer eggs, according a statement from the Ministry of Health. -



 Growing Hunger for Brazilian Chicken as Bird Flu Spreads [Bloomberg, 30 Jan 2017]

by Manisha Jha , Gerson Freitas Jr , and Isis Almeida

The bird flu outbreak sweeping across Asia and Europe means you may soon be eating more Brazilian chicken.

The world’s top exporter has been untouched by the highly contagious virus that led to widespread culling of birds -- more than 30 million in South Korea alone. After some key importing nations banned poultry from infected countries, Brazil is expected to see further demand for its products.

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The avian influenza outbreak is also good news for other virus-free nations that can fill the supply gap, such as the U.S., which is the second-biggest exporter and mostly evaded contamination since cases escalated in October. Because migrating wild birds carry the disease, there’s a risk that it will keep spreading, Societe Generale SA said in a report earlier this month.

“The global situation has worsened since mid-December,” said Nan-Dirk Mulder, an analyst at Rabobank International in Utrecht, Netherlands. “Countries like Brazil and the U.S. will indeed capture market share from European Union in international markets.”

Even without the current crisis, Brazil’s chicken exports will climb as much as 5 percent to 4.6 million metric tons this year, according to the Brazil Animal Protein Association, or ABPA. The country has never been hit by bird flu and overtook the U.S. as the top poultry shipper a decade ago.

Demand may rise from nations that banned imports or culled birds to contain the virus, such as China and parts of the EU, which are among Brazil’s key customers. European nations killed more than 1.5 million poultry since Oct. 19 and the figure may more than double, the World Organisation for Animal Health, or OIE, said this month.

Foie Gras

In an effort to contain the disease, France last week widened its order to cull birds in the southwest, where about two-thirds of the country’s foie gras is produced.

About half the cases of the highly pathogenic H5N8 strain found across Europe since October were in poultry and the rest in wild birds, the OIE said. Poultry exports from EU, the largest exporter after Brazil and the U.S., totaled 1.4 billion euros ($1.5 billion) in the first nine months of 2016, Rabobank said.

Recent outbreaks haven’t been as bad as in previous years. About 16.8 million birds were culled globally because of highly-pathogenic strains in 2016, almost half the amount a year earlier, the OIE estimates. While human infections with the virus are rare, some strains have been know to result in deaths.

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How the top exporters fare depends on how they get through the rest of winter, when bird flu is at its worst. While Brazil has remained immune, the U.S. has struggled in the past and this month found a case in Montana. In 2015, the worst outbreak in American history killed 48 million birds, reduced poultry-product exports and cost the federal government almost $1 billion.

"An outbreak in the U.S. would completely change the game,” said Ricardo Santin, a vice president at Brazil’s ABPA. “There is plenty of room for Brazil to increase exports even if the U.S. remains unaffected. They are more competitive than us in chicken legs, but they don’t access the market as well as we do."

South Korea has been hit hardest, culling about one-fifth its chickens. China, South Africa and
Hong Kong are among countries that banned imports from parts of Europe, while Chile reported its first outbreak in more than a decade. In Brazil, top poultry exporters suspended factory visits to avoid contamination after the government raised its bird flu alert status in December.

“It’s really important for us to preserve our sanitarian status,” said Francisco Turra, head of ABPA. "It wouldn’t be a surprise if we double exports to some particular countries” if Brazil stays free of the disease, he said.



 Minnesota poultry farmers warily watch bird flu outbreaks [Southern Idaho Agriculture News, 30 Jan 2017]

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ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO
In this April 28, 2015, photo, turkey farmer Greg Langmo, who lost thousands of turkeys to bird flu, poses for a photo at his farm in Litchfield, Minn. The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed outbreaks of the highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza virus on more than 100 Midwest farms in 2015. Hardest hit have been Minnesota, the country's top turkey-producing state, and Iowa, the No. 1 egg producer.

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Poultry farmers in Minnesota are cautiously watching the spread of bird flu in Europe and Asia.

Minnesota Public Radio reports that the World Health Organization is on “high alert” because the virus has been found in 40 countries around the world since last fall and is spreading quickly.

Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, says the spring waterfowl migration will increase the risk of the virus coming to Minnesota. Outbreaks in 2015 devastated over 100 Minnesota farms and cost the state economy over $500 million.

Rembrandt Foods owner Glen Taylor says his company, one of the nation’s largest egg producers, has taken steps to keep out any new virus. Supply trucks that may visit other poultry farms are strictly controlled, and employees unload at an entrance gate if possible.



 BIRD FLU FEARS GROWING [KTIC, 30 Jan 2017]

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The global spread of bird flu is increasing concerns the viruses will be transferred to humans.
Global infections of highly pathogenic avian influenza have reached unprecedented levels, according to Reuters. The presence in so many parts of the world at the same time increases the risk of viruses mixing and mutating, and possibly jumping to people.

While the U.S. has escaped much of the recent outbreaks, widespread avian influenza has been confirmed across Europe, Africa and Asia in the last three months. Global health officials are worried another strain could make a jump into humans like H5N1 did in the late 1990s.

Disease experts fear a deadly strain of avian flu could then mutate into a pandemic form that can be passed easily among people – something that has not yet been seen. But, while there would normally be around two or three bird flu strains recorded in birds at any one time, now there is at least half a dozen, which is prompting the fears.



 Industrial Production of Poultry Gives Rise to Bird Flu H5Nx [Scoop News, 30 Jan 2017]

by Robert G. Wallace

Multiple outbreaks of deadly H5 bird flu are decimating poultry across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

The epidemic, moving across Eurasia in wave after wave, follows an eruption of H5N2 here in the U.S. in 2015. All the new strains—H5N2, H5N3, H5N5, H5N6, H5N8, and H5N9, together called H5Nx—are descendants of the H5N1 subtype that first emerged in China in 1997 and since 2003 has killed 452 people.
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Big Poultry and its collaborators in government are blaming wild waterfowl, which act as reservoirs for many influenza strains, for the new poultry outbreaks.
For instance, research under the aegis of University of Minnesota Professor Carol Cardona, who holds the industry-funded Pomeroy Chair in Avian Health, claims that climate change is driving shifts in wild waterfowl ecology and therefore in the influenza to which industrial poultry here in Minnesota are now exposed.

Contrary to the industry’s claim, however, exhaustive sampling conducted by state ornithologists found no H5N2 in wild waterfowl in Minnesota. Yet Cardona’s team continues to search for H5N2 in Spring 2015 samples. Why? Simply because it claims the virus must be there. The absence of evidence is treated as no barrier to an expedient assumption in industry’s favor about the nature of the outbreak.

Blaming waterfowl is based on another fallacy. Even if a search for H5N2 in waterfowl proved successful, what would it show? How would the presence of H5N2 in waterfowl here in Minnesota explain the damage the outbreak has caused to industrial turkey and chicken egg layers here in the Midwest in 2015 or across Eurasia today?

The industry’s line of research omits addressing why multiple influenza strains, including H5N2 and many of the other new H5Nx strains, develop a deadliness in its poultry that isn’t found in most waterfowl. Indeed, no cases of highly pathogenic flu in wild waterfowl were recorded anywhere before 2005. Deadly flu in waterfowl has since been discovered only as collateral blowback from outbreaks on farms.

As agricultural production turns wetlands into farmland, migrating waterfowl that have traditionally visited wetlands along their flyways have switched to feeding on grain on industrial farms. That is, the expanding interface between waterfowl and intensive poultry production isn’t caused exclusively by climatic changes, as the Cardona team suggests, as by the actions of the industrial agricultural sector itself.

Focusing on wild waterfowl and climate change shifts scrutiny from an industrial model of poultry production that a growing scientific literature indicates is itself a potentially catastrophic public health danger.

Mathematical models of pathogen evolution—reviewed here and here—show that intensive husbandry (raising barns of thousands of poultry in packed homogeneous monoculture) offers so much food for flu (and other pathogens), spurring the evolution of explosive deadliness.

The models infer that a continual supply of cramped-in genetic clones removes a cap on how deadly influenza can evolve. With one new batch of birds after another every six weeks, thousands of immunologically weak clones are always available. The most virulent bird flu can be selected for, decimating fowl populations without running out of new hosts to infect. The now deadlier flu routinely spills back out among local smallholder flocks and wild waterfowl. But industrial scientists blame the resulting impact as the cause of the outbreak.

Now new research is showing that the broader environmental factors on which Cardona’s team is banking as an explanation likely had at best only marginal effect on the emergence of the new H5 influenzas.

In a peer-reviewed paper recently published in eLIFE, a team led by Belgian spatial ecologist Marius Gilbert introduced models explaining the difference in spatial distributions in influenza outbreaks between the H5N1 subtype and its daughter H5Nx. Gilbert’s team showed that models including popular eco-climatic variables, such as land surface temperature, open water, and vegetation, added little in explanatory value.

Instead, the study demonstrates, it’s the combination of host species that best explained the distribution of outbreaks.

As shown in Figure 1, Gilbert’s team inferred the relative contributions the various variables made in explaining the global spatial distributions of old school H5N1 (blue) and newbie H5Nx (red). We see that, yes, duck density (DuDnLg) is a major contributor to both kinds of bird flu—although less so for H5Nx—but we should keep in mind that ducks are also raised as poultry in intensive conditions in many European and Asian countries.

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FIGURE 1. MEAN RELATIVE CONTRIBUTIONS (%) ± STANDARD DEVIATION OF DIFFERENT SETS OF PREDICTOR VARIABLES FOR REGRESSION TREE MODELS FOR HIGHLY PATHOGENIC AVIAN INFLUENZA H5N1 (IN BLUE) AND H5NX CLADE 2.3.4.4 (IN RED). THE RELATIVE CONTRIBUTION IS A MEASURE OF THE RELATIVE IMPORTANCE OF EACH PREDICTOR VARIABLE INCLUDED IN A REGRESSION MODEL TO COMPUTE THE MODEL PREDICTION. DETAILS CAN BE FOUND IN DHINGRA ET AL. (2016) DOI: HTTP://DX.DOI.ORG/10.7554/ELIFE.19571.005. REPRINTED UNDER CREATIVE COMMONS ATTRIBUTION 4.0 INTERNATIONAL.

The headline news here is that the H5 virus shifted from extensive chicken production (ChDnLgExt) characteristic of mostly smallholder production to intensive chicken production (ChDNLgInt), urbanized human populations (HpDnLg), and managed horticulture (CultVeg). This means that the new strains now appear to be adapted to industrial poultry production near urban centers.

As shown in Figure 2, the Gilbert team globally mapped the resulting shift in influenza’s environmental niche (the combination of factors supporting outbreaks) showing already documented hot spots for H5N1 (top) and H5Nx (bottom). As reported in the press, H5Nx is shown spreading in the U.S., Europe, China, and South Korea, among other hot zones.

But the maps also show areas in potential danger of the new virus, albeit under the constraint of applying data from the early stages of an ongoing outbreak. Bangladesh, Indonesia, Australia, parts of South America, and, prophetically it turns out, the Nile Delta, are in danger of hosting outbreaks, should H5Nx migrate there.

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FIGURE 2. PREDICTED PROBABILITY OF OCCURRENCE OF HIGHLY PATHOGENIC H5N1 (TOP) AND OF H5NX CLADE 2.3.4.4 (BOTTOM). THE DASHED BLACK LINE REPRESENTS A BUFFER AROUND THE OCCURRENCE DATA FOR THE HPAI H5N1 AND H5NX CLADE 2.3.4.4 PREDICTIONS, CORRESPONDING TO AN AREA FROM WHICH PSEUDO-ABSENCES WERE SELECTED. THE CIRCLE INSET SHOWS THE PREDICTION OBTAINED WHEN THE EFFECT OF THE VARIABLE ISCHINA, A VARIABLE TO ACCOUNT FOR THE EFFECT OF MASS VACCINATION OF POULTRY IN CHINA, WAS REMOVED. DETAILS CAN BE FOUND IN DHINGRA ET AL. (2016) DOI: HTTP://DX.DOI.ORG/10.7554/ELIFE.19571.005. REPRINTED UNDER CREATIVE COMMONS ATTRIBUTION 4.0 INTERNATIONAL.

H5Nx’s rise isn’t just a matter of a shift in where the virus is spreading, however. The new strains have also molecularly adjusted. That is, the virus is evolving new attributes fit for infecting poultry.

In another new paper, a team of virologists from Utrecht University and the Scripps Research Institute show an evolution in a particular molecule called hemagglutinin–the H of H5–that the influenza virus uses to enter host cells.

A rare amino acid substitution in the receptor-binding part of the molecule permits the new H5Nx both broader and more efficient binding to target cells. The virus has switched from binding specifically to receptors in waterfowl intestines to expanding to receptors found in poultry throats. That means the virus is able to infect a broader range of host species, now including the poultry global agribusiness raises in the billions.

The molecular changes may also account for why there is a rapid rise in so many new strains of H5Nx, which swap gene segments by a process called reassortment. As the virus begins to evolve more efficiently to target its hosts, new versions of the neuraminidase protein—the N in Nx—are apparently being swapped in and out of the various strains of H5Nx. How much virus is shed as a result during an infection and the rapidity of disease progression may also be affected.

Fortunately, the Utrecht team found no adaptation to mammalian receptors. So it seems no sustained transmission of the virus among humans is likely. But the researchers only tested H5N8 in this study and human cases of H5N6 have already been documented in China. As H5Nx diversifies and adapts to poultry that tens of thousands of human handlers care for and process every day, the likelihood of a deadly human-specific flu emerging increases.

The immediate take-home is that we have here divergent ecological and evolutionary analyses converging upon the conclusion that the new H5Nx are increasingly influenzas adapted to intensively raised poultry. That is, a growing literature of scrupulously documented science is showing alarming trends that are beyond the control of agribusiness-funded research.

These findings are in stark contrast to the rosy narrative presented by extremely well-paid researchers backed by Big Poultry in what the University of Minnesota describes as the “Silicon Valley of food.” Those teams continue to blame anything and anyone for bird flu other than the economic model at the heart of industrial poultry production.

Farmers around the world, and the populations they feed, deserve better. Growers are bearing the economic costs of a model of production that supports pathogens deadly to poultry and potentially dangerous to humans. The new research showing a newly adapted influenza must be heeded and adopted for a fundamental change in public policy. Safer models of poultry production now being developed here in Minnesota and around the world must be supported before the next deadly pandemic sweeps the globe.

This post originally ran on the “Think Forward” Blog of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. Rob Wallace blogs at Farming Pathogens. His forthcoming book is: Big Farms Make Big Flu.



 Proliferation of bird flu outbreaks raises risk of human pandemic [The Japan News, 29Jan 2017]


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Reuters
A man shops for eggs imported from the United States as South Korea scrambles to boost imports to relieve a shortage amid its worst-ever bird flu outbreak, at a market in Seoul on Monday.

LONDON (Reuters) — The global spread of bird flu and the number of viral strains currently circulating and causing infections have reached unprecedented levels, raising the risk of a potential human outbreak, according to disease experts.

Multiple outbreaks have been reported in poultry farms and wild flocks across Europe, Africa and Asia in the past three months. While most involve strains that are currently low risk for human health, the sheer number of different types, and their presence in so many parts of the world at the same time, increases the risk of viruses mixing and mutating — and possibly jumping to people.

“This is a fundamental change in the natural history of influenza viruses,” Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease specialist at University of Minnesota, said of the proliferation of bird flu in terms of geography and strains — a situation he described as “unprecedented.”

Global health officials are worried another strain could make a jump into humans, like H5N1 did in the late 1990s. It has since caused hundreds of human infections and deaths, but has not acquired the ability to transmit easily from person to person.

The greatest fear is that a deadly strain of avian flu could then mutate into a pandemic form that can be passed easily between people — something that has not yet been seen.

While avian flu has been a prominent public health issue since the 1990s, ongoing outbreaks have never been so widely spread around the world — something infectious disease experts put down to greater resilience of strains currently circulating, rather than improved detection or reporting.

While there would normally be around two or three bird flu strains recorded in birds at any one time, now there are at least half a dozen, including H5N1, H5N2, H5N8 and H7N8.

The Organization for Animal Health (OIE) says the concurrent outbreaks in birds in recent months are “a global public health concern,” and the World Health Organization’s director-general recently warned the world “cannot afford to miss the early signals” of a possible human flu pandemic.

The precise reasons for the unusually large number and sustained nature of bird outbreaks in recent months, and the proliferation of strains, is unclear — although such developments compound the global spreading process.

Ian MacKay, a virologist at Australia’s University of Queensland, said the current proliferation of strains means that “by definition, there is an increased risk” to humans.

“You’ve got more exposures, to more farmers, more often, and in greater numbers, in more parts of the world — so there has to be an increased risk of spillover human cases,” he told Reuters.

Nearly 40 countries have reported new outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in poultry or wild birds since November, according to the WHO.

In China, H7N9 strains of bird flu have been infecting both birds and people, with the human cases rising in recent weeks due to the peak of the flu season there. According to the WHO,
more than 900 people have been infected with H7N9 bird flu since it emerged in early 2013.

In birds, latest data from the OIE showed that outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian flu have been detected in Britain, Italy, Kuwait and Bangladesh in the last few days alone.

Russia’s agriculture watchdog issued a statement describing the situation as “extremely tense” as it reported H5N8 flu outbreaks in another four regions. Hungarian farmers have had to cull three million birds, mostly geese and ducks.

These come on top of epidemics across Europe and Asia which have been ongoing since late last year, leading to mass culling of poultry in many countries.

Highly pathogenic H5N1

Strains currently documented as circulating in birds include H5N8 in many parts of Europe as well as in Kuwait, Egypt and elsewhere, and H5N1 in Bangladesh and India.

In Africa — which experts say is especially vulnerable to missing flu outbreak warning signs due to limited local government capacities and weak animal and human health services — H5N1 outbreaks have been reported in birds in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria and Togo. H5N8 has been detected in Tunisia and Egypt, and H7N1 in Algeria.

The United States has, so far this year, largely escaped bird flu, but is on high alert after outbreaks of H5N2, a highly pathogenic bird flu, hit farms in 15 states in 2015 and led to the culling of more than 43 million poultry.

David Nabarro, a former senior WHO official who has also served as U.N. system senior coordinator for avian and human influenza, says the situation is worrying. “For me the threat from avian influenza is the most serious [to public health], because you never know when,” he told Reuters in Geneva.

H5N1 is under close surveillance by health authorities around the world. It has long been seen as one to watch, feared by infectious disease experts because of its pandemic potential if it were to mutate an acquire human-to-human transmission capability.

A highly pathogenic virus, it jumped into humans in Hong Kong in 1997 and then re-emerged in 2003/2004, spreading from Asia to Europe and Africa. It has caused hundreds of infections and deaths in people and prompted the culling of hundreds of millions of poultry.

Against that background, global health authorities and infectious disease experts want awareness, surveillance and vigilance stepped up.

Wherever wild birds are found to be infected, they say, and wherever there are farms or smallholdings with affected poultry or aquatic bird flocks, regular, repeated and consistent testing of everyone and anyone who comes into contact is vital.

“Influenza is a very tough beast because it changes all the time, so the ones we’re tracking may not include one that suddenly emerges and takes hold,” said MacKay.

“Right now, it’s hard to say whether we’re doing enough [to keep on top of the threat]. I guess that while it isn’t taking off, we seem to be doing enough.”
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