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Ebola outbreak News from 19 May 2017



 Lessons learned from the final Ebola outbreak in Guinea [STAT, 26 May 2017]

By NGOZI ERONDU

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Villagers wait for a distribution of sanitization supplies from UNICEF in the school in Meliandou, some 400 miles southeast of the capital of Guinea, during the Ebola outbreak in 2014. JEROME DELAY)/AP

In mid-March of 2016, I was a new field epidemiologist working in the West African country of Guinea. The Ebola epidemic seemed to be over: We were just 11 days away from being Ebola-free for 90 days, which would mark the official end of the country’s epidemic. Then field coordinator Dr. Angelo Loua walked into our small World Health Organization field office in the southeast region of N’zerekore and announced that an 8-year-old girl had just tested positive for Ebola.

“Please pray for us, it’s Ebola,” I texted my friends and family with confirmation of my worst fears.

In most accounts of the Ebola outbreak, Guinea’s experience is overlooked. Yet it was in Guinea in March 2014 that that the plague began, gripping seven of its eight regions, and from where it spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Ebola infected more than 28,000 people and killed more than 11,000 before it was declared over on June 9, 2016.

By early spring of 2016, most of the international organizations that had mobilized to fight the Ebola pandemic had called home their workers. Our field team managed to grow quickly from fewer than 20 staffers to more than 100, including local Guineans and international responders such as my teammates from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of the responders had worked in the region throughout the three-year outbreak. I was fresh out of grad school, completely frightened but ready to help.

That day in N’zerekore I left behind the academic world of epidemiology theory for real-world disease-control strategies such as contact tracing and monitoring. That meant searching for individuals who could eventually become Ebola victims, all somehow linked to a little girl who would not survive.

Her village, Koropara, had first seen Ebola more than two years before when 15 villagers died from the disease; 10 infected individuals survived. (We later learned that the new flare-up was caused by the still-infected sperm of one of the survivors being transmitted to an uninfected individual.)

What we knew at the time was that the N’zerekore region, where Koropara is located, was infamously known as the place where villagers killed eight members of a health team trying to raise awareness about Ebola in September 2014. This attack was attributed to widespread local distrust of government workers and unfounded fears that the medical teams were spreading the disease rather than trying to stop it.

This legacy of local resistance seemed as persistent as the virus. We learned of the child’s illness through local gossip rather than through the community alert networks that had been established, so it took critical extra days to reach the child. It also took military intervention — soldier-escorts protecting the health teams — and repeated assurances of safety by the local medical staff to the child and her community.

Guinea is, by some measures, less developed than Liberia and Sierra Leone, though all three countries were — and still are — among the world’s poorest nations. In 2014, Guinea’s health system was so fragmented and poorly resourced that Ebola spread undetected for three months. Back then, the government spent a mere $9 per capita on health, with fewer than three health workers for every 20,000 people. This meant that the type of expertise required to detect, assess, report, and respond to potential public health threats was largely nonexistent.

These realities became tremendous obstacles in the scramble to set up and resource Ebola treatment units. Shortly after the disease was detected, President Alpha Condé commissioned hundreds of freshly graduated medical students to become frontline soldiers in the fight against Ebola. This helped turn the tide, as local Guineans supported by international experts became field epidemiologists, infection control specialists, and health communication professionals.

In Koropara, I was impressed by how government health workers and their partners rebuilt community trust through communication and transparency. Instead of establishing their headquarters in a big city some distance away from the outbreak’s epicenter, as had been done before, this time the Ebola responders set up a tent village to house staff and serve as ground zero for all response activities just a few meters away from Koropara, close to where most of the suspected cases lived. That resulted in exceptional community collaboration. Many of those who had been in contact with the girl voluntarily quarantined themselves, received vaccinations, and let us monitor their health for the duration of the flare-up.

Our team, led by Dr. Iya Condé, a gregarious young Guinean doctor, regularly visited the family of a woman who died from Ebola. When her mother — who had washed her dead child’s body in preparation for her funeral — began to show signs of infection, the family reported it to us.

They were grateful, not defiant, when she was transported to the treatment unit. And we mourned together when she died.

This innovative approach to integrating the community into the response rapidly shifted the situation from crisis to recovery. This final Ebola episode was suppressed in 21 days, with just 10 fatalities. By the end of the flare-up, 98 percent of all contacts and 100 percent of high-risk contacts — nearly 200 households throughout four villages — had been successfully monitored.

The newly elected new WHO director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is the first African to hold that post. As the former minister of health in Ethiopia, he should understand the impact of integrating community members into health programs. This is increasingly important as experts continue to warn that the world is not ready for the next Ebola-like outbreak. The global health community is currently in the middle of several battles, including dispatching more vaccine to combat a yellow fever outbreak in South America, monitoring avian flu outbreaks around the world, and supporting mothers valiantly raising babies affected by Zika while working to prevent new infections.

Lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak in Guinea emphasize the value of a strong local and tailored response to outbreaks, when possible. Guinea’s fight against Ebola is a story of innovation, humility, and dedication. The country gave the world the wake-up call about the disease, and then offered solutions to take into the future. These include trained local responders, adequately staffed personnel at village health facilities, and a well-informed and engaged community.

Koropara taught us that in the fight against infectious disease outbreaks, community support and input are some of the best weapons for winning the war.

Ngozi Erondu, PhD, is an infectious disease epidemiologist and assistant professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She is an expert in health systems research in low- and middle-income countries and a 2017 Aspen New Voices Fellow.



 Genetic Testing Underway on Virus Behind New Ebola Outbreak [Voice of America, 26 May 2017]

by Sora Halake

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FILE - Health workers wash their hands after taking a blood specimen from a child to test for the Ebola virus in a area were a 17-year old boy died from the virus on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, June 30, 2015.

Tests are underway to determine the genetic sequence of the Ebola virus behind an outbreak in central Africa, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control researcher said Friday.

Dr. Barbara Knust, an epidemiologist, told VOA's Horn of Africa service that scientists are looking for "clues" about where this strain of Ebola originated and how to treat it.

"That could help [us] understand how this virus is related to other viruses that have caused other Ebola outbreaks," she said.

The latest Ebola outbreak is in northern Democratic Republic of the Congo, in a remote area near the border with the Central African Republic. The World Health Organization said that as of May 24, Ebola had killed four people in the area and the number of suspected cases stood at 44.

The Ebola virus, which causes a type of hemorrhagic fever, killed more than 11,000 people across the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2014 and 2015.

Resources 'mobilized quickly'

Staff from the CDC, the WHO, the Congolese Ministry of Health and other agencies are in Congo's Bas Uele province, working to contain the spread of the virus. Knust said the international response was going "fine."

"The responders involved in this outbreak very certainly are taking it seriously and the resources have been mobilized quickly," she said. "At least at this point of time [it] appears that it was detected fairly early, although that information is forthcoming. There is some hope it will remain a limited outbreak."

She said there had been discussion of using experimental treatments used in the West African outbreak, but that the Congolese government had not given its approval.

Dr. Galma Guyo, a disease control specialist in Nairobi, was part of an African Union team that responded to the Ebola outbreak in Liberia. He warned that the DRC's location in the center of Africa could allow the virus there to spread across borders.

"There is a possibility that the viruses can easily spread and be hard to detect due to the remoteness of the region, too," he said.



 Could pigs be involved in Congo's new Ebola outbreak? [Science Magazine, 26 May 2017]

By Kai Kupferschmidt, Jon Cohen

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Red Cross workers gathered in Likati at the outbreak's center to help with response.

It might all just be a big coincidence. But scientists and public health officials are investigating whether pigs are somehow involved in the Ebola outbreak now underway in a remote region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). If so, it would add a new—but not totally unexpected—chapter to the virus's turbulent history.

Scientists' interest stems from two data points. An epidemiological investigation has indicated that the first person to fall sick was a hunter who had come into contact with a wild boar carcass. And 84 pigs have recently died in eight villages in Nambwa, the epicenter of the current outbreak, according to a report issued yesterday by the DRC's Ministry of Health. Researchers have taken samples from those animals, according to the report, which says a "protocol for investigation of unusual deaths reported in pigs is under development.”

“I’m doubtful that the pigs actually carry Ebola, but we have to test them,” says epidemiologist Fabian Leendertz of the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, who has been consulted by the Institute of National Biomedical Research in Kinshasa about the potential link. Indeed, pigs in the DRC frequently die from other pathogens; the country often has outbreaks of African swine fever, which has a very high mortality rate. “Ebola is not even the prime suspect,” says Anne Rimoin, an epidemiologist from the University of California, Los Angeles, who has worked in the DRC for 15 years and is there now.

Still, a role for pigs would not come as a complete scientific shock. In 2009, researchers reported in Science that they had isolated an Ebola strain called Reston from pigs in the Philippines that were suffering from a severe respiratory syndrome. Ebola Reston has never been found to cause human disease, but the study found that some pig farmers had antibodies to the virus as well, suggesting that they had been in contact with it.

In 2011, a team by virologist Gary Kobinger of the Public Health Agency of Canada in Winnipeg reported that Ebola Zaire—the strain implicated in the current outbreak as well as the massive West African epidemic—could sicken pigs in the lab as well, and that the virus transmitted easily between pigs housed in the same cubicle. "This observation raises the possibility that pigs are capable of shedding relatively high viral loads into the environment," the researchers wrote. A year later, the group reported that pigs could also pass on Ebola Zaire to monkeys through aerosol. That suggested they might be able to transmit it to humans as well—but nobody knows if that has ever happened. Most Ebola outbreaks are believed to start when a human comes into contact with a bat or a primate infected with the virus.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) report notes that Kobinger has arrived in the country with “new reagents.” ScienceInsider could not reach Kobinger for comment.

If so many pigs in the Nambwa area were infected with Ebola, you'd expect to see more human cases, says Vincent Munster, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Hamilton, Montana, who's also preparing a mission to the DRC. "That said, one needs to remain open," Munster says. "This surely warrants a more thorough investigation."

The first patient or "index case" was a hunter aged 45 who died; his case has been confirmed as Ebola. Both Leendertz and Rimoin say they were told that he had contact with a boar before falling ill. But Rimoin stresses that he may have been in contact with other species as well.

Wild pigs are scavengers, and one possibility is that a wild boar was infected through contact with an ape carcass and passed the infection on to the hunter, Leendertz says. Domestic pigs might then have picked up the infection from humans. That is at least as likely as the opposite possibility: that Ebola has spread in domestic pigs and the animals passed it on to humans. “You can still draw the arrows in either direction,” Leendertz says.

To find a "smoking gun” that links pigs to this outbreak, Rimoin says, researchers would need to find Ebola viruses in pigs and show that the genetic sequence closely matched the one in humans. No virus has yet been sequenced from the two confirmed human cases.

The outbreak is in Bas-Uélé province in the northeast of the country; investigating it has been very difficult because the area is so remote. Only two of several dozen human samples so far have tested positive for the virus, and no healthcare workers have fallen ill—which is odd in Ebola outbreaks. There are currently three "probable" and 37 "suspected" cases in seven villages, and four apparently related deaths. Nearly 300 contacts of cases are being monitored.

Meanwhile, an ethics committee in the DRC yesterday approved a clinical study of an Ebola vaccine that might be able to end the outbreak more quickly. The vaccine, produced by Merck, showed promising results during the epidemic in a Guinea study, but remains unlicensed, which is why it can only be used in a formal trial. If the DRC government decides to deploy the vaccine—in addition to standard containment efforts already underway—the trial will be run jointly by MoH and Epicentre, the research arm of Doctors Without Borders.



 Ebola outbreak in Central Africa, officials scramble to control virus' spread [Fox News, 26 May 2017]

By Andrew O'Reilly

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In this 2014 photo provided by the Samaritan's Purse aid organization, Dr. Kent Brantly, left, treats an Ebola patient at the Samaritan's Purse Ebola Case Management Center in Monrovia, Liberia. (AP Photo/Samaritan's Purse)

Global health officials are monitoring a possible resurgence of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo amid reports of an outbreak of the feared contagion near the country’s northern border.

Public health officials in the DRC have reported at least 43 cases of suspected Ebola and four deaths. While only two of the cases have been positively confirmed in a laboratory to be Ebola, experts at the World Health Organization and the United States’ Center for Disease Control and Prevention are closely monitoring the situation and teams are already in the isolated region in an attempt to contain the outbreak.

‘‘The Likati health district is in a remote area, but contact tracing is essential to contain the outbreak in its focus; the DRC can rely on very experienced health workers for this purpose,” Yokouidé Allarangar, WHO representative in the DRC, said in a statement earlier this month.

This is the eighth epidemic of Ebola in the DRC since the discovery of the virus in 1976 and comes just three years after an outbreak in West Africa killed over 11,000 people and created a global panic. It is still unclear how Ebola outbreaks begin, but researchers theorize that it could come from people eating infected pieces of “bush meat” – the meat of primates and other wild animals sold in local markets – or from bats carrying the carrying the virus.

The DRC may have past experience dealing with Ebola outbreaks, but experts contend that the remoteness of the outbreaks’ hot zone – the northeastern Bas-Uélé province – and the country’s ongoing civil conflict make efforts to contain the virus’ spread difficult.

“The logistics are difficult,” Jesse Goodman, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Medical Product Access, Safety and Stewardship, told Fox News. “It’s a real challenge, but they have identified the area and are tracking a large number of contacts.”

The area – located over 300 miles from the DRC capital of Kinshasa - has very few passable roads and bridges open during this time of the year, so helicopters are required to bring teams and equipment to the town of Likati, where motorcycles take over. Health workers have already built two mobile labs, but a generator in one failed and had to be replaced.

What the 2014 outbreak taught us is two things: Ebola is not going away and we can’t let our guard down.
- Dr. Jesse Goodman of Georgetown University

The DRC’s government, along with the research arm of Paris-based Doctors Without Borders, submitted to an ethical review board on Wednesday a formal trial protocol for an unlicensed vaccine. If approved, the vaccine – developed by Merck and stored in the U.S. – could make it to at-risk people within two weeks. To speed the process, WHO recently issued a “donor alert,” requesting a six-month budget of $10.5 million to support the vaccine study and to fund surveillance, infection prevention, social mobilization and decontamination efforts.

Adding to the difficulty in accessing the region is the ongoing ethnic conflict between the Tutsi-controlled government under President Joseph Kabila, who refused to leave office at the end of his term last year, and the Hutu rebel group, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda.

“The political problems they are struggling with are frequently situations that make it difficult to fight any type of viral breakout,” Goodman said. “The unrest creates rich soil for an outbreak.”

Amid militia clashes and numerous violent protests – one in December left more than 50 people dead – the DRC saw more people leave their homes in 2016 than anywhere else in the world.

According to the most recent report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 992,000 people fled the violence in 2016, compared to 824,000 in Syria, 659,000 in Iraq and 653,000 in Afghanistan.

“DRC’s crisis is often overlooked by media and an international community focused on the latest disaster or conflict to capture their attention,” the IDMC report stated. “This will have dire consequences for several million people in desperate need of assistance. The country has been in conflict for the best part of 20 years, but evidence shows that the situation for the most vulnerable has deteriorated severely in recent years.”

While the remoteness of the region experiencing the outbreak may pose challenges in treating and identifying those infected with Ebola, experts contend that the isolation could also play to their advantage by slowing the spread of infection. Still, they warn, even though the current outbreak is small and isolated, it needs to be carefully monitored to the neighboring war-torn nations of South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

“What the 2014 outbreak taught us is two things,” Goodman said. “Ebola is not going away and we can’t let our guard down.”




 Ebola outbreak may be smaller than feared, WHO indicates [STAT, 25 May 2017]

By HELEN BRANSWELL

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FREDERICK A. MURPHY/CDC

There are signs that the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo may not be as big as was once feared, World Health Organization officials indicated Thursday.

Fourteen suspected cases have tested negative for the deadly virus, Alison Clements-Hunt, a WHO spokeswoman currently in Likati, the epicenter of the response, told STAT in an interview.

So far there have been two confirmed cases, four probable cases, and four deaths. Another 40 people are currently listed as suspected cases, said Clements-Hunt. Roughly 300 people who are contacts of known or suspected cases are being monitored to see if they develop symptoms.

Clements-Hunt cautioned, though, that in an outbreak the net is cast wide to try to find anyone who might have Ebola, so that they can be isolated and tested. People who are sick with Ebola but are missed by surveillance can infect family members; if they die and are buried in traditional burial rites, those attending funerals can also be infected.

In the early stages of Ebola, symptoms are vague and could be misattributed to other conditions. In an outbreak, it is not uncommon for some suspect cases to later test positive for malaria, say, and negative for Ebola.

A mobile laboratory is now operating in Likati, Clements-Hunt said. That will speed up the process of determining the actual scale of the outbreak. A response team of about 50 people from the DRC ministry of health, WHO, UNICEF, and Doctors Without Borders are in Likati, she said.

Among those who tested negative are five people who were being cared for in the Ebola treatment unit that was set up in Likati, Clements-Hunt said. Four have been released; one is still sick with something else and needs medical care.

Given what appears to be the limited scope of the outbreak, the use of an experimental Ebola vaccine may not be required.

“For the time, there doesn’t seem that there was really a necessity to do so. I hope it remains the case,” Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, a WHO assistant director-general, told STAT.

That said, Kieny confirmed planning continues to allow for deployment of vaccine, if the government of DRC asks for it. But it may not, she acknowledged.

“The logistics, all the preparations are moving forward, but you can imagine that without indication that this is spreading, that the government may decide that maybe it’s not reasonable to start a big vaccination operation. And actually, you don’t know who you would vaccinate,”
Kieny said from Geneva.

The logistics of getting the vaccine to this remote part of DRC would be substantial. Clements-Hunt said getting from one village to another in this part of the country is incredibly difficult; there are no roads and response workers are being ferried along jungle paths on motorbikes.

“This is in the middle of nowhere,” said Kieny. ‘’It’s not a routine operation, so in order to go for it, they must be really sure that this is worth it.”

Some observers have questioned why the experimental Ebola vaccine, which was tested in Guinea in 2015, hasn’t been immediately sent to the DRC. There have been reports the government was hesitant about using an unlicensed product.

Kieny said this outbreak has galvanized awareness among the organizations that respond to Ebola outbreaks that the groundwork for use of the vaccine must be laid in advance in at-risk countries — places where Ebola outbreaks have happened in the past.

Regulatory agencies need to be asked to pre-approve vaccine use in emergencies; ethics committees that greenlight emergency use authorizations have to be asked to do this work in advance.

“This will move ahead as soon as this event is closed,” Kieny said. “After that we are having discussions about finalizing the preparations, making sure the protocol has been submitted in all the countries.”

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the surname of WHO spokeswoman Alison Clements-Hunt.



 South Sudan State Partially Closes Border in Ebola Scare [Voice of America, 23 May 2017]

by John Tanza

27918D85-05CE-4989-B60B-827F4A7521EF_cx0_cy4_cw0_w650_r1_s.jpg
FILE - A health worker sprays a colleague with disinfectant during a training session for Congolese health workers to deal with Ebola virus in Kinshasa, Oct. 21, 2014.

State authorities in South Sudan closed part of their border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo last week in an effort to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola outbreak, declared by the World Health Organization in a remote, northern part of the DRC two weeks ago.

The WHO has confirmed that four people have died from the disease in the DRC. Lino Utu, deputy governor of Tambura state, said the movement of people and goods between the two countries at the border town of Ezo had been restricted until further notice.

"We closed the border temporarily because of Ebola," Utu said. "We have been told it has been found in DR-Congo. If we leave the border open, it can trickle down to Tambura state."

He said the area along the border with the DRC had been teeming with activity, "because it is where the people from the Democratic Republic of the Congo bring in their goods, and also the people from Tambura state bring in their goods. It's a big market."

Uto said doctors have confirmed that Ebola can be found in bushmeat, so state officials have temporarily banned the sale of all bushmeat in the markets.

"We cannot allow bushmeat to be sold any longer because people can easily contract Ebola from meat," Utu said.

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FILE - A woman sells monkey meat in a market in Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo, April 15, 2004.

The minister of health was informed about Tambura's move to close the border at Ezo on Tuesday.

Utu said international health workers, including those with the WHO, are partnering with local officials to educate the public about how Ebola is spread. "This is awareness that has been going on and on and on," he added.

Utu is appealing to the WHO to send experts to Tambura to screen people for the deadly virus "and advise us in other areas as far as how Ebola is contracted and how we can prevent the spread of Ebola," he said, adding, "I really need them to come to us on the ground in Tambura state."

Authorities in Gbudue state, which also runs along the DRC, have banned the sale of bushmeat in Yambio markets, but have kept border crossing points open. The Gbudue state minister for information, Gibson Bullen Wande, said wildlife officials are creating awareness about the dangers of eating bushmeat. He said state officials and nongovernmental organization health partners have trained and deployed health workers along the border to monitor movement of traders. "We have also left some medical workers along those areas to let them monitor," he said.

Bullen said as far as he is concerned, it is the responsibility of the national government to decide whether to close the border between the two countries.

On Tuesday, the state director of wildlife went on the air to warn people against eating bushmeat.

"We are going to ban the sale of all bushmeat or any trading of the bushmeat [because] those are the things that people get Ebola from," Bullen said.



 EBOLA VIRUS IN DR CONGO: CDC NOT READY TO ISSUE TRAVEL ADVISORY Newsweek, 19 May 2017]

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British health workers lift a newly admitted Ebola patient onto a wheeled stretcher in to the Kerry town Ebola treatment centre outside Freetown December 22, 2014. Ebola is back, this time in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
BAZ RATNER/REUTERS

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is still mulling over whether to issue a travel advisory regarding the developing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. When asked whether the agency planned to recommend restricting travel to the country and surrounding regions, a spokesperson from the CDC told Newsweek “not at this point.”

The agency says several factors are considered when deciding on the timing of a travel advisory, “including the size of the outbreak and number of people infected. As we learn more that will guide the decision to issue an advisory or not,” the CDC spokesperson added. "It comes down to risk/threat assessment and so far risk does not warrant advisory."

So far there are 29 suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola in the DR Congo, and at least three confirmed deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). There are rumors as well that one suspected case of the virus (not yet laboratory confirmed) cropped up in South Sudan at the border of DR Congo.

If there is Ebola in South Sudan, it might mean an alarming start to a larger outbreak that will likely continue for some time, says Dr. Daniel Lucey, a spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, an Ebola expert and senior scholar with the O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University. Lucey says the 2014 epidemic in West Africa that sickened 28,646 and killed 11,323 as of March 2016, taught us that the virus becomes more difficult to contain once it shows up in a new country. That outbreak which was said to begin in Guinea spread in a matter of months to Liberia and Sierra Leone.

“The crossing of borders means you have to have a regional response and not just a national response. It adds another layer,” says Lucey. Handling any outbreak of an infectious disease takes huge coordination between public health officials, health care workers, local governments and international organizations. “That can be hard to do for one country, but then you have to do it for two or three it’s a new level of complexity.”

Health officials confirmed the first case in the DR Congo on April 21, which is in a remote area in the province of Bas-Uele in the northeastern part of the country. “It’s a huge human and logistical challenge. Affected populations are located in areas only reachable by helicopter or by moto-bike,” Dr. Nafissa Dan-Bouzoua, the medical manager in the DR Congo for the Alliance for International Medical Action, told Newsweek.

The WHO still has yet to issue any travel restrictions or advisories to the DR Congo. Because the area is remote the WHO has deemed the risk assessment for this event is “high” at the national level, medium at the regional level and low at the global level. There have been two previous Ebola outbreaks in the DR Congo, according to the WHO. One occurred in 1976. The second, in 2014, killed 49 people.

However, some countries are choosing to take precautions. According to the WHO, as of May 18, seven countries have enforced entry screening at airports and ports of entry. These include Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Rwanda issued a travel advisory strongly recommending against travel to the DR Congo. The United Kingdom also recommends against traveling in the areas around the epicenter of the epidemic. Two countries (Kenya and Rwanda) implemented information checking arrival for passengers with travel history from and through the DR Congo. According to Mashable NG, the government in Liberia issued orders to screen all arriving passengers at Murtala Muhammed International Airport.

WHO did confirm that reports from earlier this week of a border closure by South Sudan were false. However, as a precaution earlier this week, South Sudanese officials began to set up medical support services at the border, particularly the airport in Juba and border-crossing checkpoints.

But South Sudanese officials have been on high alert for the potential for Ebola outbreak, especially because outbreaks have occurred in the past: In 2004, the WHO confirmed 20 cases, including five deaths from Ebola, were in Yambio County in southern Sudan.

Last month, health officials became concerned when more than two dozen people fell ill with symptoms of bloody diarrhea (a common symptom of Ebola). However, the rush of illnesses were suspected to be linked to dysentery caused by the bacteria Shigella.

Symptoms of Ebola include fever, headache, muscle pain. At a later, acute phase some patients have internal bleeding that causes vomiting or coughing up blood. The virus has between a 20- and 90-percent fatality rate based on the public health reponse.

Addressing an Ebola outbreak requires setting up temporary medical facilities that adhere to certain regulations. It takes the local on-the-ground work of epidemiologists and other public health care personnel who are familiar with the arduous process of contact-tracing needed to stop the train of transmission. The WHO reports there are some 400 people who were likely to have been exposed to people who have the virus in DR Congo, and that means locating each and every one of them to monitor their health and test them for the virus. Lucey is confident this won’t be the end of contact-tracing: “I would predict that in another couple days there will be more than 400 contacts.”

Meanwhile, the WHO is awaiting a greenlight from the DR Congo health and regulatory agencies to import a supply of an experimental Ebola vaccine, produced by Merck and known as rVSV-ZEBOV. According to a study conducted in 2015 in Guinea that involved 11,841 people, the vaccine can prevent illness in people who have been exposed to the virus. But Lucey says researchers still aren’t completely certain how long the vaccine remains effective once a person receives it.



 Number Of Suspected Ebola Cases In Congo Up To 29; WHO Says $10M Needed For Initial Response, Control Efforts [Kaiser Family Foundation, 19 May 2017]

Associated Press: Number of suspected Ebola cases in Congo now up to 29

“The World Health Organization says Congo now faces 29 suspected cases of the deadly Ebola virus. WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier on Friday said the number includes two laboratory-confirmed deaths…” (5/19).

CIDRAP News: WHO: Ebola vaccine could be deployed within a week

“In a telebriefing [Thursday] on the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ebola outbreak, World Health Organization (WHO) officials said while the country has yet to make a formal request for the Ebola vaccine, such a requisition could be fulfilled within one week…” (Soucheray, 5/18).

NBC News: Ebola in Democratic Republic of Congo to Cost $10 Million, WHO Says

“… ‘There are only 20 kilometers (12 miles) of paved roads in this area and virtually no functioning telecommunications,’ WHO’s Dr. Peter Salama told a news conference. ‘As of now we do not know the full extent of the outbreak’…” (Fox, 5/18).

New York Times: Suspected Cases of Ebola Rise to 29 in Democratic Republic of Congo

“…Dr. Peter Salama, the executive director of the organization’s health emergencies program, said at a briefing that it was essential to ‘never, ever underestimate Ebola’ and to ‘make sure we have a no-regrets approach to this outbreak’…” (Grady, 5/18).

ScienceInsider: As Ebola outbreak grows, question of using vaccine becomes more urgent

“As health officials and aid workers head to a remote corner of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to respond to an outbreak of Ebola virus disease, a key question remains: Will the government authorize the use of a promising experimental vaccine? The vaccine had stunning results in a clinical trial in Guinea in 2015, but it has yet to be licensed for broad use…” (Cohen, 5/18).

TIME: Ebola Is Back. Here Are the Challenges Ahead

“…The response to the outbreak is being led by the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ministry of Health and WHO, with partners including the World Food Programme, UNICEF, and the Red Cross. Priorities currently include a heavy focus on surveillance: getting the best information about the people who have been affected and tracking those who may have been affected, as well as managing and isolating Ebola cases and engaging local communities…” (Samuelson, 5/18).

U.N. News Centre: Experts race against clock to quell Ebola outbreak in remote DR Congo province — U.N.

“…Meanwhile, the first Ebola treatment center has been established in the Likati General Hospital. Protective gear has been dispatched to health workers and a mobile lab is being constructed and then deployed to the area. Immediate repairs to air strips and telecommunications are also being carried out. The first six months of the operation are expected to cost $10 million…” (5/18).

Ebola outbreak News from 15 till 18 May 2017




 Ebola in Democratic Republic of Congo to Cost $10 Million, WHO Says [NBCNews.com, 18 May 2017]

by MAGGIE FOX

A fresh outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will cost $10 million to fight, and it could take months because victims are in such a remote and disrupted part of the country, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

At least 20 people are sick and three have been killed by the virus, WHO officials said. They are the first case — a 39-year-old man — a person who cared for him and a man who drove him on a motorcycle to get help.

"There are only 20 kilometers (12 miles) of paved roads in this area and virtually no functioning telecommunications," WHO's Dr. Peter Salama told a news conference.

"As of now we do not know the full extent of the outbreak."

WHO needs governments to help it and the Democratic Republic of Congo fix airstrips, roads and set up clinics — and all that just to even get a grip on how bad the outbreak is, Salama said.

Work is under way to get approval and facilities in place to use an experimental Ebola vaccine in the area.

Ebola has been causing sporadic outbreaks in various parts of Africa since 1976. The first and only epidemic was in 2014-2016 in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — a part of the continent where Ebola had never been seen before. It infected at least 28,000 people and killed more than 11,000 before it was brought under control.

This is the DRC's eighth Ebola outbreak.

"We believe that the DRC's government has strong experience … and a proven track record of handling Ebola outbreaks," Salama said.

An Ebola vaccine was tried out in West Africa but there were not enough cases to show how well it worked. That vaccine is not yet approved by any government authority but Salama said it could be used under compassionate use circumstances if the DRC government agrees.

But it will be hard to get it to the affected area in the north of the country because of the lack of roads and electricity. The vaccine must be kept at -80 degrees C. "This is going to be an enormous challenge," Salama said.

And the Lord's Resistance Army, a violent and disruptive armed group, has been operating in the area, WHO added.

Despite the problems, Medecins Sans Frontieres, a nonprofit aid group also known as MSF or Doctors Without Borders, has already set up one treatment center, said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa.

"I have been very encouraged by this rapid reponse," Moeti told the news conference.

And, she said, polio vaccination teams were already in place, giving everyone a head start. "They have been the people who are leading surveillance in the country," Moeti said.



 US health secretary visits Liberia, where Ebola killed 4,800 [New Jersey Herald, 18 May 2017]

By JONATHAN PAYE-LAYLEH

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US Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, right, walks Thursday May 18, 2017 through a densely-populated and heavily congested Monrovia, Liberia, slum community which was quarantined in 2014 when Ebola struck there killing dozens. This is Price's first visit outside the US since assuming the position. (AP Photo/Jonathan Paye-Layleh)
The Associated Press

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on Thursday made his first trip overseas to Liberia, the West African country where Ebola killed more than 4,800 people.

Price praised Liberia for its "remarkable cooperation" on health care issues. The U.S. sent troops into the country to intervene to help stop the outbreak, which killed more than 11,300 people, mostly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The World Health Organization declared an end to the world's deadliest outbreak of the virus in June. Now a new outbreak, the first since the one in West Africa, has been blamed for three deaths in a remote area of Congo.

Price, who did not address the latest outbreak, toured the West Point community that was hit hard by the hemorrhagic fever in 2014. Dr. Mosoka Fallah, a Liberian health ministry official, told Price there had been resistance from people there to report for testing.

"People said the Ebola situation was one-way traffic ... people go to the (Ebola Treatment Units) but don't come back alive," Fallah said.

Ebola survivor Mohammed Kromah told Price how he spent almost two months at a treatment center. He showed the U.S. official his Ebola-free certificate, which was greeted with wide applause.

Price also met with health workers at Redemption Hospital, where Liberia's first Ebola death was recorded in 2014.

"I was so moved when we were at West Point, with Dr. Fallah sharing his story and the emotion of the same setting, where the remarkable challenge of Ebola, the Ebola crisis, played out right in their community," he told The Associated Press.

He praised survivors, saying "we celebrate their victory over Ebola."

Price promised to highlight the U.S.-Liberia partnership that helped defeat Ebola when he attends the upcoming G-20 health summit in Berlin.



 Ebola Is Back. Here Are the Challenges Ahead [TIME, 19 May 2017]

by Kate Samuelson

An outbreak of Ebola has emerged in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and hundreds could be affected, the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed. The risk assessment is high at a national level, medium at a regional level and currently low at a global level, said Peter Salama, WHO's executive director for health emergencies, during a telephone briefing.

Three people have died out of about 20 suspected and confirmed Ebola cases, with the outbreak centered in Bas-Uele, a province in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, on the border of the Central African Republic and close to South Sudan. So far, the aid workers have identified more than 400 contacts of Ebola cases and are attempting to track them down. (Another outbreak of a disease that shares similar features to Ebola, including vomiting and nausea, has appeared several hundred kilometers away from Bas-Uele, but WHO does not believe the two incidents are linked.)

The Bas-Uele province is remote with poorly built roads and virtually no functioning telecommunications, Salama said, making it a difficult place for aid workers to access.

Additionally, it has been subject to insecurity and displacement, particularly due to the ongoing conflict in the Central African Republic. The Lord's Resistance Army, a rebel group active in central Africa, is believed to have been active in the area.

"We cannot underestimate the logistical and practical challenges associated with this response at a very remote part of the country," Salama said on the call. "As of now we do not know the full extent of the outbreak, and as we deploy teams over the next few weeks, we’ll begin to understand more and more exactly what we are dealing with."

The response to the outbreak is being led by the Democratic Republic of Congo's Ministry of Health and WHO, with partners including the World Food Program, UNICEF and the Red Cross. Priorities currently include a heavy focus on surveillance: getting the best information about the people who have been affected and tracking those who may have been affected, as well as managing and isolating Ebola cases and engaging local communities.

The first Ebola treatment center was recently established in Likati, and the construction and deployment of a mobile lab is in process. Health and care workers are also being provided with protective equipment.

"We believe that the Democratic Republic of Congo's government has strong experience in dealing successfully with and a proven track record of managing Ebola outbreaks," Salama said.

" We’ve also learned never ever to underestimate the Ebola virus disease and we will be remaining vigilant and ensuring we have no regrets in our approach to this outbreak as we move forward."

WHO was criticized for its slow and ineffective response to Ebola when it struck West Africa in 2014. In a statement in 2015, WHO said the incident "served as a reminder that the world, including WHO, is ill-prepared for a large and sustained disease outbreak."

WHO then promised to introduce a series of reforms, including the establishment of a contingency fund to enable the organization to respond more rapidly to disease outbreaks.

This fund has been deployed by WHO to help tackle the current crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

However, Salama explained that WHO anticipates that the need for funding will soon outstrip the amount of money in the contingency fund. "[For] the first six months [we] will need about 10 million dollars, not just for WHO but for all partners responding," he said.

WHO is also hoping to use vaccinations as a tool to fight the outbreak. Although there is currently no licensed vaccine for the Ebola virus disease, there is a "very promising vaccine candidate " known as rVSV-ZEBOV that showed efficacy and safety during a trial conducted in Guinea, in West Africa, in 2015.

In order to employ it as an experimental vaccine, WHO needs to seek the permission of the national regulatory authority in the Democratic Republic of Congo to use the treatment under what Salama called an "expanded access framework for compassionate use."

The vaccinations, which will not be provided to the general population but only to current cases' contacts, need to be kept at -80 degrees centigrade. "As you can imagine, in an area without telecommunications, without road access [and] without live-scale electrification, this is going to be an enormous challenge," said Salama. "We are committed to working with the Democratic Republic of Congo...and the other partner agencies to implement the vaccination campaign, should the government give it the green light."

While WHO waits for the vaccines to be approved, the organization is making sure the treatment can be used immediately after permission has been granted by working with Guinea's government to move equipment over and discovering the outbreak's epidemiology. "The vaccine can move very quickly, so as soon as we have the logistics in place... then the vaccine can be shipped [over from the U.S.]," said D r. Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti, WHO's Regional Director for Africa. "[We are] putting all these preparations in place so it can go at that speed as soon as we get the green light."

Moeti said she felt positive about WHO's response so far. "I'm very optimistic it is going to get us to where we'd like to be: a controlled, short-lived outbreak of Ebola as they have seen in the past in this country."



 Suspected Cases of Ebola Rise to 29 in Democratic Republic of Congo [New York Times, 18 May 2017]

By DENISE GRADY

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Medical workers treating a patient suspected of having Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2007. Credit Ascale Zinten/Doctors Without Borders, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


The number of suspected cases of Ebola has risen to 29 from nine in less than a week in an isolated part of Democratic Republic of Congo, where three people have died from the disease since April 22, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

The W.H.O. was criticized for responding too slowly to an outbreak in West Africa in 2014 that left more than 11,000 people dead, and Dr. Peter Salama, the executive director of the organization’s health emergencies program, said at a briefing that it was essential to “never, ever underestimate Ebola” and to “make sure we have a no-regrets approach to this outbreak.”

The risk from the outbreak is “high at the national level,” the W.H.O. said, because the disease was so severe and was spreading in a remote area in northeastern Congo with “suboptimal surveillance” and limited access to health care.

“Risk at the regional level is moderate due to the proximity of international borders and the recent influx of refugees from Central African Republic,” the organization said, but it nonetheless described the global risk as low because the area is so remote.

About a week ago, in addition to the nine suspected cases, 125 patients who had come into close contact with the disease were being monitored. Now about 400 patients are being followed, even as nine new cases were reported on Thursday, according to the W.H.O.

The Ebola virus causes fever, bleeding, vomiting and diarrhea, and it spreads easily by contact with bodily fluids. The death rate is high, often surpassing 50 percent, particularly with the Zaire strain, which has been confirmed in two cases in this outbreak.

The outbreak was reported in a densely forested part of Bas-Uele Province, near the border with the Central African Republic. Cases have occurred in four separate parts of a region called the Likati health zone.

Aid groups and the W.H.O. have struggled to reach the affected area, which has no paved roads and can be reached only by a motorcycle ride through the forest, or by helicopter or light aircraft.

The first known case occurred on April 22, when a 39-year-old man who had fever, vomiting, diarrhea and bleeding died on the way to a hospital in the Likati zone. The person caring for him and a motorcyclist who transported him also died.

The first six months of the response to the outbreak are expected to cost the W.H.O. and aid groups $10 million, Dr. Salama said at the briefing. He said telecommunications networks would have to be established and airstrips repaired so that aid workers can provide the necessary medical care.

The W.H.O., aid groups and the Congolese government are discussing the possibility of using an experimental Ebola vaccine, made by the American pharmaceutical company Merck, that proved effective in Guinea.

The response would involve a “ring vaccination,” in which contacts of patients, contacts of contacts, and health workers would be vaccinated. There would be no mass public vaccination.

The vaccine has not yet been licensed, and its use would require permission on several fronts. Nonetheless, Dr. Salama said that if permission were granted, the vaccine could be made available in a week or so. Other experimental antiviral drugs may also be considered.


The Ebola virus is considered endemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where eight outbreaks, the largest involving about 300 patients, have been recorded since 1976.

The country “has considerable experience and capacity in confronting these outbreaks,” Dr. Daniel Bausch, an Ebola expert at the W.H.O., said in an email. He added, “I think there is a very good probability that control can be rapidly achieved.”

Dr. Salama said that aid workers had reached a town in the Likati zone, which was as close as they had been able to come to the epicenter of the outbreak. He said aid groups were setting up centers for treatment and isolation, and mobile labs.

The first aid group to arrive was the Alliance for International Medical Action, which was already in the region, responding to cholera.

In a telephone interview from Conakry, Guinea, the group’s executive director, Matthew Cleary, said that seven people who were believed to have contracted Ebola had been taken to a district hospital in the Likati zone that was not equipped to deal with the virus.

“It’s urgent to get them into a proper isolation center,” Mr. Cleary said, adding that the group is preparing to build a treatment unit. It will include windows that allow families to see patients, a response to past outbreaks in which people feared and sometimes shunned sealed-up isolation units into which patients seemed to disappear.

Brienne Prusak, a spokeswoman for Doctors Without Borders said on Wednesday that the group had sent a team of about 20 doctors, nurses and other experts to the Likati zone, and that it was still trying to figure out how to reach the epicenter.

“Transport is extremely difficult in the area, and helicopter flights may be the only way to get there,” she said by email. “We considered motorbikes but are now thinking of helicopters because we need to get so many materials there. We’re expecting to get to the epicenter by the weekend.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States is also sending a renowned Ebola expert, Dr. Pierre Rollin, to Congo, along with epidemiologists, a spokeswoman said.

Correction: May 18, 2017

An earlier version of this article referred imprecisely to treatment units for Ebola being built by the Alliance for International Medical Action. While a unit is planned, construction has not yet begun.



 DRC Ebola outbreak: Lessons from West Africa [Vanguard, 17 May 2017]

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THE return of the Ebola Virus Disease to the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, soon after the devastating West African Ebola epidemic has raised fears about the possibility of another disaster in the making.

In this piece, Dr. Terence Gibson, a Consultant Physician at Guys and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust, London who was a Consultant Physician at Connaught Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone between 2014-16 writes about the issues surrounding the Ebola response, and why a stronger leadership of the World Health Organisation is required to translate policy across continents.

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Terry Gibson

With a new outbreak of Ebola cases being announced last week in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I am reminded of early 2014 when I took up a position as a consultant physician in the largest hospital in Freetown.

I was a volunteer member of the Kings Sierra Leone Partnership, dedicated to supporting the development of clinical services and both undergraduate and postgraduate education.

In a country of just over six million people, there was an acute shortage of health workers and just 150 doctors nationally.

For two months the pattern of my professional life was familiar; a mix of daily ward rounds, teaching and organizing seminars for house officers.

The diagnostic facilities were poor and treatment options limited by availability and patients’ ability to pay.

Shadow cast: In neighboring Guinea, an outbreak of Ebola erupted in March and cast a shadow over Sierra Leone.

Ebola had never been seen in the region and the country and health infrastructure was not prepared for the seismic shock that was about to come.

Public posters did appear in May advocating that those with blood stained vomiting or diarrhea report to a hospital. These symptoms were amongst the least likely early symptoms of Ebola.

Denial

As cases trickled into the East of the country, to many in Freetown it seemed too distant to cause an immediate worry. Denial of the disease led to inaction.

Amongst the first practical moves of preparedness in Freetown, the Kings Partnership, in collaboration with the hospital authority, converted a surgical observation area into an isolation unit, a step emulated throughout the city and neighboring districts much later.

By summer, denial was overtaken by panic as deaths mounted. NGOs packed up and left, schools and colleges were closed, airlines withdrew services.

There was a shock when the national clinical lead against Ebola died of the disease, followed soon by one of my two physician colleagues. Health workers around the country began dying in disproportionate numbers despite increasing availability of protective garments.

The house officers at my hospital went on strike and many deserted. For the next several months the local medical workforce continued to decline until bolstered by clinicians from elsewhere.

Ebola treatment centres began to appear run by international volunteers and supported by outside agencies and governments.

But it was too late to avoid the spectacle of corpses lying outside and within the hospital as remaining staff bravely maintained an inpatient service for all the other diseases. Separating and isolating suspected Ebola from the main body of patients was a risky priority and more doctors and nurses were to die while performing their duty.

The isolation unit at the hospital where I worked was staffed by volunteer Sierra Leone nurses and health workers from the UK and elsewhere, sponsored by the Kings Sierra Leone Partnership.

When cases were confirmed they were transferred to treatment centres of which there was only one in the first few months and that was a five-hour drive from Freetown.

Plateau of cases

By the end of 2014 the number of Ebola cases appeared to be reaching a plateau at the same time as isolation and treatment centres were expanding.

As the number of beds grew so did the admission of suspects who proved not to have Ebola. Throughout the epidemic, the many diseases sharing characteristics of Ebola such as fever, delirium or diarrhea were denied best treatment until cleared of Ebola.

Many of those that died are not included in the official statistics, because they were hidden cases that involved secret burials.

Weak leadership and fear of offending the national pride of the Sierra Leone government may or may not have accounted for the invisibility of the WHO on the ground during this period. As a clinician who was there at the beginning and at the end, I was puzzled by the slow response of the WHO.

Personal interaction: My only personal interaction with the organization was as the disease frequency was in decline and the number of WHO officials was increasing.

A policy of quarantining all those who had contact with initially unsuspected positive cases unless wearing full personal protective clothing was introduced by WHO and enforced by the suddenly numerous and zealous officers on site.

Those of us who had been exposed inadvertently on several occasions survived because of simple infection control precautions and the monitoring of body temperature.

We wished that they had been present six months earlier when the disease was running rampant.

Then, strict quarantine and monitoring would have been sensible but now the measures were seen as too late to make any real impact.

For those of us involved in clinical care during this period, the role of WHO in leading the effort to contain and manage Ebola seemed chaotic from start to finish.

Systemic failure: Ebola exposed a systemic failure at the highest level of the organization.

Now that there is going to be a fresh head of the organization, there is an opportunity to ensure that such dilatory and inept behavior are not repeated should similar circumstances such as the Ebola pandemic recur.

To this end, a candidate with personal experience of clinical medicine and its challenges, who can translate this into policy across continents and who is unafraid of confronting national governments when appropriate should be appointed.

As far as I can see, Dr. Sania Nishtar is the standout candidate that matches this criteria and would be an effective leader to deal with future Ebola outbreaks.

As well as accelerating the reforms within WHO, it is critical that we learn the lessons of past outbreaks and move quickly to stop the DRC outbreak and save lives.



 WHO Confirms Ebola Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo [Infectious Disease Advisor (registration), 17 May 2017]

There are now 3 confirmed deaths from the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) last week.1

Reuters reports that WHO health officials are trying to trace 125 people possibly linked to the confirmed cases in the Bas-Uele province in northeastern Congo.2

A candidate vaccine for the Ebola virus, rVSV-ZEBOV, has been found highly effective in preventing virus development in exposed people. Researchers of the study, published in The Lancet, monitored areas in Africa where the 2015 Ebola virus outbreak occurred. Results showed that immediate vaccination was highly effective in protecting vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.3

The DRC government has not yet requested use of the candidate vaccine for the current outbreak.

References

1. Mohney G. New Ebola outbreak leaves 3 dead in Democratic Republic of Congo [news release]. ABC News. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/ebola-outbreak-leaves-dead-democratic-republic-congo/story?id=47437034 Published May 16, 2017. Accessed May 16, 2017.

2. Ross A. WHO confirms second Ebola case in Congo outbreak [news release]. Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-ebola-congo-idUSKCN18A0ZP Published May 14, 2017. Accessed May 16, 2017.

3. Henao-Restrepo AM, Camacho A, Longini AM, et al. Efficacy and effectiveness of an rVSV-vectored vaccine in preventin Ebola virus disease: final results from the Guinea ring vaccination open-label, cluster randomized trial (Ebola Ça Suffit). Lancet. 2017;389:505-518. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)32621-6



 Speed, coordination key to curbing DRC’s Ebola outbreak [The Star, Kenya, 17 May 2017]

By THE CONVERSATION

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 Healthcare workers prepare to disinfect an ambulance transporting a newly admitted Ebola patient at the entrance to the Save the Children Kerry Town Ebola treatment centre outside Freetown, Sierra Leone, December 22, 2014. /REUTERS

Three people have died and more than 125 are suspected to be infected with the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The outbreak comes less than two years after the most deadly spread of the disease in West Africa. Jacqueline Weyer explains how the outbreak compares to those in the past.

Are there any links between this outbreak and the one that hit West Africa between 2014 and 2016?

There isn’t an expectation that a direct link will be found between the outbreak in West Africa and the one in the DRC. Sequencing data will reveal more information, most importantly the strain of the virus involved and how it relates to Ebola viruses reported in previous outbreaks.

The Ebola virus is known to occur in the DRC and outbreaks are not entirely unexpected. In fact the virus derives its name from the Ebola river in the northern Democratic Republic of Congo.

There have been more Ebola outbreaks in the DRC than in any other country. Over the past ten years there have been four: 2007, 2008-2009, 2012 and in 2014.

Nevertheless, whatever the virus or strain involved, outbreaks of viral hemorrhagic fever are always concerning. The unavailability of proven prophylaxis, effective treatment and high mortality rates are the reasons why these diseases are feared.

Outbreaks like this also often occur in areas that are impoverished. This poses particularly tough challenges in managing cases and containing an outbreak.

What is the difference between an outbreak and an epidemic? At which point will the outbreak become an epidemic?

The two terms actually have the same definition and are often used interchangeably. Both imply an increase in the number of cases of a disease occurring in a population at a specific time, or if there’s an expectation that the disease will spread.

The term “outbreak” is sometimes used when describing an event that happens suddenly and is limited in size and to a particular area. Epidemic, on the other hand, is used to describe a more profuse and dispersed disease event over time. But the line is grey.

What word is used is less important than the fact that outbreaks of viral hemorrhagic fever are always concerning.

What lessons have been learnt from previous outbreaks?

A swift response is critical to containing an outbreak. One major challenge in West Africa was the delay in recognising the outbreak. This meant that the disease was already spreading profusely which made it more complicated to contain the outbreak.

Containment efforts are complex and require many pieces of a puzzle to be put together to achieve success. This includes:

・supporting hospitals to limit transmission of the virus to health care workers while treating patients,

・engaging with communities so that they can understand the problem, and participate and support the containment efforts themselves,

・and active case tracing to identify potential contacts and new cases in order to ultimately interrupt the chain of transmission.

All these efforts have to be supported by adequate communication and logistics. The quicker all these actions can come together, the better the outcome of the containment effort.

Parts of the DRC are still plagued by violence. How would this exacerbate the current outbreak?

The violence in the country has had a massive impact on the availability of health care services.

This is obviously a challenge and could hamper international efforts as relief workers and containment teams find it hard to reach the areas in need.

The good news is the country has experience in dealing with Ebola outbreaks, including some in country laboratory capacity for testing samples from suspected cases.

It’s still early days and much depends on how the situation unfolds in the DRC. But there are good examples of the challenges of delivering health care in conflict zones. There are many initiatives and strategies for trying to ensure safe delivery of and access to health care in conflict zones by many governmental and non-governmental agencies around the world. The situations in Syria and South Sudan come to mind.



 Undetected Ebola infection in international healthcare workers very unlikely [Science Daily, 16 May 2017]

'Near miss' exposure incidents put deployed staff at risk

Undiagnosed Ebola virus infection was probably very rare in international workers who were deployed during the 2013-2015 outbreak of the virus in West Africa, despite mild and asymptomatic cases of Ebola being known to occur, according to new research published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

As part of the study, more than 250 UK and Ireland healthcare and other workers were tested for Ebola virus antibodies after returning from West Africa -- no evidence of missed infections was found. This suggests that the vast majority of volunteers were kept safe by Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the Ebola treatment centre procedures in place.

However, the study also found that potentially avoidable events putting frontline workers at risk of infection were quite common during the outbreak, with one in six participants classified as having 'near miss' exposure events.

In what is believed to be the first study of the prevalence of Ebola infection in international responders the research team, led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and funded by the Wellcome Trust, enrolled 300 UK and Ireland healthcare and other frontline workers¹ for the study and sent them oral fluid collection devices.

Among the 268 respondents who returned their samples, 99% showed negative results on an antibody test which the authors had already proved gave very accurate results in Sierra Leone2.

The remaining two people, who had no known exposure or symptoms, had positive results, but follow-up testing using different methods was negative, making Ebola virus infection very unlikely.The research team, led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and funded by the Wellcome Trust, enrolled 300 UK and Ireland healthcare and other frontline workers¹ for the study and sent them oral fluid collection devices.

Among the 268 respondents who returned their samples, 99% showed negative results on an antibody test which the authors had already proved gave very accurate results in Sierra Leone2. The remaining two people, who had no known exposure or symptoms, had positive results, but follow-up testing using different methods was negative, making Ebola virus infection very unlikely.

Lead author Dr Catherine Houlihan from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and UCL said: "The 2013-2015 Ebola outbreak was unprecedented -- the commitment and bravery of those who volunteered saved many lives.

We know a small number of international health workers were infected with the virus but we thought it was possible that some infections had been missed, as we know asymptomatic or unrecognised infections can occur.

However, our research suggests undetected infection in this group is, at most, a very rare event, and that the Personal Protective Equipment did its job well."

Participants, who included clinicians, laboratory workers and epidemiologists, also completed an online survey which asked if they experienced possible exposure to Ebola virus while in West Africa.

Using 268 respondents' descriptions, 16% (43 people) were identified as having 'near miss' exposure events.

27 respondents reported experiencing very low-risk incidents³ such as having a facemask dislodged. Ten were identified as having low-risk exposure events which were classified as having direct physical contact with an Ebola patient who does not have vomiting, diarrhea, or bleeding.

Five faced an intermediate risk incident with one respondent reporting 'being vomited on while wearing just gloves' and not full PPE, and one experienced the high-risk incident of a 'sharp injury with a broken vial of medication inside the 'red zone' with dirty and contaminated gloves'.

The antibody tests showed that none of these individuals had any evidence of infection with Ebola.

Participants reported PPE suits torn by catching on doorways or corners, PPE breaches in Ebola laboratories, such as torn outer gloves, as well as the additional anxiety and distress these incidents caused them.

Dr Catherine Houlihan said: "The scale of the outbreak meant frontline workers faced demanding and draining circumstances.

Participants have given crucial insights which provide valuable lessons for future Ebola outbreaks.

Regular debriefing after work in the clinical red zone or laboratory, and blame-free reporting of near misses, should be part of routine practice in emergency treatment response work.

Simple changes such as banning glass vials in the red zone could reduce the number of staff experiencing skin lacerations, and further testing of the robustness and fit of PPE suits, could potentially save health workers' lives in the future."

Participants, who were based mostly in Sierra Leone, were also asked whether they experienced fever or diarrhoea while in West Africa or within one month of their return, and if so whether they were tested for Ebola virus at the time.

Despite symptoms in 21% (57/268) of the respondents, 70% were not tested, with those still in West Africa much less likely to receive a test -- 11 out of 17 who fell ill on their return were tested, but just one person out of 21 who fell ill in West Africa was tested.

Dr Houlihan said: "This study provides reassuring evidence about the lack of Ebola infection in individuals who had not previously been tested for the virus. However, the high proportion of health workers who didn't get tested when falling ill in West Africa, coupled with returnees' potential exposure to Ebola, are a concern.

Although we don't know how many health workers reported being ill and were assessed to decide if they needed to be tested, protocols for the management of possible exposure to the virus, and for the management of illness, may need reviewing and to be standardised across organisations that deploy staff to outbreaks.

"Importantly, these protocols must be applicable to national as well as international staff. West African responders worked in large numbers from the early stages of the epidemic right through to its conclusion, and were undoubtedly at the highest risk.

We must also ensure that every individual who works in these high-risk settings receives strong support and is thoroughly trained ahead of starting work, including on the use of PPE, how to reduce risk in and out of the red zone, and what to do if they think they have been exposed or if they become unwell."

The authors acknowledge limitations of the study including that not all returning responders were included and participants were not a random sample. It is therefore possible that those who knew of possible exposures, or who had had symptoms, were particularly keen to participate. Since these were the people who were most likely to have been infected, the absence of undiagnosed infections is reassuring.

Story Source:
Materials provided by London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal References:

・Glynn et al. Asymptomatic infection and unrecognised Ebola virus disease in Ebola-affected households in Sierra Leone: a cross-sectional study using a new non-invasive assay for antibodies to Ebola virus. Lancet Infect Diseases, 2017 DOI: 10.1016/S1473-3099(17)30111

・Catherine F. Houlihan, Catherine R. McGowan, Steve Dicks, Marc Baguelin, David A. J. Moore, David Mabey, Chrissy h. Roberts, Alex Kumar, Dhan Samuel, Richard Tedder, Judith R. Glynn. Ebola exposure, illness experience, and Ebola antibody prevalence in international responders to the West African Ebola epidemic 2014-2016: A cross-sectional study. PLOS Medicine, 2017 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.100



 WHO Suspects A Fourth Person Died Of Ebola In Congo [HuffPost, 21 May 2017]

by Eline Gordts

Aid workers are having trouble accessing the remote region in the country’s north.

A fourth person is believed to have died of Ebola in an outbreak of the disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Health Organization said on Sunday.

The WHO first confirmed the discovery of the new outbreak on May 12, after a 39-year-old man who had died on his way to the hospital in a remote region of Bas-Uele province in late April was confirmed to have suffered from the deadly disease.

Since then, there have been 37 suspected cases, Eugene Kabambi, the WHO’s spokesman in Congo, told Reuters on Sunday. Four of those 37 cases have resulted in death and two have been confirmed as Ebola, another two cases, including the latest death, are considered probable, the spokesman added.

Because Ebola is highly contagious, authorities are now monitoring more than 400 people who came into contact with suspected patients. Just last week, authorities were only tracking about 200 people.

The outbreak is wreaking havoc at the national level but its overall global risk is low, the WHO said in a conference call last week. With few paved roads, the affected area in Bas-Uele is isolated and difficult to access. The 870 miles journey there from the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, takes about three days. “We cannot underestimate the logistic and practical challenges associated with this response in a very remote and insecure part of the country,” Peter Salama, the WHO’s executive director for health emergencies said during the call.

“As of now, we do not know the full extent of the outbreak, and as we deploy teams over the next few weeks, we will begin to understand... exactly what we’re dealing with,” Salama added.

So far, teams of aid workers have accessed the area by helicopters and small aircrafts and have set up a mobile testing laboratory, the Associated Press reported.

While its location has made it difficult for aid workers to reach the area, it has also slowed the spread of the disease over a larger area, Kabambi, the WHO spokesman, told HuffPost.

Congo has suffered through seven other Ebola outbreaks since the discovery of the disease in 1976. However, none were as deadly as the outbreak in West Africa between 2013 and 2016.

Frequent regional travel there helped spread the disease throughout Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, ultimately killing more than 11,000 people.

The WHO is working with Congolese authorities to explore the possibility of deploying an experimental vaccine to Bas-Uele. The vaccine was developed following the West Africa outbreak and was successfully tested in Guinea in 2015.



 EBOLA OUTBREAK: THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAYS TO MINIMIZE THE SPREAD OF THE DEADLY DISEASE [Newsweek, 16 May 2017]

BY JESSICA FIRGER

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Health workers carry the body of a suspected Ebola victim for burial at a cemetery in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in 2014. A new paper identifies the key measures for minimizing the number of deaths from future outbreaks. BAZ RATNER/REUTERS

Once again Ebola is making headlines, after the World Health Organization announced Saturday that a number of incidences of the virus have been detected in the Democratic Republic of Congo. So far, there have been three deaths, nine lab-confirmed cases and more than a dozen suspected cases of the Ebola virus in DR Congo. Health officials consider the situation in DR Congo an outbreak. And this crisis is occurring only a year after public health officials declared West Africa Ebola-free. That catastrophic outbreak, which began in 2014, caused 28,646 cases and took the lives of 11,323 as of March 2016.

The 2014 outbreak in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea quickly spiraled out of control, but it provided plenty of information on which interventions are most effective, and that could keep the current situation in DR Congo under control. Plenty of public health organizations and officials, epidemiologists and government agencies have since proposed (and published) frameworks for minimizing the number of fatalities should more outbreaks occur.

A group of researchers, led by the University of Warwick in the U.K., attempted to make sense of all of the recommendations. A multidisciplinary team—composed of experts in a number of field including epidemiology, biostatistics and zoonotics—evaluated 37 existing public health models for managing future Ebola outbreaks. Their systematic analysis, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, attempts to pinpoint the specific protocols germane to minimizing the effects of Ebola on a community.

“For large-scale Ebola outbreaks, control strategies must be implemented to reduce the risk of spread and the number of fatalities,” says Michael Tildesley, an associate professor of epidemiology at Warwick University and coauthor of the study. “However, in any outbreak, resources are limited and it may be necessary to prioritize efforts to one intervention over another.”

Tildesley and his fellow researchers found consistently throughout their analysis that the most effective protocols involve educating people on how to reduce disease transmission in the community and at funerals. While strategies to improve hospital safety are important (such as appropriate donning and doffing of personal protective gear), these measures don’t actually stop the outbreak. The researchers say that following this model could reduce the number of deaths from an outbreak by as much as 10 percent.

The number of cases currently in the DR Congo is still relatively low, which means the information in this study is not immediately relevant, says Tildesley. But in any small outbreak of an infectious disease there’s always a risk for more locally transmitted cases. “The situation should be monitored, and if there is a significant increase in the number of cases then our work can help inform control,” he says. “In the current outbreak, given the low number of cases, there is no significant pressure on allocating resources. However, in the large scale outbreak from 2014, there were so many cases that it may have become necessary to work out how to distribute a limited number of resources.”

As with other infectious disease outbreaks, strong public health messaging is key to preventing transmission. In the case of Ebola, this includes encouraging small measures such as hand-washing and educating the public on how Ebola is spread. Other useful efforts include providing household sanitation kits and encouraging people who are sick with the virus to not leave their home.

Other research that emerged from the 2014 epidemic confirmed that the viral load in a sick person is highest at the point of acute illness, which is when a person usually dies. Shortly after death, the body is highly contagious. This is when burial preparations are typically underway. In African cultures, family and community members typically touch and wash the body of a loved in preparation for burial. During West Africa’s epidemic, many community members were resistant to following guidelines for new burial practices that minimize transmission of the virus. Despite efforts by the government in Sierra Leone, reports continued to circulate that people in communities hit by the virus were still conducting unsafe and secret burials rather than adopting medical burial protocols.

The Ebola virus is spread from person-to-person through contact with bodily fluids. The virus has been previously detected through lab testing in blood, semen, vaginal secretions, stool, saliva and breast milk. It can be transmitted through casual contact, from mother-to-child and also during sex.



 Vets in Africa Help Prevent Spread of Ebola and Other Zoonotic Diseases [International Atomic Energy Agency, 15 May 2017]

by Laura Gil, IAEA Office of Public Information and Communication


Yaoundé, Cameroon and Bangui, Central African Republic — An animal as tiny as a bat can carry up to 137 different virus species. Many of these, including Ebola, can be transmitted to humans.

After years of studying bats and other animals in the jungles of central Africa, scientists are joining forces under IAEA projects to prevent the spread of diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans, known as zoonotic diseases.

“Around 75% of human diseases originate from animals, which is why it is so important to stop them at the animal level,” said Abel Wade, Director of the National Veterinary Laboratory in Yaoundé, Cameroon. “Nuclear-derived technology helps us do this.”

Around 75% of human diseases originate from animals, which is why it is so important to stop them at the animal level. Nuclear-derived technology helps us do this
Abel Wade, Director, National Veterinary Laboratory (LANAVET), Yaoundé, Cameroon

During the Ebola epidemic of 2014, the IAEA quickly reacted to provide specialized diagnostic equipment to help Sierra Leone in its efforts to combat the virus. With the immediate crisis over, the focus now is on longer term prevention. The IAEA, in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and through funding from the Peaceful Uses Initiative (PUI) and from the African Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development and Training related to Nuclear Science and Technology (AFRA), is helping countries use nuclear-derived techniques to detect zoonotic diseases and respond to them.

To African countries facing the threat of new outbreaks, the IAEA’s help in equipping their laboratories and training their scientists in the use of these techniques and the corresponding biosafety measures has been critical. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology, for example, allows the identification of viruses such as Ebola within a few hours and with a high degree of accuracy (see Nuclear-derived techniques for detecting animal diseases). Early diagnosis helps curtail the spread of a disease by making it possible to rapidly isolate and treat infected animals and patients earlier.

“With this technology we’re better prepared to respond at the first sign of a disease,” said Emmanuel Nakouné, Scientific Director at the Institut Pasteur in Bangui, Central African Republic. “But if one country’s surveillance is weak, it can put the whole region in danger. That’s why we’re working together to strengthen surveillance throughout the region.”

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Regional cooperation

In 1999, Nakouné spent three weeks in the jungle in south-west Central African Republic living with the local pygmies until he found a potential source of the Ebola virus: rodents. Back in his lab, he used the PCR technique to discover that these were the animals that were transmitting the virus to humans in that area.

Early March he hosted Wade for a week of information exchange and joint work.

“The ongoing information exchange between various disciplines and different countries is an exemplary case of knowledge transfer under the United Nations-supported One Health approach,” said Michel Warnau, who is in charge of the technical cooperation project on Emerging Zoonotic Diseases at the IAEA. “For example, Wade is learning how doctors in Bangui spotted Ebola in the early 2000s and a monkey pox outbreak more recently using nuclear-derived techniques. Vice versa, Wade is sharing his expertise and experience in stopping the spread of a dangerous zoonotic disease that affected Cameroon.”

During his tour of central Africa, the Cameroonian veterinarian had a tale to share.

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Abel Wade (left), Director of the National Veterinary Laboratory in Yaoundé, Cameroon, and Emmanuel Nakouné (right), Scientific Director at the Institut Pasteur in Bangui, Central African Republic, at the Institut Pasteur. (Photo: L. Gil)

Controlling the 2016 bird flu

In mid-2016, a farm complex near Yaoundé lost 15 000 chickens. Veterinary scientists from LANAVET — Cameroon’s National Veterinary Laboratory — collected samples of the dead chickens and took them to their laboratory in Yaoundé, which was almost completely furnished through the IAEA’s Peaceful Uses Initiative. The vets used nuclear-derived techniques, such as PCR and ELISA (see Nuclear-derived techniques for detecting animal diseases), to discover that they were witnessing an outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza, a dangerous disease that can also be transmitted to humans.

“As soon as we detected it, we informed all the relevant ministries, the army, everyone,” Wade said during a presentation to researchers from the University of Bangui. After imposing all necessary sanitary measures, killing all exposed animals, disinfecting all affected farms and halting chicken trade, Cameroonians managed to stop the outbreak.

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It was a success, but at a significant cost to the country, Wade said. At the peak of the outbreak, farmers in western Cameroon were losing FCFA 6 billion (EUR 9 million) every day. Animal diseases can present devastating consequences to farmers, families and communities. Once they identify the animal disease in the lab, veterinarians can provide farmers with drugs or vaccines, but in some cases — like avian influenza — killing the flock is the only way to stop the spread.

Wade’s message to researchers from the University of Bangui was clear: “Nuclear-derived diagnostic techniques allow us to detect the virus early but once you’ve identified the disease, you need to act. Farmers might suffer economic losses, but saving one human life is priceless.”

Guimdo Tshicitoing Guy Flaubert, owner of a chicken farm on the outskirts of Yaoundé, was still losing animals seven months after the outbreak when he called the LANAVET scientists for help. After they used PCR and ELISA to discover that his chickens were not dying due to avian influenza, Guy Flaubert could sleep again. “I could’ve tried everything but I would’ve never got to the real cause of the problem by myself,” he said. “There are things only these machines can see.”

Thanks to the precision that LANAVET’s molecular diagnostics laboratory offered during the avian influenza crisis, more and more farmers are reaching out for help. In 2016 alone, 230 farmers took dead or sick animals to LANAVET in Yaoundé for examination.

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In Bangui, Wade learnt how PCR can be used to identify a relatively new disease spotted in the jungles of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): monkey pox, a virus of rodents and primates that also causes smallpox-like symptoms in humans. In recent years, monkey pox has re-emerged in several countries, including the Central African Republic.

At his next stop in Ndjamena, Chad, Wade learnt about his peers’ experience in using nuclear-derived techniques to identify rabies and tuberculosis and endeavoured to establish the collaboration so crucial for the surveillance and control of Ebola and other animal diseases that can be transmitted to humans.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the majority of pathogens are still unknown, Wade said, emphasizing the need to collaborate. “In the world, a new disease appears or an old one re-emerges every four months. We cannot control this if we work alone. We need to share our expertise in using these powerful, life-saving techniques. Remember that a life saved in the Central African Republic means many lives saved in Africa.”

THE SCIENCE

Nuclear-derived techniques for detecting animal diseases

The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) are two nuclear-derived techniques commonly used for disease diagnosis.

ELISA is easy to setup and use, which makes it suitable for any veterinary laboratory. Scientists place a diluted serum sample from an animal on a prepared dish and if the sample contains the suspected disease, it causes an enzyme in the fluid to change the liquid’s colours confirming the presence of the disease. ELISA is often used for initial tests, but it has a limited sensitivity and specificity and cannot be used to identify virus strains.

PCR is a technique involving more sophisticated equipment and procedures than ELISA, and is highly sensitive and accurate, making it well-suited for identifying virus strains and bacteria. This technique uses an enzyme to replicate, or amplify, a specific genetic region of a pathogen’s DNA billion-fold in just half an hour. Scientists then detect and monitor this DNA amplification through either radioisotopes or by counting fluorescent molecules attached specifically to the created gene sequences.

Both methods originally worked with radioisotopes and now apply enzymes instead, which has helped the IAEA and its partners to refine and streamline the testing process.



 Officials Confirm Second Case of Ebola in Congo Outbreak [TIME, 15 May 2017]

by Tara John

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Hygienists wearing protective suits disinfect the toilets of the Ebola treatment centre in Lokolia, on October 5, 2014. Kathy Katayi—AFP/Getty Images

A second case of Ebola was confirmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo by the World Health Organization on Sunday, following an outbreak of 17 suspected cases last week.

WHO's Congo spokesman Eugene Kabambi told /react-text Reuters that health officials are scrambling to trace 125 people believed to be linked to the identified cases in Bas-Uele province, a remote northeastern province near the border of the Central African Republic. Three people out of the 19 suspected and confirmed cases have died, he said.

It is unclear how the first victim — only identified as a male — died, although the virus has been linked to infected bushmeat from bats and monkeys.

According to the health organization, this is eight outbreak of the virus since its 1976 discovery near the Congo's River Ebola. The latest outbreak comes a year after the end of an epidemic that took more than 11,000 lives in West Africa.



 Study: Most Effective Measures Identified for Containing Ebola [Voice of America, 15 May 2017]

by Jessica Berman

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People pass a banner reading "Stop Ebola," forming part of Sierra Leone's Ebola-free campaign in the city of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Jan. 15, 2016.

WASHINGTON —

A small outbreak of Ebola virus in Democratic Republic of the Congo is causing alarm among public health officials. A new study outlining containment strategies may help prevent an epidemic similar to the one that engulfed a number of western African countries two years ago.

In the timely report, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, an international team of researchers culled 37 studies for the most effective containment strategies.

Pennsylvania State University biology professor Katriona Shea, co-author of the study, said, "The best strategy that we found out of the five that we looked at were funeral containment and public information campaigns [for the] sort of care in the community."

Ebola virus is spread through coming into contact with the bodily fluids of infected individuals.

Shea said investigators found the No. 1 way to prevent transmission was for loved ones to avoid washing bodies of the deceased prior to burial.

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FILE - The Ebola virus treatment center in Paynesville, Liberia, July 16, 2015.

Shea said that information is best conveyed through public health campaigns that also stress the importance of handwashing, personal hygiene and self-quarantine in high-transmission areas.

Don't wait to get treatment

People suspected of being infected with Ebola, the report found, should also not hesitate to go to the hospital or clinic for evaluation and treatment. But researchers concluded building more hospitals in response to an epidemic to be the least effective way to prevent spread of Ebola within communities.

Shea said investigators undertook the study in response to the Ebola epidemic of 2014-2015, when 28,646 people became infected. Of these, 11,323 people died in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone died as of March 2016, according to the report.

Forty cases of the disease were also reported in the DRC.

Using the prevention strategies outlined in the study and the incidence data from the epidemic, researchers estimated that there would have been a reduction of 3,266 cases of Ebola and 1,633 lives saved.

No consensus on containment

At the height of the epidemic, Shea said there was no consensus on the best ways to contain the Ebola epidemic, and that's why researchers decided to look into the matter.

"We really wanted to try to do something. Many of us have children, and were moved by stories, individual horrors and so forth," she said. "Others of us felt something we did scientifically might contribute to making the future outbreaks less horrific."

There are now three confirmed Ebola deaths in a remote part of the DRC. Public health officials are reportedly investigating a total of nine suspicious cases of the deadly viral infection.

With the virus once again threatening to become a public health menace, Shea said it's not too early to begin taking aggressive measures to prevent another Ebola epidemic.



 Lessons from Ebola: New approach improves disease outbreak management [EurekAlert (press release), 13 May 2017]

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IMAGE: THIS IS A COLORIZED TRANSMISSION ELECTRON MICROGRAPH OF AN EBOLA VIRUS VIRION, CREATED BY CDC MICROBIOLOGIST FREDERICK A. MURPHY CREDIT CDC

A new approach to information gathering could allow scientists to quickly identify the most effective way to manage a disease outbreak, an advance that could save lives. Developed by an international team of researchers led by Penn State scientists using insights from the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the method pinpoints critical pieces of missing information required to improve management decisions during an outbreak. A paper describing the approach appears the week of May 15, 2017, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"When a disease outbreak happens, there is a lot of information that you just don't know: who will get sick, how will the disease spread, what will make things worse or better? But you still have to act," said Katriona Shea, Alumni Professor of Biology at Penn State and senior author of the study. "Our approach allows us to make better decisions about how to manage an outbreak in the face of uncertainty, saving lives."

The new method provides a way to prioritize information gathering by applying a "value of information" analysis -- a method used in economics and wildlife management to identify critical questions that need to be answered in order to improve decisions.

"Our approach synthesizes data from many models and provides two important pieces of information," said Shou-Li Li, postdoctoral researcher at Penn State and first author of the paper. "It identifies the best course of action, given what we know now, and highlights the gaps in our knowledge that actually matter to the selection of intervention strategies."

Because the approach can be used in real time as understanding of the outbreak evolves and as new models to understand outbreak dynamics are created, the researchers believe it can streamline the decision-making process for policymakers. "It could guide the management of outbreaks where rapid decision-making is critical, including diseases we know a lot about, like influenza, those that we don't know a lot about, like Zika, and those that we don't yet know exist," Shea said.

Uncertainty about the Ebola outbreak in 2014 led to widely differing predictions of how many people would contract the virus, with estimates ranging from a few thousand to over a million cases. "The difference between the projections and the actual size of the 2014 Ebola outbreak caused intense public debate," said Li. "But rather than focusing on how big the outbreak would be, our study focused on what to do to keep it small."

The study revealed key pieces of missing information that were more important than the number of cases for selecting the best course of action to manage the outbreak. "Although the number of cases may be important for determining management strategies for other outbreaks, that was not really the case with Ebola," said Shea. "For Ebola, it turns out that the models didn't disagree as much as everyone thought they did. Despite huge disagreement over the number of cases, the models used to make these predictions overwhelmingly agreed on the best course of action to slow the outbreak."

Of the 37 models of Ebola outbreak dynamics that the research team evaluated, the majority consistently ranked two commonly proposed management strategies as the most effective: reducing transmission rates at funerals and reducing transmission rates in the community. For example, the outbreak could be best contained by ensuring safe burials, providing household sanitation kits, encouraging sick individuals to remain at home, and increasing community awareness. Strategies that focused on reducing transmission at hospitals or increasing hospitalization rates would not be as effective.

"Obviously it's going to help the outcome for individual patients to have better quality of care," said Shea, "but it might not stop the outbreak. Ultimately, we focused on what you should do to stop the outbreak as effectively as possible. Our method provides a way to pin down what you need to learn about first."

"Responding to a fast-moving disease threat such as an Ebola outbreak means having to make decisions with less-than-perfect information," said Sam Scheiner, a program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Environmental Biology, which funded the research.

"This study provides a new, important tool for decision-makers in such situations."

###

In addition to Shea and Li, the research team from Penn State includes faculty members Ottar Bjørnstad and Matthew Ferrari and undergraduate student Riley Mummah. The research team also includes Michael Runge from the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center; Christopher Fonnesbeck from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine; and Michael Tildesley and William Probert from the University of Warwick.

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the U.K. Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and was supported by the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.

CONTACTS:
Katriona Shea: k-shea@psu.edu, +61 (0)4476 15575 (currently in Australia)
Matthew Ferrari: mjf283@psu.edu, +1 814-865-6080
Barbara K. Kennedy (PIO): BarbaraKennedy@psu.edu, +1 814-863-4682



 WHO TRACKS 125 PEOPLE NEWLY INFECTED WITH EBOLA IN DRC [Eyewitness News, 15 May 2017]

The outbreak comes a year after the end of an epidemic in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people.

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An MSF medical worker, wearing protective clothing at an MSF Ebola treatment facility in Kailahun, on 15 August 2014. Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN – The World Health Organisation says it's tracking 125 people believed to have been infected with the Ebola virus in the DRC.
Three people have already died in a new outbreak.

Health professionals are targeting the country's remote north-eastern province of Bas-Uele.
It is unclear how the first victim an adult male caught the virus.

The outbreak comes a year after the end of an epidemic in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia since 2013.



 RETURN OF KILLER VIRUS World Health Organisation confirms second case of Ebola in Democratic Republic of Congo [The Sun, 15 May 2017]

By Lizzie Parry

Three people have died out of 19 suspected and confirmed cases, health officials said

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A SECOND case of the deadly Ebola virus has been confirmed in Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Health Organisation said.

One man has died from the disease, while two other people who came into contact with him have also died, though tests have yet to confirm their cause of death.

The World Health Organisation has confirmed two cases of Ebola in Democratic Republic of Congo, one of whom has died

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The outbreak comes just a year after the deadliest outbreak in history was declared over. Pictured, a Liberian health worker in a burial squad in Monrovia, in October 2014

So far health officials are investigating 17 suspected cases of the virus following an outbreak last week.

They are trying to trace 125 people thought to be linked to the cases identified in the remote north eastern province of Bas-Uele, which is near the border with Central African Republic.

Three people have so far died among the 19 suspected and confirmed cases, WHO’s Congo spokesman Eugene Kabambi said.

The first confirmed case was reported on April 22 in a 45-year-old man.

The WHO said he was transported by taxi to hospital and was declared dead on arrival.

The driver also fell ill and later died.

A third person who cared for the first case also became ill and has subsequently died.
However, to date only the first death has been confirmed as linked to Ebola.

Zoonotic Bird Flu News - from 12 May 2017



 Avian flu threat re-emerges [Agri News, 26 May 2017]

Flock-keepers urged to step up biosecurity

INDIANAPOLIS — Now is the time for poultry owners to be especially diligent about protecting their birds from avian influenza as migratory waterfowl travel north for the summer.

The Indiana State Board of Animal Health encourages poultry owners to incorporate good biosecurity practices to keep their birds healthy.

Avian influenza is a virus that can infect chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, ducks, geese and guinea fowl, as well as a wide variety of other birds.

Wild waterfowl and shorebirds are natural hosts for the virus. Infected waterfowl and shorebirds usually show no signs of illness and they shed the virus into their environment.

Avian influenza viruses can be classified into low pathogenic and highly pathogenic forms based on the severity of the illness they cause. Most AI virus strains are LPAI and typically cause little or no clinical signs in infected birds.

HPAI is an extremely infectious and fatal form of the disease for domestic poultry. HPAI can strike poultry quickly with little warning. Once the virus is established, only the highest levels of biosecurity can prevent the rapid spread from flock to flock.

Birds affected with HPAI may show one or more of the following signs:

・Sudden death without clinical signs.
・Lack of energy and appetite.
・Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles and hocks.
・Purple discoloration of the wattles, combs and legs.
・Gasping.
・Diarrhea.

Poultry owners are encouraged to monitor their birds for any signs of illness or unexplained death. If you suspect your poultry may have HPAI, contact your veterinarian, the Healthy Birds Hotline at 866-536-7593 or the Purdue University Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at 765-494-7440.

Introductions of HPAI originate from wild birds, especially waterfowl. Poultry that are raised outdoors with access to a pond, wetland or grass where waterfowl congregate are at a greater risk of contracting HPAI.

Flocks infected with HPAI can then spread the virus to new flocks through movement of birds, manure, equipment and people. HPAI viruses can exist in bird waste for several months, especially under conditions of high moisture and low temperature.

Information about Indiana’s poultry requirements and disease information is available on BOAH’s website at: www.in.gov/boah/2721.htm.

Key biosecurity recommendations

・Have a biosecurity plan and adhere to it.
・Restrict access to the flock by people, pets, wildlife and rodents.
・Do not use pond or stream water to provide drinking water for birds unless the water is treated.
・Do not keep feed where wild birds can access it.
Keep poultry pens and housing clean.
・Keep feed bins covered and stored in a location that is not accessible to wildlife, birds and rodents.
・Do not share birds or equipment with neighbors.
・Keep new birds separate from the flock for 30 days to verify they are healthy.
・Know the warning signs of infectious diseases.
・Do not take infected birds to market or exhibitions or fairs.



 Avian flu surveillance efforts. Credit: Province of British Columbia [UN Dispatch, 26 May 2017]

by Alanna Shaikh

For the first time, a new strain of bird flu was transmitted human-to-human. This is highly unusual–and could be the first sign of new global pandemic.

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In 1918, the world was rocked by pandemic flu. A virulent strain of influenza, H1N1 influenza swept across the whole planet. A fifth of the world’s population was infected, and 20-40 million people died. It killed more people than World War One.

We haven’t seen pandemic influenza on that scale since then, but it’s been because of luck, not skill. Our globalized world is actually at a greater risk for pandemic than we were in 1918.

Thanks to air travel, people travel farther, faster, and more often than they did a century ago. In just the last decade, we’ve seen Ebola cross borders, Zika infect a new continent, and a 2009 H1N1 pandemic that had a thankfully, inexplicably, low mortality rate.

So far, however, we haven’t seen a truly devastating flu epidemic in humans. Mild forms of the flu have been very contagious, and do routinely cross borders and infect large numbers of people, but they’re mild. People get unpleasantly sick, and the very young and very old may die, but the mortality rates are not unusually high. At the same time, we’ve experience some very deadly forms of the flu. Avian influenza, known as H7N9, kills 40% of people who are infected.

That’s a mortality rate to fear – H1N1 had a mortality rate of 2-5% in 1918. However, avian influenza is not contagious from person to person – it spreads bird to person.

The pandemic of 1918 was both highly contagious and highly deadly. We haven’t seen that in the last hundred-something years.

Which brings us to last week, when a Chinese medical journal reported a human-to-human transmission of H7N9. H7N9, as mentioned, has a mortality rate of about 40%. Its impact on humans has been mitigated by the fact that it only spreads from birds. Family members can care for each other without fear.

Last week, though, China reported a case of H7N9 that appears to have spread person to person, not bird to person. The infected patient had no contact with birds or live bird markets, and he had no underlying medical condition. He was a healthy 62-year-old man, who helped a family member hospitalized with H7N9 to use the bathroom. Genetic analysis of the infecting virus indicates that he was infected with the same strain of virus that infected his family member.

This could be a sign that H7N9 is evolving into a virus that spreads among people. A highly contagious virus that has a 40% mortality rate. By way of comparison, Ebola is a highly contagious virus with a 50% mortality rate that spreads among people. There is serious potential here for global catastrophe.

It’s not doomsday yet. Helping someone use the toilet is a very intimate act; that means a contagious virus, but not necessarily highly contagious. Spreading in that kind of close quarters does not mean it will spread in schools or markets. And according to the epidemiological report,

“There were a lot of family members in the ward, but he was the only one who was in close contact with the index case, and he was the only one confirmed H7N9.” So even being in the same room with an infected person does not necessarily mean infection.

The WHO has called for increased surveillance efforts for H7N9, but it isn’t quite ringing the alarm. While these human cases are a sign of an evolving virus, it hasn’t so far evolved into the danger zone. Their analysis states that “current epidemiological and virologic 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.”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is less certain. According to acting director Anne Schuchat, “This one hasn’t (evolved) yet. But that’s why we’re keeping our eye on it. Because it has the capacity to evolve and change.”

If you’re watching viruses, though, you’re watching this one.



 H7N9 virus: Planning for the next pandemic [MultiBriefs Exclusive (blog), 24 May 2017]

by Christina Thielst

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Most public health officials agree that the next pandemic is not a matter of if, but when will it arrive in the United States. And they have been closely watching China and the H7N9 virus.
Since March 2013, China has reported human infections from an Asian-lineage avian influenza A virus — H7N9. Annual epidemics of sporadic human infections have occurred there each year, with the latest (the fifth) being the largest to date. Those infected suffer from severe respiratory illness.

Public health officials around the world are concerned because of H7N9's virulence: 88 percent of those infected developed pneumonia, 68 percent were admitted to an intensive care unit, and 41 percent died. Most identified cases resulted after exposure to poultry, but there has also been some limited person-to-person spread in China.

While the current risk of the H7N9 virus to the public's health is low, there is a real concern for its pandemic potential. After just a few mutations, the virus could evolve into one easily spread through communities until there is a global outbreak.

In fact, of the novel influenza A viruses that are of special concern to public health, Asian-lineage H7N9 virus is rated by the Influenza Risk Assessment Tool (IRAT) as having the greatest potential to cause a pandemic, as well as potentially posing the greatest risk to severely impact public health.

The CDC has interim guidance available, along with modeling tools to assist local health officials and health administrators in anticipating the scope and magnitude of any potential event. For example, FluSurge 2.0 estimates the surge in demand for hospital-based services during an influenza pandemic scenario, including number of hospitalizations and deaths.

It also compares the potential impact with a hospital's existing capacity for hospitalization, intensive care and ventilator support. Health professionals then have more realistic site-specific data and potential impacts to improve upon their planning and exercise activities.

The 2017-18 flu season is just a few short months away, so this summer is a great time for ambulatory, long-term and acute care facilities to revisit their surge plans and update or improve upon their preparedness, based upon an H7N9 scenario. Nine important areas to address for this type of a surge event are:

・Activation, operation and location of triage, holding, treatment and fatality areas

・Assessment of security vulnerabilities and limiting access to facilities

・Plans for maintaining critical and essential services

・Protocols for expanding patient capacity and tracking

・Estimates and sources of essential supplies, equipment, furnishings and pharmaceuticals

・Plans for large-scale prophylaxis and vaccination

・Protocols for long-term management and disposition of deceased patients

・Protocols for prioritization of resources when demand exceeds the resources available

・Establishment of standards of care during crisis, along with policies and procedures for the allocation of scarce resources

Even if the H7N9 virus doesn't begin spreading through communities or become a threat to the U.S., the investment of time and energy into planning for a surge of patients with influenza is productive. The review of existing plans with a specific event in mind can make gaps and weaknesses more apparent and contribute to processes running smoother during the next event — when it does arrive.



 Human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus – China [World Health Organization, 23 May 2017]

On 13 May 2017, the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China (NHFPC) notified WHO of 23 additional laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus in China.

Details of the case patients

Onset dates ranged from 11 April to 6 May 2017. Of these 23 case patients, ten were female. The median age was 58 years (range 31 to 83 years). The case patients were reported from Beijing (2), Fujian (1), Gansu (1), Hebei (5), Henan (3), Hubei (1), Jiangsu (2), Shaanxi (3), Sichuan (3), Tianjin (1), and Zhejiang (1).

At the time of notification, there were seven deaths, 15 case patients were diagnosed as having either pneumonia (5) or severe pneumonia (10), and one case was mild. Nineteen case patients were reported to have had exposure to poultry or live poultry market, one case patient was reported to have visited a patient with avian influenza A(H7N9) in the hospital, one case patient was reported to have had both exposure to live poultry and a contact with a confirmed case, and two were reported to have had no known poultry exposure.

Two clusters were reported:

・A 63-year-old male from Xi’an, Shaanxi Province. He had symptom onset on 29 April 2017 and was admitted to hospital on 2 May. His symptoms were mild. He had visited a confirmed case in the hospital, a 62-year-old male from Shaanxi Province with symptom onset on 18 April 2017 and who was previously reported to WHO on 5 May.

・A 37-year-old female from Chengde, Hebei Province. She had symptom onset on 2 May 2017 and was admitted to hospital on 3 May with pneumonia. She raised backyard poultry before her onset. She also had contact with a confirmed case, her mother, a 62-year-old with symptom onset on 16 April 2017 and who was previously reported to WHO on 5 May.

To date, a total of 1486 laboratory-confirmed human infections with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus have been reported through IHR notification since early 2013.

Public health response

The Chinese governments at national and local levels are taking further measures, mainly including:

・Convening a video conference with some key epidemic provinces to provide avian influenza A(H7N9) epidemic information and guidance on strengthening risk assessment and prevention and control measures.

・Continuing to strengthen control measures with a focus on hygienic management of live poultry markets and cross-regional transportation.

・Conducting detailed source investigations to inform effective prevention and control measures.

・Continuing to detect and treat cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) early to reduce mortality.

・Continuing to carry out risk communication and issue information notices to provide the public with guidance on self-protection.

・Strengthening virology surveillance to better understand levels of virus contamination in the environment as well as mutations, in order to provide further guidance for prevention and control.

WHO risk assessment

The number of human infections with avian influenza A(H7N9) and the geographical distribution in the fifth epidemic wave (i.e. onset since 1 October 2016) is greater than in earlier waves.

This suggests that the virus is spreading, and emphasizes that further intensive surveillance and control measures in both the human and animal health sector are crucial.

Most case patients 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 infections can be expected. Although small clusters of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus have been reported including those involving patients in the same ward, current epidemiological and virologic 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.

Close analysis of the epidemiological situation and further characterization of the most recent viruses are critical to assess associated risk and to adjust risk management measures in a timely manner.

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 poultry 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.



 China Confirms 16 New H7N9 Cases; 2 Fatal [ThePoultrySite.com, 22 May 2017]

CHINA - The number of new H7N9 avian flu cases in China declined this week, with 16 infections reported through 17 May, down from 23 the previous week, Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection (CHP) said today in its regular update.

Though illnesses declined, the newly reported cases reflect steady ongoing activity, despite the onset of warmer weather, with illnesses distributed across a number of provinces, especially in the north.

China is experiencing an unprecedented number of H7N9 cases in its fifth and biggest wave of activity, which has also been notable for the emergence of a highly pathogenic strain of the virus in poultry, which has also infected some humans.

First cases in Shanxi province

China's 16 new H7N9 illnesses were reported from 12 May to 17 May, and two patients died from their infections.

All of the patients are adults, a pattern common for human H7N9 cases. Ages range from 30 to 84; 11 are men and 5 are women. Illness onsets range from 29 April to 13 May.

The virus infected people in eight different provinces and the cities of Beijing and Chongqing.

Six were from Hebei province in the north.

The cases reported last week also reflect the first ever H7N9 case in Shanxi province, also in northern China. In an announcement earlier this week, the CHP said the province's first case involves a 66-year-old woman from Datong who is hospitalized in serious condition.

Fifteen of the people had known exposure to poultry, poultry markets, or mobile stalls, all known risk factors for contracting H7N9.

The new cases appear to put China at or slightly above 700 during the fifth wave, which began in October 2016.

Threat from wider geographic spread

Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) posted an update on H7N9 cases reported from China through 5 May. No clusters were reported in the 24 cases covered by the report.
In its risk assessment, the WHO said the number of infections and geographic distribution in the fifth wave is greater than in earlier waves, which suggests the virus is spreading. It added that the developments underscore the need for more intensive surveillance and control measures, in both the human health and animal health sectors.

Since H7N9 was first detected in humans in 2013, 1,463 cases have been reported to the WHO.



 Officials: 'Stepped Up' Biosecurity limited spread of Avian flu [Wisconsin State Farmer, 21 May 2017]

by Samantha Nash,

Wisconsin lost around 10 percent of its egg laying hens in 2015, a portion of the nearly two million chickens, turkeys and other commercial poultry stock euthanized in the state during an outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N2 avian influenza virus that devastated the poultry industry across the Upper Midwest that year. While a handful of isolated cases made headlines in early 2017, the threat they posed was mitigated by lessons learned from the 2015 outbreak, according to University of Wisconsin-Extension poultry specialist Ron Kean.

"We had never faced a situation like this before, so there was a steep learning curve," Kean said about the 2015 outbreak. "I think there is some evidence that the quick response helped end the outbreak more quickly than what might have happened. Subsequent outbreaks in other states have no doubt learned from this response, and — fingers crossed — these have been fairly isolated incidences."

Wild birds

The case of avian flu that infected a Barron County turkey flock in March 2017 was a low pathogenic H5N2 strain commonly found in wild birds, said Paul McGraw, state veterinarian with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Diseases like avian influenza are generally passed to domestic birds by their wild counterparts, although the virus also transferred between flocks during the 2015 outbreak, particularly in states like Iowa and Minnesota with a higher density of poultry farms than Wisconsin.

Keeping domestic stock isolated from wild birds and their droppings is the means of prevention favored by the poultry industry, said Kean, although outdoor production methods like free-range or yarding can make this tactic difficult. Even at indoor facilities, workers and equipment may transmit pathogens from wild birds or other facilities that can infect an otherwise isolated flock.

Biosecurity

Following the 2015 outbreak, commercial poultry flocks were required to implement a biosecurity plan in order to have future losses from depopulation covered by the U.S.

Department of Agriculture. With indemnity on the line, McGraw said the poultry industry has worked with the USDA to improve surveillance and testing practices. In Wisconsin, officials adapted an instant command system, previously used to depopulate smaller operations like deer farms, to improve response times.

"The… turkey flock that tested positive in Wisconsin was detected just from routine surveillance before there were even any sick birds," McGraw said. "We were able to get in there and get that flock depopulated before they were shedding a lot of virus around."

Other changes, Kean explained, included poultry farm perimeter fencing and tire washes for vehicles on their premises. A biosecurity protocol known as the Danish entry system implemented by some farms outlines a "clean" area where the birds are kept, and an outside "dirty" area. Any objects crossing this boundary must be cleaned and disinfected, with workers required to change clothing and shoes, and wash their hands before entering barns. Many facilities have also made changes to traffic patterns, keeping vehicles away from areas where birds are housed as much as possible.

Impact on industry

Despite the fluctuation in prices and shortage of poultry products following the 2015 epidemic, Kean said the poultry industry has mostly recovered. International trade bans led to a drop in exports from the U.S., temporarily decreasing the price of chicken meat, but egg and turkey prices were quite high immediately following the outbreak. Egg prices have dropped, Kean speculates, possibly due to decreased demand after consumers found alternatives or decreased the amount of eggs used in their products.

McGraw said flocks in Wisconsin have returned to levels seen prior to the large-scale culling of poultry flocks required during the outbreak to stem the spread of disease. While isolated cases of H7N9 avian influenza in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky prompted such depopulations in those states in early 2017, McGraw said the chance of seeing new cases drops as the weather warms, and the likelihood of another 2015-level outbreak decreases further still.

"That was a unique virus. it was very highly pathogenic, I think even when it was coming from the wild birds, McGraw said. "Hopefully with our industry's stepped-up biosecurity, we can prevent something like that from happening again in the future."



 Two Chinese cities close poultry markets after H7N9 bird flu infection [The Straits Times, 21 May 2017]

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Poultry markets in Zigong, Sichuan province, and Binzhou, Shandong province, have been shut after H7N9 cases were reported. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China will shut poultry markets in certain districts of two cities after H7N9 bird flu infections were detected, state media reported on Sunday (May 21), the latest incidents in this year's more severe outbreak of the virus.

A 44-year-old man who sold poultry at a farmers market in south-western Sichuan province's Zigong city was diagnosed with H7N9, China News Service reported. Local authorities announced a one-month halt to poultry markets in the city's Ziliujing district from midnight on Monday.

Separately, a 74-year old man who had visited poultry markets in Shandong province's Binzhou city was also diagnosed with H7N9, China Central Television reported. Binzhou authorities will temporarily halt poultry markets in three of its districts.

Bird flu can jump from poultry to humans. Human cases of bird flu have been unusually high for China since last year, with three times more fatalities from H7N9 in the first four months of the year than in all of 2016. But deaths fell in April for the third consecutive month.



 Two Chinese cities close poultry markets after H7N9 bird flu infections [Reuters, 21 May 2017]

China will shut poultry markets in certain districts of two cities after H7N9 bird flu infections were detected, state media reported on Sunday, the latest incidents in this year's more severe outbreak of the virus.

A 44-year-old man who sold poultry at a farmers market in southwestern Sichuan province's Zigong city was diagnosed with H7N9, China News Service reported. Local authorities announced a one-month halt to poultry markets in the city's Ziliujing district from midnight on Monday.

Separately, a 74-year old man who had visited poultry markets in Shandong province's Binzhou city was also diagnosed with H7N9, China Central Television reported. Binzhou authorities will temporarily halt poultry markets in three of its districts.

Bird flu can jump from poultry to humans. Human cases of bird flu have been unusually high for China since last year, with three times more fatalities from H7N9 in the first four months of the year than in all of 2016. But deaths fell in April for the third consecutive month.

(Reporting by Jake Spring and Hallie Gu; Editing by Clelia Oziel)



 China confirms 16 new H7N9 cases, 2 fatal [CIDRAP, 19 May 2017]

by Lisa Schnirring

poultry_market-josephbergen.jpg
josephbergen / Flickr cc

The number of new H7N9 avian flu cases in China declined this week, with 16 infections reported through May 17, down from 23 the previous week, Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection (CHP) said today in its regular update.

Though illnesses declined, the newly reported cases reflect steady ongoing activity, despite the onset of warmer weather, with illnesses distributed across a number of provinces, especially in the north.

China is experiencing an unprecedented number of H7N9 cases in its fifth and biggest wave of activity, which has also been notable for the emergence of a highly pathogenic strain of the virus in poultry, which has also infected some humans.

First cases in Shanxi province

China's 16 new H7N9 illnesses were reported from May 12 to May 17, and two patients died from their infections.

All of the patients are adults, a pattern common for human H7N9 cases. Ages range from 30 to 84; 11 are men and 5 are women. Illness onsets range from Apr 29 to May 13.

The virus infected people in eight different provinces and the cities of Beijing and Chongqing.

Six were from Hebei province in the north. The cases reported today also reflect the first ever H7N9 case in Shanxi province, also in northern China. In an announcement earlier this week, the CHP said the province's first case involves a 66-year-old woman from Datong who is hospitalized in serious condition.

Fifteen of the people had known exposure to poultry, poultry markets, or mobile stalls, all known risk factors for contracting H7N9.

The new cases appear to put China at or slightly above 700 during the fifth wave, which began in October 2016.

Threat from wider geographic spread

Yesterday the World Health Organization (WHO) posted an update on H7N9 cases reported from China through May 5. No clusters were reported in the 24 cases covered by the report.
In its risk assessment, the WHO said the number of infections and geographic distribution in the fifth wave is greater than in earlier waves, which suggests the virus is spreading. It added that the developments underscore the need for more intensive surveillance and control measures, in both the human health and animal health sectors.

Since H7N9 was first detected in humans in 2013, 1,463 cases have been reported to the WHO.



 Human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus – China [World Health Organization, 18 May 2017]

On 5 May 2017, the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China (NHFPC) notified WHO of 24 additional laboratory-confirmed human infections with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus in China.

Details of the cases

Onset dates ranged from 14 to 29 April 2017. Of these 24 case patients, nine were female.

The median age was 56.5 years (range 25 to 82 years). The case patients were reported from Anhui (1), Beijing (1), Chongqing (2), Gansu (1), Guangxi (1), Hebei (7), Henan (1), Hubei (1), Hunan (1), Jiangsu (1), Sichuan (6) and Shaanxi (1). This is the first case reported in Shaanxi since the virus emerged in 2013.

At the time of notification, there were nine deaths, 13 case patients were diagnosed as having either pneumonia (2) or severe pneumonia (11), and two case patients were still being investigated. Nineteen case patients were reported to have had exposure to poultry or live poultry market, and two had no known poultry exposure. The exposure history was still being investigated for three case patients. No case clustering was reported.

To date, a total of 1463 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 since December 2016, the Chinese government at national and local levels is taking further measures which include:

・Strengthening risk assessment and guidance on prevention and control focusing on the most affected and newly affected areas;

・Continuing to strengthen control measures focusing on hygienic management of live poultry markets and cross-regional transportation;

・Conducting detailed source investigations to inform effective prevention and control measures;

・Continuing to detect and treat human infections with avian influenza A(H7N9) early to reduce mortality;

・Continuing to carry out risk communication and issue information notices to provide the public with guidance on self-protection; and

・Strengthening virology surveillance to better understand levels of virus contamination in the environment as well as mutations, in order to provide further guidance for prevention and control.

WHO risk assessment

The number of human infections with avian influenza A(H7N9) and the geographical distribution in the fifth epidemic wave (i.e. onset since 1 October 2016) is greater than in earlier waves.

This suggests that the virus is spreading, and emphasizes that further intensive surveillance and control measures in both the human and animal health sector are crucial.

Most case patients 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 infections can be expected. Although small clusters of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus have been reported including those involving patients in the same ward, current epidemiological and virologic 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.

Close analysis of the epidemiological situation and further characterization of the most recent viruses are critical to assess associated risk and to adjust risk management measures in a timely manner.

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 poultry 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.



 Bird Flu Is Back, And So Is The Inhumane Killing Of Animals [HuffPost, 17 May 2017]

The American Veterinary Medical Association has proposed to allow killing by the most gruesome methods, including baking and burying animals alive.

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Killing foam spreads over a flock of chickens

Avian influenza, or “bird flu,” returned to the United States in March, two years after the disease was responsible for the worst animal disease outbreak in U.S. history, with the deaths of nearly 50 million chickens and turkeys and $4-5 billion in economic losses experienced by the poultry industry. Thus far, the extent of the 2017 outbreak has been far more limited, affecting birds at approximately one dozen poultry operations in the South and upper Midwest. While no new detections have been reported in nearly two months, a comeback is possible this fall when wild birds begin their migration south.

Birds exposed to even mild strains of bird flu are typically ordered to be killed by federal and/or state agricultural officials. The most common methods used to “depopulate” flocks are carbon dioxide gas (for killing caged egg-laying hens) and water-based foam (for killing floor-reared chickens and turkeys). Both methods are known to be stressful to animals and can lead to a prolonged time until death.

Following the 2015 outbreak, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the use of an even more inhumane method—ventilation shutdown—where producers turn off the ventilation system to remove airflow and turn up the heat to 100-120 degrees Fahrenheit. The birds die from heat stress, after experiencing what is likely to be extreme suffering for up to three hours.

This truly gruesome method of killing animals has not been sanctioned by any veterinary authority.

Until now.

In January, the American Veterinary Medical Association released draft guidelines for the depopulation of animals that include ventilation shutdown. Because the USDA generally relies on the AVMA for guidance, it is likely these guidelines will determine the methods to be used to kill animals for future disease outbreaks. Not only do the guidelines allow the ventilation shutdown method to kill birds, they also permit live burial of birds and the use of ventilation shutdown for the killing of pigs.

Although it seems pretty obvious that ventilation shutdown and live burial would cause significant suffering, no research has been conducted to determine their actual impact on animal welfare. This alone should rule out their use. Moreover, these methods are not recognized by the depopulation guidelines of the World Organization for Animal Health, the international authority on animal diseases.

All other veterinary authorities appear to have taken the position that these methods should be avoided under any circumstance. In fact, other than burning animals to death, it is difficult to imagine how the AVMA could have come up with anything worse.

Animal viruses, such as avian influenza, must be taken seriously. Even mild strains can have a catastrophic impact, as they have the ability to mutate into strains capable of killing not just animals, but humans, as well. The primary responsibility for national security and public health rests with government agencies, however, not the AVMA. If government agencies feel that killing animals by horrific methods is indicated under certain circumstances, then they have the authority to order it. Use of these methods shouldn’t be sanctioned in advance by a professional association representing individuals sworn to protect animals from suffering.

The AVMA is allowing the use of ventilation shutdown because the USDA has determined that increased depopulation capacity, when combined with other actions such as better carcass disposal and improved biosecurity, could result in lower producer losses and reduced indemnity costs for the federal government. And nothing is faster or cheaper than flipping a switch to turn off the animals’ air.

By proposing obviously inhumane killing methods, the AVMA is enabling the animal agriculture industry to act irresponsibly in the way it raises animals. The poultry industry is well aware that the need to depopulate flocks occurs periodically; yet, it continues to design and construct massive buildings that confine tens and even hundreds of thousands of birds without consideration of how the animals will be protected in emergency situations, or how they will be humanely killed, if that becomes necessary.

The factory-farming industry likes to scapegoat organic and higher-welfare farming by suggesting that allowing animals access to the outside leads to disease outbreaks. However, a connection between the two isn’t supported by the facts and, in reality, the opposite is more likely to be true. Research demonstrates that mutation of milder strains of bird flu into more virulent ones occurs more commonly in crowded, indoor poultry operations.

According to the USDA, in the 2015 outbreak, 10 times as many cases of bird flu were detected in commercial operations as in backyard flocks. And last month, officials in South Korea—where bird flu hit especially hard this year—announced the results of a data analysis showing that poultry operations housing more than 100,000 chickens were 548 times more likely to be affected by bird flu than those with fewer than 4,000 chickens.

If the AVMA sincerely believes it is permitting cruel methods of killing in order to protect human and animal health, then it should also feel compelled to actively seek less inhumane methods, and it should call out industrialized farming for raising animals in crowded, filthy conditions that facilitate the spread of disease. Otherwise, it gives the appearance of merely carrying water for the animal agriculture industry.

Dena Jones is director of the farm animal program at the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI).



 CHP closely monitors first human case of avian influenza A(H7N9) in Shanxi [satPRnews (press release), 17 May 2017]

BY KAROL RUTKOWSKI

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health is today (May 17) closely monitoring the first human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) in Shanxi, and again urged the public to maintain strict personal, food and environmental hygiene both locally and during travel.

According to the Health and Family Planning Commission of Shanxi Province, the patient is a woman, aged 66, in Datong. She is in a serious condition.

Travellers to the Mainland or other affected areas must avoid visiting wet markets, live poultry markets or farms. They should be alert to the presence of backyard poultry when visiting relatives and friends. They should also avoid purchase of live or freshly slaughtered poultry, and avoid touching poultry/birds or their droppings. They should strictly observe personal and hand hygiene when visiting any place with live poultry.

Travellers returning from affected areas should consult a doctor promptly if symptoms develop, and inform the doctor of their travel history for prompt diagnosis and treatment of potential diseases. It is essential to tell the doctor if they have seen any live poultry during travel, which may imply possible exposure to contaminated environments. This will enable the doctor to assess the possibility of avian influenza and arrange necessary investigations and appropriate treatment in a timely manner.

While local surveillance, prevention and control measures are in place, the CHP will remain vigilant and work closely with the World Health Organization and relevant health authorities to monitor the latest developments.

The CHP’s Port Health Office conducts health surveillance measures at all boundary control points. Thermal imaging systems are in place for body temperature checks on inbound travellers. Suspected cases will be immediately referred to public hospitals for follow-up.

The display of posters and broadcasting of health messages in departure and arrival halls as health education for travellers is under way. The travel industry and other stakeholders are regularly updated on the latest information.

The public should maintain strict personal, hand, food and environmental hygiene and take heed of the advice below while handling poultry:



 China bird flu: 1st H7N9 avian flu case reported in Shanxi Province [Outbreak News Today, 17 May 2017]

by ROBERT HERRIMAN

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H7N9 avian influenza
Image/Cynthia S. Goldsmith and Thomas Rowe

According to the Health and Family Planning Commission of Shanxi Province, a 66-year-old woman from Datong, Shanxi Province has contracted avian influenza A(H7N9), becoming the first such human case in the province.

The patient is currently in serious but stable condition.

Experts from the Chinese CDC and the provincial CDC were sent to Datong to help with treatment of the patient as well as investigation and prevention work for the disease.

Since March 2013 through May 13, 2017, there were a total of 1486 human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) reported globally. Since October 2016, 680 cases have been recorded in Mainland China.

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.

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

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



 Central China reports new H7N9 case [Xinhua, 16 May 2017]

CHANGSHA, May 16 (Xinhua) -- A new case of H7N9 infection was reported in central China's Hunan Province, local authorities said Tuesday.

The patient, a 39-year-old man, is receiving treatment at a hospital in Xiangxiang. Live poultry trading has been suspended across the city, according to local authorities.

H7N9 is a bird flu strain first reported to have infected humans in China in March 2013. Infections are most likely to occur in winter and spring.

Disease control and prevention experts have said that the H7N9 virus is not transmitted from person to person.

Experts recommend that people avoid contact with live or dead birds, and only buy poultry with quarantine certificates.



 USDA has made progress in protecting against avian influenza, evaluation still needed [Homeland Preparedness News, 16 May 2017]

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has taken numerous steps to reduce the risk of avian influenza, but needs a plan to evaluate its efforts going forward, according to a recent report issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).

In preparing its report, GAO was asked to examine how outbreaks of avian influenza have affected human health, animal health and the U.S. economy; the extent to which the USDA has taken action to address risks for future outbreaks; and the ongoing challenges federal agencies face in mitigating the harmful effects of avian influenza.

While the disease rarely affects human populations, only accounting for approximately 2,100 infections and 800 deaths since 1997, the effects on commercial poultry can be devastating.

From December 2014 to June 2015, more than 50 million birds died from the disease. After that outbreak, USDA identified 15 areas with lessons learned from its response efforts.

One specific lesson learned was that there were not enough skilled personnel available for depopulating infected poultry, leaving more opportunities for the disease to spread elsewhere in flocks. While the department had made some progress, GAO’s report said it has not evaluated the extent to which it has fixed its previous issues, such as encouraging states to form depopulation teams. GAO also said it did not find any plan from the USDA to begin evaluating its efforts.

The report also found that federal actions to protect poultry relied on voluntary actions by a wide range of poultry producers to take routine preventative measures, known as biosecurity.

USDA currently has two major projects underway to encourage more biosecurity-related efforts.

GAO recommended that the USDA develop a plan to evaluate the effectiveness of its corrective actions. The USDA agreed with the recommendation.



 Poultry farmers threaten to sell flu infected birds [Graphic Online, 16 May 2017]

by MACLEAN KWOFI

Poultry farmers.jpg
Poultry farmers threaten to sell flu infected birds

Poultry farmers across the country have threatened not to report any cases of bird flu incidence on their farms for fear that their birds will be culled and compensation will not be paid to them.

This follows the inability of the government to pay the farmers about GH¢11 million as compensation for culling 111,000 birds during the Avian influenza (bird flu) outbreak two years ago.

Already, some of the farmers have carried out their threat and are rushing infected birds to the market for sale as soon as they detect signs of bird flu on their farms.

The Parliamentary Select Committee on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs approved GH¢11 million as compensation for the poultry farmers whose birds were culled (destroyed). Out of the amount, the farmers claim only GH¢1 million was paid as compensation to 25 farmers.

The Graphic Business has gathered also that most of the farmers have decided to defy the reporting regime and now send their birds to the market as soon as they see signs of the disease in their farms, regardless that the disease is a deadly strain of a virus that attacks poultry and is fatal for human consumption.

The deadly H5N1 virus or bird flu has killed people worldwide, particularly in Asia and the Middle East, since 2013.

Cost so far

The Veterinary Services Directorate of the Ministry of Food and Agricultural (MoFA) has described the development as unfortunate because it was likely to lead to an epidemic if the government did not act fast.

Available figures from the Veterinary Services Directorate show that the disease has affected about 66 poultry farms across the country as of May this year, with the recent occurrence in January.

So far, the country has lost huge sums of money due to the culling of 111,000 birds, various quantities of eggs and some bags of feed since the outbreak was first recorded in May 2015.

Farmers on government’s throat

The Secretary of the Techiman Poultry Farmers Association, Mr Emmanuel Soglizu, who spoke to the Graphic Business in Accra, blamed the government for not doing enough to support the ailing poultry industry.

He stated that the government had not provided the needed support in the creation of awareness on the disease since its outbreak two years ago.

Mr Soglizu minced no words when he announced plans of the farmers to defy the reporting regime as a protest against the government to cough the rest of the funds earmarked for compensation.

“After all, they (government) can only know about the disease when we the farmers report it to them. Therefore, we are going to advise ourselves,” he said.

He noted that if robust measures were not implemented to halt the spread of the highly pathogenic Avian influenza, the poultry industry would collapse.

The secretary, therefore, called on the government to provide a detailed explanation as to how the funds earmarked for the compensation was used to combat the disease.

Affected farmers

An affected farmer, Mr Abraham Odei Tetteh, recounted how he lost his entire poultry farm as a result of the disease, with a firm assurance of receiving compensation, but said he had still not received anything from the government two years after the outbreak.

That situation, he indicated, had totally collapsed his poultry business.

“I am a pensioner and I have children in school. Poultry farming is my only source of income and now that all my birds have been destroyed I cannot tell how I will be able to survive,” Mr Tetteh said with sorrow.

He said he would join any action to press home his concerns to put pressure on the government for the compensation to be paid.

Another farmer, Mr John Attipoe, who also lost his birds through government’s measures to control the disease, said the compensation was needed to help farmers settle their debts.

“If the essence of the compensation was to enable the beneficiaries invest the funds back into poultry production, why then are they keeping our money,” he quizzed.

“For me, the Veterinary Services Directorate destroyed about 20,000 of my birds and promised the government will compensate me but until now I have not heard anything again from either the government or the directorate,” Mr Attipoe said.

Veterinary loses moral right

When contacted, the Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer of the Veterinary Service Directorate, Dr Kingsley Micky Aryee, said the government’s inaction on paying compensation to the farmers was undermining the operations of the health supervisory directorate of the industry.

“Looking at the trend ofevent for the past two years, the Veterinary Service Directorate does not have the moral right to go out there and tell any farmer to do this or that because their birds were culled and they have not been compensated,” he stressed.

Asked about the threat issued by poultry farmers not to report cases of the disease, he said it was quit unfortunate, but the situation might lead to a likely epidemic if the government did not take action.

“In fact, the farmers on a number of occasions have told us they will not report the incidence anymore, and they will restock their farms contrary to the directive for them to stop as part of measures to control the disease,” he said.

Essence of compensation

Dr Aryee said the introduction of the compensation was to help encourage poultry farmers to report any outbreak of the bird flu early and contribute to efforts to contain the disease.

According to him, the government was fully aware of the importance of the compensation payment to affected poultry farmers in the wake of the outbreak of bird flu in the country.

All efforts to reach the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) to react to the issue did not yield fruit.



 Report: US unready for bird flu [Arkansas Online, 14 May 2017]

By LENA H. SUN

More needs to be done to avert a pandemic, GAO says

WASHINGTON -- If the United States were suddenly facing a potential avian influenza pandemic, just one U.S. manufacturer could be counted on to make human pandemic flu vaccine here. And although the chickens that lay the eggs used in the process are themselves susceptible to the virus, until an emergency arises, only voluntary and often inadequate measures by poultry producers are in place to protect flocks, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

The report, scheduled for release this week, comes at a time of heightened public health worries about bird flu. One of the deadliest strains, H7N9, is causing a surge in human infections in China this season. Of the nearly 200 people who have died, most had direct contact with poultry or poultry markets.

Health officials worldwide are closely monitoring the disease's spread because of the big increase in cases and worrisome changes in the virus. Of all emerging influenza viruses, H7N9 has the greatest potential to cause a pandemic if it evolves to spread easily from human to human. It also poses the greatest risk to cause serious disease.

Controlling the virus in poultry is the main way to reduce human infection and prevent a pandemic, the accountability office report says. It focuses primarily on U.S. Department of Agriculture actions after bird flu outbreaks in 2014 and 2016, which resulted in the deaths of millions of domesticated poultry in 15 states and $2 billion in costs to the federal government and U.S. economy. Despite the lessons learned, the report concludes that federal agencies face "ongoing challenges and associated issues" in mitigating the potential harm of avian influenza.
Bird flu outbreaks this spring in Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky have led officials to euthanize more than 200,000 animals. Those viruses are different from the H7N9 virus currently spreading in Asia, according to USDA officials.

Among the report's findings:

• Unless the agency is responding to an emergency, the Agriculture Department doesn't have the authority to require poultry producers to take preventive biosecurity measures to keep avian influenza from spreading from farm to farm. When the agency asked 850 poultry producers to turn in self-assessments on such measures, less than 60 percent said they had key practices in place to reduce contamination -- such as having workers shower or change into clean clothes immediately after arriving at a poultry site to reduce the risk of introducing a bird flu virus.

The report noted that commercial flocks raised outdoors and backyard flocks are at greater risk of contact with wild birds infected with avian influenza. These include poultry certified by the USDA as organically raised, which means turkeys and chickens that had access to outdoor space.

• Pandemic influenza vaccines for humans can be made using several technologies, but the most common approach relies on growing virus cultures in fertilized chicken eggs. The Department of Health and Human Services has a stockpile of influenza vaccines supplied by four companies, the report notes, but only one company has an egg-based vaccine-manufacturing facility in the United States.

In the event of an influenza pandemic, the government may not be able to rely on foreign countries to allow exports of pandemic vaccine, the report warns. "Therefore, the U.S. government considers the one U.S.-based company as the only dependable manufacturer for producing egg-based vaccine for rapid pandemic mitigation," it says.

HHS has had a three-year, $42 million contract with that company to protect the egg-supply chain and ensure a supply of vaccine-quality fertilized eggs. The contract expires in September, according to the report, which does not identify the company or its location.

Department officials and company representatives told the GAO that the company controls the risk of bird flu by limiting the density of birds on each farm that provides it with eggs and by periodically testing the flocks for avian influenza. While the 2014 and 2016 outbreaks did not affect this egg supply, a previous outbreak of highly dangerous avian influenza caused the deaths of laying hens and reduced the company's supply of eggs by about 50 percent, the report says.

• One way to track the potential for the spread of avian influenza is to look for the virus in pigs, which act as an intermediate host or "mixing vessel" in which flu viruses can recombine to pose new threats to humans. In 2009, H1N1 swine flu caused a global pandemic. But funding for a voluntary surveillance program that gathers data on the types of influenza viruses circulating in pigs will run out of money by Sept. 30, the report says.

The USDA program, which is the only federal source of data for influenza surveillance in pigs, relies on $25 million transferred from HHS. But President Donald Trump administration's preliminary budget proposal for fiscal 2018 cuts the USDA's budget by 21 percent and that of HHS by 18 percent.

• The Agriculture Department, which is responsible for preventing, controlling and eradicating diseases from poultry and livestock, has taken hundreds of corrective actions since the 2014 and 2016 bird flu outbreaks but has not evaluated their impact. In those outbreaks, for example, states and poultry producers encountered barriers to transporting bird carcasses to landfills. Federal officials provided guidance and training to help producers and states develop disposal plans but never assessed whether either was effective.

The department, which reviewed a draft of the report, said it agreed with the GAO's recommendation for it to develop a plan for evaluating completed corrective actions.

The office's report was requested by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

In a statement, its investigations subcommittee chairman, Tim Murphy, R-Pa., and ranking Democrat, Diana DeGette, Colo., said: "We know the devastating impacts of a global pandemic.

Now it's up to the Department of Agriculture to make sure we are prepared and have a plan to combat this threat. Further, ensuring the effectiveness of their plans and procedures ... is just as important as the plans and procedures themselves."



 Avian flu: What poultry owners need to know [Batesville Herald Tribune, 14 May 2017]

Now is the time for poultry owners to be especially diligent about protecting their birds from avian influenza as migratory waterfowl travel north for the summer. The Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH) encourages poultry owners to incorporate good biosecurity practices to keep their birds healthy.

Avian influenza (AI) is a virus that can infect chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, ducks, geese and guinea fowl, as well as a wide variety of other birds. Wild waterfowl and shorebirds are natural hosts for the virus. Infected waterfowl and shorebirds usually show no signs of illness and they shed the virus into their environment.

The viruses can be classified into low pathogenic (LPAI) and highly pathogenic (HPAI) forms based on the severity of the illness they cause. Most AI virus strains are LPAI and typically cause little or no clinical signs in infected birds. HPAI is an extremely infectious and fatal form of the disease for domestic poultry. HPAI can strike poultry quickly with little warning. Once the virus is established, only the highest levels of biosecurity can prevent the rapid spread from flock to flock.

Birds affected with highly pathogenic avian influenza may show one or more of these signs:

• Sudden death without clinical signs
• Lack of energy and appetite
• Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles and hocks
• Purple discoloration of the wattles, combs and legs
• Gasping
• Diarrhea

Poultry owners are encouraged to monitor their birds for any signs of illness or unexplained death.

If producers suspect their poultry may have HPAI, they should call a veterinarian, the Healthy Birds Hotline at 866-536-7593 or Purdue University Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at 765-494-7440.

Biosecurity

Introductions of HPAI originate from wild birds, especially waterfowl. Poultry that are raised outdoors with access to a pond, wetland or grass where waterfowl congregate are at a greater risk of contracting the illness. Flocks infected with HPAI can then spread the virus to new flocks through movement of birds, manure, equipment and people. HPAI viruses can exist in bird waste for several months, especially under conditions of high moisture and low temperature.

Key biosecurity recommendations:
• Have a biosecurity plan and adhere to it.
• Restrict access to the flock by people, pets, wildlife and rodents.
• Do not use pond or stream water to provide drinking water for birds unless the water is treated.

• Do not keep feed where wild birds can access it.
• Keep poultry pens and housing clean.
• Keep feed bins covered and stored in a location that is not accessible to wildlife, birds and rodents.
• Do not share birds or equipment with neighbors.
• Keep new birds separate from the flock for 30 days to verify they are healthy.
• Know the warning signs of infectious diseases.
• Do not take infected birds to market or exhibitions or fairs.
Information about Indiana’s poultry requirements and disease information is available on BOAH’s website at www.in.gov/boah/2721.htm.




 A suspected person‑to‑person transmission of avian influenza A (H7N9) [poultrymed, 13 May 2017]

Since throat swab specimens obtained from three adult Chinese patients were confirmed as an avian‑origin influenza A (H7N9) virus by local Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in China in 2013, many confirmed cases have been reported in Mainland of China.

Although family and hospital clusters with confirmed or suspected avian H7N9 virus infection were previously reported and person‑to‑person transmission was put forward, human infection of H7N9 appears to be associated with exposure to infected live poultry or contaminated environments and no clear evidence has proved that it could transmit from person to person.

Now, a group of chinese researchers report a case confirmed with H7N9 after intimately contact with his H7N9 ward mate, it may be the first case infected between ward mates in a ward. The index case patient 66‑year‑old male with hypertension and type II diabetes for more than 10 years, had visited a live‑poultry market (LPM) to buy food every day within 10 days before his illness onset and had no direct contact with live poultry in the market.

Case 2 (index case’s ward mate), a 62‑year‑old male with no underlying disease, The second case in this report had physical contact with the index case when assisting the index case to the bathroom (it lasted for 10 min) and had no history of exposure to live poultry or LPMs before the illness onset. There were a lot of family members in the ward, but he was the only one who was in close contact with the index case, and he was the only one confirmed H7N9 besides the index case. To the best of our knowledge, the case indicates that it is human‑to‑human transmission happened in a ward with detailed epidemiological, clinical, virological data, and genome analyses of two collected H7N9 virus.

Reference:
Zhang ZH, Meng LS, Kong DH, Liu J, Li SZ, Zhou C, Sun J, Song RJ, Wu JJ
Chin Med J (2017) May 20;130(10):1255-1256



 US falling short on bird flu preparation, report finds [CNN, 12 May 2017]

By Faith Karimi

(CNN)If an avian influenza pandemic ever hit the United States, there's only one dependable manufacturer in the country capable of making a vaccine, a government watchdog reports.

"The US government may not be able to rely on foreign countries to allow exports of pandemic vaccine because each country will likely prioritize those vaccines for its own population," the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office said in a new report.

These forms of the virus mainly infect birds, but certain strains have mutated to transmit from birds to humans, meaning an outbreak among humans is possible -- and the US may not be ready.

About 90 to 95% of the national stockpile of pandemic influenza vaccines is derived from eggs, the report says, and while the vaccines are supplied by four companies, only one has an egg-based vaccine facility in the US.

"The US government considers the one US-based company as the only dependable manufacturer for producing egg-based vaccines for rapid pandemic mitigation," the report says.

The report comes two months after China began confirming human infections of one avian influenza strain, H7N9.

Health officials are monitoring the cases in China, especially since the number of people infected exceeds previous instances in the nation, Dr. Wenqing Zhang of the World Health Organization told CNN in an earlier report.

Vaccines threatened

In the US, the source of vaccines is at risk, according to the report.

An outbreak of avian influenza could threaten the very same poultry that produce the eggs used in the production of human vaccines, it said.

"Protecting the chickens that lay the eggs needed to produce human pandemic influenza vaccines is an issue for federal agencies because these birds, like others, are susceptible to avian influenza," the report says.

The US Department of Agriculture relies on poultry farmers to ensure security guidelines are in place, and many are not ensuring their flocks are protected, it said.

The report also noted that US agriculture officials reviewed the biosecurity practices of 850 poultry producers and found that less than 60% had a place for employees who work at a poultry site to shower or change, increasing the chances of contamination.

Billions lost

About 50 million birds died or were killed in the outbreak of avian flu in the US in 2014 and 2015. It cost the US economy between $1 billion and $3.3 billion, the report said.

While the US Department of Agriculture took measures to address lessons learned from that outbreak, it has not evaluated their effectiveness, the report noted.

Measures taken included creating a joint biosecurity website with the US Poultry and Egg Association and urging producers to make biosecurity a priority. US officials also provided guidance and training after they found out that some poultry producers had difficulty transporting bird carcasses to landfills due to federal and state rules restricting the movement of such cargo.

The GAO recommended that the department set up a plan to evaluate the effectiveness of its corrective measures.

US officials have a three-year, $42 million contract with the vaccine manufacturing company in the US to protect its egg-supply chain and ensure it has a supply that can be used for vaccines.

The contract expires in September, according to the report, which said that Health and Human Services officials are confident the company has a secure biosecurity program.

Poultry outbreaks

Symptoms of avian influenza, also known as bird flu, include fever, cough, sore throat and sometimes pneumonia. The infection can be treated with antiviral medications.

The official name for the most common and deadliest form of the virus is Influenza A (H5N1), or the "H5N1 virus."

The strain of bird flu reported to be circulating in humans in China since February -- H7N9 -- was first detected in March 2013, at which point it had previously not been seen in humans.
Hundreds of millions of birds have been killed worldwide in an attempt to control the spread of the avian flu.

There are many different strains of avian flu but only those labeled H5, H7 and H10 are known to have caused deaths in humans to date.



 China reports 23 more H7N9 cases, 7 fatal [CIDRAP, 12 May 2017]

By Lisa Schnirring

live_poultry_sales-shakar_s.jpg
shankar s. / Flickr cc

Reports of new H7N9 avian flu cases in China continued at a steady pace last week, with 23 more cases reported. Many of the new cases are in the north, which has reported a late-season surge, according to an update today from Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection (CHP).

China is in its fifth and by far largest wave of H7N9 illnesses, a season that has been marked by a shift to a highly pathogenic form of the virus in poultry and a wider distribution of human cases beyond the poultry production areas of the southeastern provinces.

Cases persist as summer nears

China's 23 new cases were reported from May 5 to May 11, and 7 of the patients died from their infections. Illness onsets range from Apr 11 to May 6. The weekly number of cases appeared to be dropping in March and April but have edged up since then. This week's total is similar to the 22 illnesses the country reported last week.

Patient ages range from 31 to 83 years, and 13 are men and 10 are women. Investigations revealed that 20 of the people had contact with poultry or had visited poultry markets or mobile poultry stalls.

Cases were reported from eight provinces, plus the northern cities of Beijing and Tianjin. Five cases were in Hebei province in the north, and three provinces each reported three new infections: Henan and Shaanxi in central China, and Sichuan in the southwest.

The latest week's worth of cases pushes China's total in the fifth wave to nearly 700, at least 203 of them fatal.

Vietnam braces for H7N9 threat

In other avian flu developments, Vietnam's government is stepping up its preparedness efforts against the virus amid wider spread of H7N9 in China, including border provinces, Vietnam
News Service (VNS) reported today. Officials called for more intensive measures to control the trade and consumption of poultry from unknown sources, especially birds smuggled from neighboring China.

The country's preventive medicine department on May 10 warned of disease spread in south and southeast China, including Yunnan and Guangxi provinces, which border Vietnam.

According to the report, the health ministry has sped up training of health officers and of inspection and control activities in the border provinces.

Vietnam has been battling recent H5N1 and H5N6 outbreaks in poultry, but it has never detected H7N9.

Egypt reports H5N1 case

Elsewhere, Egypt recently reported a human H5N1 avian flu case, involving a 35-year-old man from Cairo, according to a May 8 notification from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). No other details were available.

H5N1 is endemic in Egyptian poultry, and so far this year the country has reported three human cases.




 VN threatened by new strain of bird flu [Viet Nam News, 12 May 2017]

ttxvn_deintaph7n9550100423AM---.jpg
People join a drill held in northern Lạng Sơn Province to destroy suspected poultry with H7N9 virus. — VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — The Prime Minister and ministries of Health and Agriculture and Rural Development are calling for intensive measures to curb the trafficking, trade and consumption of unknown poultry, especially birds smuggled from China, where avian influenza A (H7N9) continues to spread.

The Preventive Medicine Department under the health ministry announced Wednesday that the avian influenza A (H7N9) is spreading rapidly south and southeast China, including Yunnan and Guangxi provinces--which both share borders with Việt Nam.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) detected changes of H7N9 virus from low pathogenicity to high pathogenicity in poultry and humans.

WHO found H7N9 virus with high pathogenicity in two patients in Guangdong and Taiwan. FAO found high pathogenicity of H7N9 in 41 poultry samples.

With low pathogenicity, H7N9 virus may cause mild or no illness in poultry while with high pathogenicity, the virus can lead to high bird mortality and spread 100-1,000 times faster than low-pathogenicity virus.

So far, there has not been any evidence that the new strain of H7N9 causes more rapid human-to-human transfer. Therefore, WHO have not recommended changing the flu treatment scheme.

According to the Preventive Medicine Department, the health ministry has sped up instruction and training to health officers as well as inspections on disease prevention and control in provinces.

The department recommended people not consume ill/dead poultry or unknown origin. Neither should they kill, traffic or trade unknown-origin poultry.

When detecting ill/dead poultry, people should contact authorities. When having symptoms like fever, cough, chest pain or breathing difficulty after contacting with poultry, people must go to see doctor for immediate treatment.

Flu A (H7N9) was first detected in China in March, 2013 and has surged in five epidemic waves.

The fifth wave onset began in October 2016, and it has been the greatest one, with 541 human infections with avian influenza A (H7N9) in 17 provinces of China. — VNS




 CHP notified of human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) in Mainland [CHP Notification, 12 May 2017]

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (May 12) is monitoring notification from the National Health and Family Planning Commission that 23 additional human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9), including seven deaths, were recorded from May 5 to 11, and strongly urged the public to maintain strict personal, food and environmental hygiene both locally and during travel.

The 13 male and 10 female patients, aged 31 to 83, had onset from April 11 to May 6, of whom five were from Hebei; three each from Henan, Shaanxi and Sichuan; two each from Beijing and Jiangsu; and one each from Fujian, Gansu, Hubei, Tianjin and Zhejiang. Among them, 20 were known to have exposure to poultry, poultry markets or mobile stalls.

Travellers to the Mainland or other affected areas must avoid visiting wet markets, live poultry markets or farms. They should be alert to the presence of backyard poultry when visiting relatives and friends. They should also avoid purchase of live or freshly slaughtered poultry, and avoid touching poultry/birds or their droppings. They should strictly observe personal and hand hygiene when visiting any place with live poultry.

Travellers returning from affected areas should consult a doctor promptly if symptoms develop, and inform the doctor of their travel history for prompt diagnosis and treatment of potential diseases. It is essential to tell the doctor if they have seen any live poultry during travel, which may imply possible exposure to contaminated environments. This will enable the doctor to assess the possibility of avian influenza and arrange necessary investigations and appropriate treatment in a timely manner.

While local surveillance, prevention and control measures are in place, the CHP will remain vigilant and work closely with the World Health Organization and relevant health authorities to monitor the latest developments.

The CHP's Port Health Office conducts health surveillance measures at all boundary control points. Thermal imaging systems are in place for body temperature checks on inbound travellers. Suspected cases will be immediately referred to public hospitals for follow-up.

The display of posters and broadcasting of health messages in departure and arrival halls as health education for travellers is under way. The travel industry and other stakeholders are regularly updated on the latest information.

The public should maintain strict personal, hand, food and environmental hygiene and take heed of the advice below while handling poultry:

・Avoid touching poultry, birds, animals or their droppings;

・When buying live chickens, do not touch them and their droppings. Do not blow at their bottoms. Wash eggs with detergent if soiled with faecal matter and cook and consume them immediately. Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling chickens and eggs;

・Eggs should be cooked well until the white and yolk become firm. Do not eat raw eggs or dip cooked food into any sauce with raw eggs. Poultry should be cooked thoroughly. If there is pinkish juice running from the cooked poultry or the middle part of its bone is still red, the poultry should be cooked again until fully done;

・Wash hands frequently, especially before touching the mouth, nose or eyes, before handling food or eating, and after going to the toilet, touching public installations or equipment such as escalator handrails, elevator control panels or door knobs, or when hands are dirtied by respiratory secretions after coughing or sneezing; and

・Wear a mask if fever or respiratory symptoms develop, when going to a hospital or clinic, or while taking care of patients with fever or respiratory symptoms.

The public may visit the CHP's pages for more information: the avian influenza page, the weekly Avian Influenza Report, global statistics and affected areas of avian influenza, the Facebook Page and the YouTube Channel.

Zoonotic Bird Flu News - from 5 till 11 May 2017



 GAO Wants USDA to Better Reduce Risks of Bird Flu Outbreak [DTN The Progressive Farmer (registration) (blog), 11 May 2017]

by Chris Clayton

The Government Accountability Office has been taking a closer look lately at how USDA handles foreign animal diseases.

The GAO released a report Thursday looking at how USDA responded to the 2014 H5N2 highly-pathogenic avian influenza outbreak that led to the deaths of roughly 50 million commercial poultry due to the flu or euthanasia. The outbreak, considered the largest animal-disease outbreak in U.S. history, cost somewhere between $1 billion and $3.3 billion.

USDA reported 15 areas with lessons from the avian influenza outbreaks and came up with 308 corrective actions. The GAO found, however, that USDA has not evaluated the extent to which corrective actions have been completed. One problem, for instance, was the difficulty finding skilled people to cull the mass volumes of flocks. This led to delays and possibly spreading of the virus. So far, USDA hasn't worked to encourage states to identify teams or businesses that can quickly "depopulate" farms. The GAO noted USDA "does not have plans for doing so."

The GAO cited USDA needs to develop a plan for following through on its corrective actions. ☞ AVIAN INFLUENZA  

Members of the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee issued a news release about the GAO report, stating USDA needs to do more to reduce the risks of another bird flu outbreak. Chairman Tim Murphy, R-Pa., and Ranking Member Diana DeGette, D-Colo., told The Washington Post, “We know the devastating impacts of a global pandemic. Now it’s up to the Department of Agriculture to make sure we are prepared and have a plan to combat this threat. Further, ensuring the effectiveness of their plans and procedures are just as important as the plans and procedures themselves.”

The report also dovetails into a push by the livestock industry to create and fund a vaccine bank in the 2018 farm bill so USDA could rapidly respond to livestock and poultry outbreaks.

The GAO report also comes just weeks after the office analyzed USDA's evaluation of foreign animal health systems.



 AVIAN INFLUENZA: USDA Has Taken Actions to Reduce Risks but Needs a Plan to Evaluate Its Efforts [Government Accountability Office, 11 May 2017]

Avian influenza is an extremely infectious and potentially fatal disease in poultry. In 2014 and 2016, outbreaks in the U.S. led to the death of more than 50 million chickens, turkeys, and other birds, and cost billions of dollars.

Controlling avian influenza viruses in poultry is crucial to preventing those viruses from evolving to infect people.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has taken actions to address lessons learned from its responses to the outbreaks, such as encouraging states to form response teams. However, it does not have a plan to evaluate the effectiveness its efforts. We recommended that USDA develop such a plan.

Approximate Number of Birds Killed as a Result of the 2014 Outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, by State

rId14_image4.png


What GAO Found

When avian influenza outbreaks occur, they can have significant effects on human and animal health and the U.S. economy. With regard to human health, avian influenza rarely affects humans, but the World Health Organization estimates that two particular types of the virus have caused more than 2,100 human infections and more than 800 deaths since 1997, primarily in Asia and the Middle East. With regard to animal health, avian influenza outbreaks can lead to large numbers of poultry deaths as a result of efforts to control and prevent the spread of the disease. For example, from December 2014 to June 2015, more than 50 million birds were destroyed in the largest outbreak in U.S. history. The effect of avian influenza on the health of other animal species varies. Swine are susceptible to both avian and human influenza viruses that, if mixed, could create a new virus to which humans are vulnerable. An outbreak can also have significant economic consequences; for example, the economic impacts of the 2014 outbreak in the United States have been estimated to range from $1.0 to $3.3 billion.

USDA identified 15 areas with lessons learned from its responses to the 2014 and 2016 outbreaks of avian influenza and 308 associated corrective actions. For example, one lesson learned in the area of depopulation (mass culling of flocks) is that there were not enough skilled personnel available for depopulating infected poultry, leading to delays and possibly increasing the spread of disease. USDA has identified as completed about 70 percent of the 308 corrective actions to address all of the lessons learned. However, the agency has not evaluated the extent to which completed corrective actions—such as encouraging states to form depopulation teams—have helped resolve the problems identified, and it does not have plans for doing so. GAO has previously found that agencies may use evaluations to ascertain the success of corrective actions, and that a well-developed plan for conducting evaluations can help ensure that agencies obtain the information necessary to make effective program and policy decisions.

Such a plan would help USDA ascertain the effectiveness of the actions it took to resolve problems identified during recent outbreaks.

On the basis of GAO's analysis of federal efforts to respond to outbreaks and of stakeholders' views, GAO identified ongoing challenges and associated issues that federal agencies face in mitigating the potential harmful effects of avian influenza. For example:

One challenge is that federal efforts to protect poultry from avian influenza rely on voluntary actions by a wide range of poultry producers to take routine preventative measures—known as biosecurity— to protect their flocks from disease. USDA has two major initiatives under way to encourage improvements to biosecurity.

An associated issue that federal agencies face is that the chickens used to produce the eggs needed to manufacture critical human influenza vaccine are susceptible to influenza outbreaks. The Department of Health and Human Services is supporting the development of new vaccine manufacturing technologies to reduce reliance on eggs.

Why GAO Did This Study

Avian influenza is an extremely infectious and potentially fatal disease in poultry. In 2014 and 2016, two outbreaks of avian influenza led to the deaths of millions of poultry in 15 states and prompted emergency spending to control the disease. While the health risk to humans is low, humans have been infected with these viruses, sometimes fatally. A spike in fatal human infections in Asia began in late 2016.

GAO was asked to review several issues related to avian influenza. This report examines (1) how outbreaks of avian influenza have affected human health, animal health, and the U.S. economy, (2) the extent to which USDA has taken actions to address any lessons learned from its responses to the outbreaks in 2014 and 2016, and how it plans to evaluate the actions' effectiveness, and (3) ongoing challenges and associated issues, if any, federal agencies face in their efforts to mitigate the potential harmful effects of avian influenza. GAO reviewed global and domestic data on the effects of avian influenza and USDA reports and corrective action data associated with its responses to the recent outbreaks, and interviewed federal officials and stakeholders from state agencies and the poultry industry.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that USDA develop a plan for evaluating the effectiveness of the corrective actions it has taken. USDA agreed with GAO's recommendation.
For more information, contact Steve Morris at (202) 512-3841 or morriss@gao.gov.

Recommendation for Executive Action

Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to develop a plan for evaluating completed corrective actions to determine their effectiveness and, as appropriate, consider whether any completed corrective actions require validation through simulations or exercises.
Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

Report to Congressional Requesters  

Recommendations database  




 High risk areas of the north-west hit by latest bird flu measures [FG Insight, 11 May 2017]


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A new localised AIPZ will be put in place in targeted areas of Lancashire, Cumbria and Merseyside due to ‘heightened risk’.

Confirmation of the disease in the nine chickens and ducks near Thornton, Wyre came only two days after a flock of 30 chickens was wiped out in the same area.

A 3km protection zone and a 10km surveillance zone has been put in place and a full investigation is underway.
Any birds not already dead will be culled.

Officials have not yet confirmed whether the two sites are connected.

The outbreaks came less than a week after Defra chief vet Nigel Gibbens had his ‘fingers crossed’ after the announcement to relax bird flu measures on May 15.

He warned twitter followers the industry was ‘still at risk’ and ‘biosecurity remains imperative’.

Plans to lift the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) will continue as planned on May 15, apart from in ‘targeted areas’ of Lancashire, Cumbria and Merseyside due to what Defra have branded a ‘heightened risk’.

Defra chief vet Nigel Gibbens confirmed the recent outbreak in Wyre, Lancashire was strong to suggest risk of bird flu remained in circulation in wild resident birds or present in the environment.

A new and more targeted AIPZ will be introduced to replace the England-wide AIPZ lifted next week in the below areas:
• Barrow-in-Furness
• South Lakeland
• Lancaster
• Blackpool
• Wyre
• Fylde
• Preston
• Sefton
• West Lancashire
• South Ribble
• Chorley

Keepers in the affected areas have been urged to continue to practise existing mandatory disease prevention measures, including minimising movement in and out of enclosures, cleaning footwear, ensuring the cleanliness of the environment and feeding birds indoors.

Poultry gatherings also remain banned until further notice.



 CDC Head Watching Bird Flu From China [Atlanta Jewish Times, 11 May 2017]

BY DAVID R. COHEN

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CDC developing new vaccine for H7N9 in case bird flu begins to spread from person to person.

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Acting CDC Director Anne Schuchat is in charge until a permanent director is nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate.

One of the most pressing public health issues in 2017 isn’t the Zika virus or Ebola, according to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; it’s the flu.

Anne Schuchat, who became the CDC’s acting director after Tom Frieden resigned at the start of President Donald Trump’s administration, said Zika remains at the top of the organization’s list of concerns, but a new strain of flu from China, H7N9, has disastrous potential if it reaches the United States.

“We’ve been tracking it since 2013 when it emerged. Most of the human cases result from contact with live birds, and 40 percent of infections result in death, and almost everyone that gets it needs to go to an intensive care unit,” Schuchat said. “What’s scary right now is that in the fifth year of this we are seeing the strains change and adapt away from the vaccine we produced against it.”

The CDC is working on a new vaccine for H7N9 in case the strain starts spreading from person to person instead of bird to person.

“One of the reasons we have people working in 60 countries is because a threat anywhere is a threat everywhere,” Schuchat said. “So we always have to take flu strains seriously because the threat of a global pandemic could be a catastrophe.”

Schuchat, who grew up in a Conservative Jewish family in Washington, was working at the CDC in 2009 when H1N1 slammed the United States. Several Jewish summer camps, including Camp Coleman in Cleveland, were forced to cancel sessions because of the outbreak.

The flu is usually invisible in the summer in the United States, but in 2009 a new strain was detected in late spring and caused a large wave of infections, leading to those camp cancellations. When school started back in the fall, H1N1 took off.

“It was pretty disruptive,” Schuchat said. “But we were lucky in 2009 because most elderly people were already protected against it from a strain they had when they were young.”

Schuchat, who has worked at the CDC since 1988, is hardly the Clifton Road-based agency’s first Jewish director. Frieden, who was director from 2009 to 2017, is Jewish, as is Jeffrey Koplan, the director from 1998 to 2002.

Frieden played a key role in fighting the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Koplan was the director during the 2001 anthrax attacks and spurred anti-terrorist improvements to the CDC infrastructure.

Asked why she thinks three of the past four CDC directors have been Jewish, Schuchat said her family put an emphasis on education when she was growing up.

“I certainly grew up in a family that was really focused on education and achievement,” she said. “My parents really valued the opportunities they got. My dad grew up when there were quotas for Jewish people at universities. I’m just so grateful to have this opportunity to lead.”

In nearly 30 years at the CDC, Schuchat has experienced numerous public health scares. A main character in the 2011 medical disaster film “Contagion,” Erin Mears, is partially based on Schuchat. Kate Winslet, who played Mears, consulted with Schuchat while preparing for the role.

Interim directors are not usually appointed permanent CDC directors, but Julie Gerberding, who was part of the interim management team after Koplan resigned, was appointed to the main role.

“This is a temporary position for me,” Schuchat said, “but it’s really been great to represent the agency in different ways and to contribute. This is such a special place. People are so passionate about protecting people, and the chance to serve in a leadership role here is really a privilege.”

Koplan, who is now the vice president for global health at Emory University and worked with Schuchat at the CDC, praised the acting director.

“She’s a highly skilled, talented public health professional who does superb work,” Koplan said. “She has the highest integrity, makes wise decisions based on carefully reviewing the evidence and the data, and has worked on a wide range of difficult infectious disease issues.”



 Abstracts: Bird Flu, Albatross, Robots, and More [Undark Magazine, 11 May 2017]

BY Kate Telma

A roundup of science news from around the web — and around the world.

• A new strain of avian influenza is causing a wave of deaths in China. The Government Accountability Office reports that if a flu pandemic reached the U.S., only one manufacturer could be counted on to make vaccines, which are harvested from fertilized eggs. (Washington Post)

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Albatross on Española Island in the Galápagos.
Visual by putneymark/CC

• A group at the British Antarctic Survey takes birdwatching to the next level by using satellites to track albatross on remote islands. (The Atlantic)

• An often overlooked risk of firearms is exposure to tiny particles of toxic lead. A new policy at the Department of Defense lowers its employees’ allowable exposure to 20 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, three times as restrictive as its previous standard. (NPR)

• The White House is set to appoint two governors, a congressman in recovery, and a Harvard addiction researcher to its bipartisan Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. Critics say the issue has already been thoroughly studied and many expert recommendations already made, including an extensive surgeon general’s report last year. (STAT)

• Scientists at MIT are using robots to teach other robots — a glimpse into the future of robotic reinforcement learning. (Wired)

• People with HIV are living to an average age of 78, 10 years longer than those who contracted the virus in the mid-90’s, suggests a new study in Lancet HIV. The study, which looked at people across 18 countries, demonstrates that current therapies are working but that people with HIV still don’t live as long as those without. (Time)

• A blind mountain climber uses a device that enables his tongue to sense the rock face, restoring the hand-to-eye climbing coordination he had before losing his sight. (The New Yorker)

• Chinese scientists are calling for a crackdown on a booming market in counterfeit reagents — substances used in chemical or biological tests — that waste time and materials and could undermine the country’s efforts to become a world leader in science. (Nature)

• Experts, advisers, and diplomats urge President Trump not to abandon the Paris climate agreement. They call it a less rigorous, more flexible plan than its predecessor, the Kyoto Protocol, and say there are few compelling reasons to leave. (New York Times)

• And finally, wandering street vendors arrange blister packs of pills into towering sculptures and dole out medical advice on the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (National Geographic)



 USDA Unsure if Bird Flu Guidelines are Helping, GAO Finds [NBCNews.com, 11 May 2017]

by NIKITA BIRYUKOV

U.S. agriculture officials do not actually know if they are doing enough to protect people and poultry from avian influenza, a government watchdog reported Thursday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is still relying on poultry producers to voluntarily follow security guidelines, and many still are not doing everything they are supposed to do to protect their flocks, the non-partisan Government Accountability Office says in the report.

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An Indian health worker wrings the neck of a chicken during a culling operation after chicks were found to be infected with H5N1 avian influenza NOAH SEELAM / AFP - Getty Images

About 50 million birds died or were slaughtered in the outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N2 avian flu that spread to several states in 2014 and 2015, costing the U.S. economy an estimated $1 billion to $3.3 billion.

There have been smaller outbreaks since. The spread of bird flu threatens chicken and egg production but is also worrying because the viruses can infection people, too, sometimes. And worse, the technology to make flu vaccines to protect people from new outbreaks largely rely on chicken eggs.

Members of Congress asked the GAO to look into what USDA had done to improve U.S. farming practices.

It found the department had taken hundreds of actions, but had done too little to determine whether they were effective. And it found some big holes still in what poultry producers were doing.

Fewer than 60 percent of the 850 poultry producers surveyed had biosecurity officers or training in place, the GAO found. And less than 60 percent divided their poultry processing lines or provided employees a place to shower or change clothing before working on a poultry site, raising risks that workers could spread the virus around a plant or from one facility to another.

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Avian flu outbreaks in 2014 and 2016 killed millions of birds. Gaizka Iroz / AFP - Getty Images file

The USDA has created training programs and sought to encourage producers to improve security and hygiene with an interim rule that would keep them from being reimbursed for birds culled because of an outbreak.

According to the GAO's report, these measures - and more than 300 others added after the 2014 outbreaks, some of which are ongoing - have not been tested to see if they are effective. The USDA agreed with the report's single recommendation that it develop a plan to determine the worth of the measures.

The GAO pointed to another problem -- wild birds.

Experts believe wild birds carry the viruses into the U.S. from Asia, and then spread them from one region of the U.S. to another. There is little that people can do to prevent that, the report says.

A bird surveillance program run jointly by the USDA and the Department of the Interior found roughly 0.12 percent of more than 88,000 wild birds surveyed carried a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza of the same lineage that caused the 2014 and 2016 outbreaks.

None of the U.S. strains has spread to people, but two strains known as H7N9 and H5N1 have infected hundreds of people in China. Scientists fear one of these strains will mutate to become more infectious and might cause a pandemic of potentially deadly flu.

"We know the devastating impacts of a global pandemic. Now it's up to the Department of Agriculture to make sure we are prepared and have a plan to combat this threat," Tim Murphy, a Pennsylvania Republican, and Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that ordered the report said in a joint statement.

The GAO said the issue of egg production was particularly worrying.

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The Avian influenza virus is harvested from a chicken egg as part of a diagnostic process in this undated image. Erica Spackman / USDA via Reuters file

"The virus could infect poultry needed to produce eggs used in manufacturing critical human vaccines against pandemic influenza," the report notes. Domestic production of the vaccine would grind to a halt. And during a pandemic, foreign nations may not export the vaccines to the United States, instead preferring to save them for their own populations.

The Department of Health and Human Services contracted with a private company last year "to protect the egg supply chain and ensure a year-round supply of vaccine-quality fertilized eggs." HHS is also working to help companies develop ways to make flu vaccines without the use of eggs.

GAO said there's another problem, too. Flu viruses can infect pigs, and pigs can be infected both by human and by bird flu viruses. "Federal funding will soon be exhausted for a voluntary surveillance program that gathers information about the presence of influenza viruses in swine that could pose a threat to human health," the report notes.



 With bird flu surging, U.S. needs to do more to prevent possible pandemic, GAO says [Washington Post, 11 May 2017]

By Lena H. Sun

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The avian influenza virus is harvested from a chicken egg as part of a diagnostic process. (Erica Spackman/USDA/Reuters)

If the United States were suddenly facing a potential avian influenza pandemic, just one U.S. manufacturer could be counted on to make human pandemic flu vaccine here. And although the chickens that lay the eggs used in the process are themselves susceptible to the virus, until an emergency arises only voluntary and often inadequate measures by poultry producers are in place to protect flocks, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

The report, scheduled for release next week, comes at a time of heightened public health worries about bird flu. One of the deadliest strains, H7N9, is causing a surge in human infections in China this season. Of the nearly 200 people who have died, most had direct contact with poultry or poultry markets.

Health officials worldwide are closely monitoring the disease's spread because of the big increase in cases and worrisome changes in the virus. Of all emerging influenza viruses, this strain of H7N9 has the greatest potential to cause a pandemic if it evolves to spread easily from human to human. It also poses the greatest risk to cause serious disease.

Controlling the virus in poultry is the main way to reduce human infection and prevent a pandemic, the GAO report says. It focuses primarily on Agriculture Department actions after bird flu outbreaks in 2014 and 2016, which resulted in the deaths of millions of domesticated poultry in 15 states and $2 billion in costs to the federal government and U.S. economy. Despite the lessons learned, the report concludes that federal agencies face “ongoing challenges and associated issues” in mitigating the potential harm of avian influenza.

Bird flu outbreaks this spring in Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky have led officials to euthanize more than 200,000 animals. They are different from the strain of the H7N9 virus currently spreading in Asia, according to Agriculture officials.

Among the report's findings:

• Unless the agency is responding to an emergency, the Agriculture Department doesn’t have the authority to require poultry producers to take preventive biosecurity measures to keep avian influenza from spreading from farm to farm. When the agency asked 850 poultry producers to turn in self-assessments on such measures, less than 60 percent said they had key practices in place to reduce contamination — such as having workers shower or change into clean clothes immediately after arriving at a poultry site to reduce the risk of introducing a bird flu virus.

The report noted that commercial flocks raised outdoors and backyard flocks are at greater risk of contact with wild birds infected with avian influenza. These include poultry certified by the USDA as organically raised, which means turkeys and chickens that had access to outdoor space.

• Pandemic influenza vaccines for humans can be made using several technologies, but the most common approach relies on growing virus cultures in fertilized chicken eggs. The Department of Health and Human Services has a stockpile of influenza vaccines supplied by four companies, the report notes, but only one company has an egg-based vaccine manufacturing facility in the United States.

In the event of an influenza pandemic, the government may not be able to rely on foreign countries to allow exports of pandemic vaccine, the report warns. “Therefore, the U.S. government considers the one U.S.-based company as the only dependable manufacturer for producing egg-based vaccine for rapid pandemic mitigation,” it says.

HHS has had a three-year, $42 million contract with that company to protect the egg-supply chain and ensure a supply of vaccine-quality fertilized eggs. The contract expires in September, according to the report, which does not identify the company or its location. HHS officials and company representatives told the GAO that the company controls the risk of bird flu by limiting the density of birds on each farm that provides it with eggs and by periodically testing the flocks for avian influenza. While the 2014 and 2016 outbreaks did not affect this egg supply, a previous outbreak of highly dangerous avian influenza caused the deaths of laying hens and reduced the company's supply of eggs by about 50 percent, the report says.

• One way to track the potential for the spread of avian influenza is to look for the virus in pigs, which act as an intermediate host or “mixing vessel” in which flu viruses can recombine to pose new threats to humans. In 2009, H1N1 swine flu caused a global pandemic. But funding for a voluntary surveillance program that gathers data on the types of influenza viruses circulating in pigs will run out of money by Sept. 30, the report says.

The Agriculture program, which is the only federal source of data for influenza surveillance in pigs, relies on $25 million transferred from HHS. But the Trump administration’s preliminary budget proposal for fiscal 2018 cuts Agriculture's budget by 21 percent and that of HHS by 18 percent.

• The Agriculture Department, which is responsible for preventing, controlling and eradicating diseases from poultry and livestock, has taken hundreds of corrective actions since the 2014 and 2016 bird flu outbreaks but has not evaluated their impact. In those outbreaks, for example, states and poultry producers encountered barriers to transporting bird carcasses to landfills. Federal officials provided guidance and training to help producers and states develop disposal plans but never assessed whether either was effective.

The department, which reviewed a draft of the report, said it agreed with the GAO’s recommendation for it to develop a plan for evaluating completed corrective actions.

The GAO report was requested by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. In a statement, its investigations subcommittee chairman, Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), and ranking Democrat, Diana DeGette (Colo.) said: “We know the devastating impacts of a global pandemic.

Now it’s up to the Department of Agriculture to make sure we are prepared and have a plan to combat this threat. Further, ensuring the effectiveness of their plans and procedures are is just as important as the plans and procedures themselves.”



 Deadly Bird Flu Strain H7N9 Could be Next Pandemic [Laboratory Equipment, 9 May 2017]

by Seth Augenstein

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 A CDC Scientist harvests H7N9 virus that has been grown for sharing with partner laboratories for research purposes. Photo: CDC

It’s been a century since the last worldwide influenza pandemic. The Spanish Influenza of 1918 spread across the globe in the waning days of World War I, killing tens of millions of people.

The next pandemic-level strain could be brewing in China, according to health officials. It’s a bird flu strain that has demonstrated 41 percent mortality in recent epidemics. Currently in its fifth epidemic, it’s become more widespread than ever – and it’s changing, according to world health officials.

The good news is that the H7N9 virus has so far shown limited human-to-human transmission.

The bad news is that this fifth epidemic of the influenza strain, though mostly transmitted by poultry, is the largest yet.

“The H7N9 virus continues to have the greatest potential to cause a pandemic of known emerging influenza A viruses, and H7N9 viruses are considered to be the influenza A virus with the greatest potential public health impact,” the CDC recently announced.

Last week the World Health Organization reported 623 infections in humans,. The total cumulative number of infections to date is 1,421 since the strain was identified in 2013.

The first four epidemics proved how virulent the virus truly is, according to international authorities. From the first four epidemics, 88 percent of patients came down with pneumonia, 68 percent were admitted to an intensive care unit – and a full 41 percent died.

The fifth epidemic also appears to have diverged into two distinct lineages, from the Pearl River Delta and the Yangtze River Delta. The strain has changed ultimately at the molecular level – and for the worse, according to the CDC.

“Samples from the fifth epidemic demonstrate that these viruses contain a four-amino acid insertion in a host protease cleavage site in the HA protein that is characteristic of highly-pathogenic avian influenza viruses,” they write.

But there are positive developments. Several candidate vaccine viruses are in development.

Most importantly so far, almost all the human infections have been linked to exposure to poultry, they added.

“Although some limited human-to-human spread continues to be identified, no sustained human-to-human H7N9 transmission has been observed,” they write.

CDC and the World Health Organization are not warning travelers yet. But they said that monitoring continues, and that they will issue safeguards and cautionary recommendations when appropriate.

“CDC, China and global health partners will continue to closely monitor the H7N9 virus situation in China and will continue to conduct risk assessments as the situation evolves,” they concluded. “CDC does not have any new or special recommendations for the U.S. public at this time regarding H7N9. CDC will keep you updated. Stay informed.”

This past flu season, tens of millions of birds were culled in Asia, but that was mostly due to the H5N6 strain, which was more prevalent last year than the H7N9.



 Human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus – China [World Health Organization, 9 May 2017]

On 30 April 2017, the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China (NHFPC) notified WHO of 18 additional laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus in mainland China.

Details of the cases

Onset dates ranged from 6 to 23 April 2017. Of these 18 cases, eight were female. The median age was 58 years old (age range among the cases is 4 to 74 years old). The cases were reported from Beijing (2), Chongqing (1), Fujian (1), Gansu (1), Guangdong (2), Henan (1), Hunan (1), Jiangsu (1), Jilin (1), Shandong (2), and Sichuan (5).

At the time of notification, there were three deaths, 14 cases were diagnosed as having either pneumonia (4) or severe pneumonia (10), and one case was diagnosed as mild. Seventeen cases were reported to have had exposure to poultry or live poultry market. One was reported to have had no known poultry exposure.

To date, a total of 1439 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 cases since December 2016, the Chinese government at national and local levels is taking further measures which include:

・Strengthening risk assessment and guidance on prevention and control for northern provinces, which are reporting increasing cases. On April 24, the NHFPC convened a videoconference on avian influenza A(H7N9) prevention and control for 11 northern provinces.

・Continuing to strengthen control measures with focus on hygienic management of live poultry markets and cross-regional transportation.

・Conducting detailed source investigation to inform targeted prevention and control measures.

・Continuing to detect and treat cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) early to reduce mortality.

・Continuing to carry out risk communication and issue information notices to provide the public with guidance on self-protection.

・Strengthening virology surveillance to better understand virus contamination levels and mutations, in order to provide further guidance for prevention and control.

WHO risk assessment

The number of human infections with avian influenza A(H7N9) in the fifth epidemic wave (i.e. onset since 1 October 2016) is greater than the numbers of human cases reported in earlier waves.

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 in a timely manner.

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. Although small clusters of cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus have been reported including those involving patients in the same ward, 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 poultry 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.



 Chickens at Taipei market infected with bird flu [Taipei Times, 9 May 2017]

Five batches of chicken slaughtered at a wholesale poultry market in Taipei have been confirmed to be infected with avian influenza subtype H5, the Taipei City Animal Protection Office said yesterday.

Veterinarians at the market on Saturday night and early on Sunday notified the office about suspected avian flu symptoms in the chickens, including skin anomalies and internal bleeding.

The office sent the suspected chickens to a laboratory for inspection and disinfected the market, it said.

The office also suspended slaughtering operations for 24 hours and seized 304 chickens that had been slaughtered.

The chickens came from poultry farms in the Kaohsiung metropolitan area and Miaoli, Pingtung and Yunlin counties, Animal Protection Office Director Yen I-feng (嚴一峰) said, adding that the office has alerted authorities in the areas, telling them that the farms should be inspected.

The seized chickens were destroyed, Yen said.

The spread of avian influenza would slow down with rising temperatures, the office said, but added that isolated cases are still being discovered, and urged people to eat only well-cooked poultry and eggs and buy certified products.

The Centers for Disease Control last week announced that an outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N6 avian influenza A virus that began in February was under control.



 Bird classes abandoned as Otley falls victim to avian flu [Yorkshire Post, 9 May 2017]

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oultry Judge Jeff Maddock at the 2015 Otley Show

The Otley Show, the region’s first big agricultural event of the season, has been forced to cancel its poultry section, following the confirmation of two cases of avian flu in Lancashire.

Organisers of the one-day show on May 20, the oldest of its type in the UK, had previously indicated that the classes would remain open and had extended the deadline for entries, but said today they were acting “in the absence of any firm instruction or guidance from Defra”.

The show’s pigeon and egg sections will go ahead as planned. Jon Grubb, welfare officer for the show’s poultry classes, which normally attract around 400 entries, said: “All on the poultry committee have pushed as hard as we can to stage a poultry show if at all possible, but the situation as it stands means that we can not reasonably expect to hold a poultry show without an unacceptable degree of risk.”

The latest case of avian flu was confirmed in a backyard flock of nine chickens and ducks at Thornton, near Blackpool, last weekend. It followed the culling of around 30 birds at a small chicken farm nearby. Public Health England said the risk to public health from the virus was “very low” and the Food Standards Agency has stressed that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for consumers.

Defra said after the second outbreak: “The UK’s deputy chief veterinary officer has confirmed H5N8 avian flu in a backyard flock of chickens and ducks near Thornton, Wyre, Lancashire. “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 H5N8 strain was identified in farmed and wild birds last December, and has been confirmed at farms in Northumberland, Suffolk, Lancashire and Lincolnshire, and in backyard flocks in North Yorkshire and Carmarthenshire.

A wild buzzard in North Yorkshire was also found to be infected. An “influenza prevention zone” is in place across England and requires all keepers, whether commercial or pet owners, to restrict movement in and out of bird enclosures, and to feed birds indoors.

A ban on poultry gatherings is in place until May 15. Defra says it expects to lift it next week, “subject to some additional identity and health checks and biosecurity measures”.



 Two Lancashire backyard flocks hit by bird flu in two days [FG Insight, 8 May 2017]

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Confirmation of the disease in the nine chickens and ducks near Thornton, Wyre came only two days after a flock of 30 chickens was wiped out in the same area.

A 3km protection zone and a 10km surveillance zone has been put in place and a full investigation is underway.

Any birds not already dead will be culled.

Officials have not yet confirmed whether the two sites are connected.

The outbreaks came less than a week after Defra chief vet Nigel Gibbens had his ‘fingers crossed’ after the announcement to relax bird flu measures on May 15.

He warned twitter followers the industry was ‘still at risk’ and ‘biosecurity remains imperative’.

Decision to lift the AIPZ on May 15 remains under review.



 AVIAN INFLUENZA FOUND IN MEXICO [KTIC, 8 May 2017]

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The World Organization for Animal Health reports that highly contagious H7N3 avian influenza was confirmed Thursday at a farm in west-central Mexico. The virus was discovered in a flock of 15,000 birds that had been vaccinated and did not show any clinical signs of the disease, according to agriculture officials in Mexico.

Reuters reports that the farm is under quarantine and the birds were sent to a nearby slaughterhouse. Mexico’s agriculture sanitation authority said the outbreak occurred in the same area where the virus was detected in 2012 and was discovered as part of a supervision program aimed at freeing the country of the disease.

In March, a highly pathogenic strain of bird flu was found in a chicken breeder flock on a Tennessee farm contracted to Tyson Foods Inc, the first discovered in the United States this year. Different strains of avian flu have been detected across Asia, Europe, Africa and in the United States in recent months, leading to the culling of millions of birds.



 Two bird flu cases confirmed in the UK [Irish Independent, 8 May 2017]

by Ciaran Moran

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Poultry flock owners should remain vigilant for any signs of disease in their flocks Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

The second outbreak of bird flu in two days has been confirmed at a Lancashire farm.

The H5N8 strain of avian flu was confirmed in a small backyard flock of chickens and ducks at the farm near Thornton-Cleveleys, Wyre, Lancashire.

It follows the discovery of the disease in a flock of about 30 chickens at a nearby farm on Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: "The flock contains nine birds. A number had died and the remaining live birds at the premises will be humanely culled.

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

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 risk to public health from the virus was very low, Public Health England said, while the Food Standards Agency said it did not pose a food safety risk.



 Second out-break of Avian flu found in flock near Thornton [Blackpool Gazette, 8 May 2017]

by DARIA NEKLESA

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A second case of Avian flu has been confirmed in a backyard flock of chickens and ducks near Thornton says The UK’s Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer.

It is understood that the flock contained nine birds, a number of which have since died and the rest will be humanely culled.

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.

In a statement DEFRA said: "The UK’s Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer has confirmed H5N8 avian flu in a backyard flock of chickens and ducks near Thornton, Wyre, Lancashire.

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

This case follows the culling of around 30 birds at a small chicken farm in Thornton after bird flu was detected last week.



 Chickens culled as bird flu found at second Lancashire farm [BBC News, 7 May 2017]

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The Food Standards Agency said the disease was not a risk to food safety

A second outbreak of avian flu in two days has been found at Lancashire farms, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

The H5N8 strain was confirmed in a small backyard flock of chickens and ducks near Thornton-Cleveleys.

It follows the culling of about 30 birds at a nearby farm on Thursday.

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

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.

A spokeswoman for Defra said the flock contained nine birds, a number of which had died while the remaining live birds will be humanely culled.

"A full investigation is under way to determine the source of the infection," she said.

In January, there were a number of other outbreaks of the virus, including at farms in Wyre in Lancashire, Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire and 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



 Bird flu outbreak at second Lancashire farm [NW Evening Mail, 7 May 2017]

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A second case of bird flu has been detected

The second outbreak of bird flu in two days has been confirmed at a Lancashire farm.

The H5N8 strain of avian flu was confirmed in a small backyard flock of chickens and ducks at the farm near Thornton-Cleveleys, Wyre, Lancashire.

It follows the discovery of the disease in a flock of about 30 chickens at a nearby farm on Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: "The flock contains nine birds. A number had died and the remaining live birds at the premises will be humanely culled.

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

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 risk to public health from the virus was very low, Public Health England said, while the Food Standards Agency said it did not pose a food safety risk.



 Second UK bird flu outbreak confirmed [ITV News, 7 May 2017]

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Both outbreaks were reported in Lancashire Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

Two outbreaks of bird flu have been reported within just days of each other in Lancashire.

The discovery of the H5N8 strain of the disease in the flocks of two nearby farms was confirmed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

It comes after a number of birds in a flock of about 30 chickens died at a farm near Thornton on Thursday and a small backyard flock of chickens and ducks at a nearby farm near Thornton-Cleveleys was confirmed to also have avian flu on Saturday.

A Defra spokeswoman said "a full investigation is under way to determine the source of the infection" and confirmed 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.

Public Health England made assurances that the risk to public health from the virus was very low and the Food Standards Agency said it did not pose a food safety risk.



 Adaptation of Avian Influenza Virus to a Swine Host [Pork Magazine, 5 May 2017]

By Bourret V, Lyall J, Frost SDW, Teillaud A, Smith CA, Leclaire S, Fu J, Gandon S, Guérin JL, and Tiley LS

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The emergence of pathogenic RNA viruses into new hosts can have dramatic consequences for both livestock and public health. Here we characterize the viral genetic changes that were observed in a previous study which experimentally adapted a field isolate of duck influenza virus to swine respiratory cells. Both pre-existing and de novo mutations were selected during this adaptation.

We compare the in vitro growth dynamics of the adapted virus with those of the original strain as well as all possible reassortants using reverse genetics. This full factorial design showed that viral gene segments are involved in complex epistatic interactions on virus fitness, including negative and sign epistasis. We also identify two point mutations at positions 67 and 113 of the HA2 subunit of the hemagglutinin protein conferring a fast growth phenotype on the naïve avian virus in swine cells.

These HA2 mutations enhance the pH dependent, HA-mediated membrane fusion. A global H1 maximum-likelihood phylogenetic analysis, combined with comprehensive ancestry reconstruction and tests for directional selection, confirmed the field relevance of the mutation at position 113 of HA2. Most notably, this mutation was associated with the establishment of the H1 'avian-like' swine influenza lineage, regarded as the most likely to cause the next influenza pandemic in humans.

This multidisciplinary approach to study the genetics of viral adaptation provides unique insights on the underlying processes leading to influenza emergence in a new host species, and identifies specific targets for future surveillance and functional studies.



 Mexico: H7N3 avian influenza reported on Jalisco farm [Outbreak News Today, 5 May 2017]

by ROBERT HERRIMAN

658px-Map_of_Jalisco_1824.png
Jalisco, Mexico
Public domain image/ Metamario

An outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) serotype H7N3 was reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Friday by Joaquin Braulio Delgadillo Alvarez, Director General of Animal Health, National Service of Health and Agrifood Quality (SENASICA), Ministry of Agriculture, Stockbreeding, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food, Mexico.

The outbreak started on Apr. 18 on a farm in Tepatitlan de Morelos, Jalisco State, which was detected through active surveillance. Of the 151,000 susceptible birds, 10 cases were confirmed. The source of the outbreak in unknown at this time.

The bird flu virus was confirmed at the Level 3 Biosecurity Laboratory, SENASICA.

Following active surveillance on-going in Altos de Jalisco area, H7N3 avian influenza virus was isolated in a commercial layer farm. The flock had been vaccinated against the disease 18 weeks beforehand; birds did not show any clinical signs. A 3 km outbreak area and a 10 km area around the outbreak were established, and 3 other farms from the same company, that are empty, were identified in the area around the outbreak.

The farm is under quarantine and the birds were sent to an authorized slaughterhouse near the site. Epidemiological investigation is on-going.

Officials applied the following measures to the outbreak:

Movement control inside the country;
quarantine;
zoning;
vaccination prohibited;
no treatment of affected animals

Measures to be applied:

disinfection/ disinfestations;
stamping out
and official destruction of animals products.

Jalisco is a western Mexican state fringing the Pacific Ocean.



 China reports 24 more H7N9 avian flu cases, 9 fatal [CIDRAP, 5 May 2017]

by Lisa Schnirring

avian_flu_chick_testing.jpg
Merrimon/iStock

China continues to see a steady pace of new H7N9 avian flu infections late into the season, with 24 cases reported over the past week, including at least one from a province that had never reported one before.

Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection (CHP) typically publishes a report in English on the most recent week's worth of cases from the mainland, but today the only hint of a weekly total came in a report in Chinese from Xinhua, China's state news agency.

This week's total reflects an increase from 17 reported from China last week.

Citing Chinese national health officials, the report said the 24 cases were reported between Apr 28 and May 4 and that 9 of the infections were fatal. A translation of the Xinhua report was posted by FluTrackers, an infectious disease news message board. The report offered no other details about the newly infected patients or the affected provinces.

Shaanxi province's first cases

Yesterday, however, the CHP said it was monitoring two new cases from the mainland, that of a 62-year-old man from Shaanxi, the province's first such case. The province is located in northwestern China. The man died from his illness.

Today Xinhua reported a second case from Shaanxi province, involving a 63-year-old man who was hospitalized.

The CHP also noted another H7N9 patient in the city of Chongqing, a 25-year-old woman who is hospitalized. Chongqing is in southwestern China.

China is currently in its fifth and by far its largest wave of H7N9 infections, an event that has been marked by wider geographic spread and the detection of a highly pathogenic form of the virus in poultry.

Separate reports flagged by infectious disease news tracking sources suggest that new cases in Hebei province, which had reported only a few H7N9 cases, are likely part of China's weekly H7N9 total. Hebei province is in northern China and is not far from Beijing, which has also reported a surge of recent cases.

Provincial officials in Hebei province announced six new cases between Apr 28 and May 4, according to a statement translated and posted by FluTrackers.

Farm outbreak

In a likely related development, China's agriculture ministry today announced an H7N9 outbreak at a poultry breeding farm in Hebei province, which killed 5,000 chickens and led to the culling of 80,057 more, according to a statement translated and posted by Avian Flu Diary (AFD), an infectious disease news blog.

China has now reported at least 680 cases during the fifth wave, including at least 197 deaths.



 Risk of bird flu remains as Lancashire backyard flock hit [FarmersWeekly, 5 May 2017]

by Tony McDougal

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Defra has confirmed a further case of avian influenza in England just a week after announcing that all restrictions surrounding AI were to be lifted on 15 May.

Chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens confirmed the case of H5N8 avian flu had been found in a small backyard flock of chickens near Thornton, Wyre, Lancashire.

The case is close to a previous outbreak of the virus among pheasants and other game birds near Pilling, Wyre, which led to the culling of 10,000 birds at the end of January.

The new 10km surveillance zone is understood to include the area of the January outbreak.
Defra said the backyard flock contained about 30 birds. A number had died from the virus and the remaining live birds at the premises were being humanely culled.

It added that a full investigation was under way to determine the source of the infection, but the outbreak – which follows the lifting of restrictions on free-range birds being kept indoors – has concerned the industry.

Writing on Twitter, Mr Gibbens said biosecurity was vital in the battle against the disease. “It shows that we’re still at risk and biosecurity remains imperative.”

Stay vigilant – NFU

NFU poultry adviser Gary Ford said: “The AI risk has not gone away. All poultry keepers please ensure you continue to have very high standards of biosecurity in place. The risk remains out there.”

Richard Griffiths, British Poultry Council chief executive, said: “The poultrymeat industry has shown an exemplary level of patience since the first case of bird flu was declared in December last year and we have been working tremendously hard towards implementing effective solutions to deal with the outbreak.

“The health of our birds remains the top priority for BPC members up and down the country and we will continue practicing the highest level of biosecurity.”

Defra said the proposed lifting of the ban on poultry gatherings on 15 May was under review.

A spokesman told Poultry World: “We have always said we would keep the issue under review if we had further cases of bird flu. This is now under review and we hope to be able to give a clear position in the next couple of days.”



 Bird flu outbreak at Lancashire farm [ITV News, 5 May 2017]

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Bird flu outbreak at Lancashire farm
Photo: Press Association

A case of avian flu has been confirmed at farm in Lancashire.

The department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed the outbreak of the H5N8 strain of the disease in a small backyard flock of chickens.

A number of birds have died at the farm near Thornton and the rest are expected to be culled.

A three kilometre protection zone has been put in place and an investigation is underway 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.



 What Lincolnshire farmers need to know about latest bird flu outbreak [Lincolnshire Echo, 5 May 2017]

By Elaine Davies

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 Farmers have been advised to be vigilant after a case of bird flu has been confirmed in Lancashire

Farmers have been warned to be vigilant after a fresh outbreak of bird flu has been confirmed.

DEFRA confirmed a case of H5N8 has been registered at a farm in Thornton, Wyre, Lancashire and a 3km protection zone and a 10km surveillance zone is in place.

Farmers across Lincolnshire are now being urged to take action if they keep birds.



 Chickens culled as bird flu found at Lancashire farm [BBC News, 5 May 2017]

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 The Food Standards Agency said the disease was not a risk to food safety

About 30 birds are to be culled after avian flu was found at a poultry farm, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has said.

The H5N8 strain was confirmed in a small backyard flock of chickens at the farm near Thornton,
Lancashire by Defra's chief veterinary officer.

Restrictions have been put in place around the infected premises to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

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.

A spokesman for Defra said a number of the birds had died and the remaining live birds were being humanely culled.

In January, there were a number of other outbreaks of the virus, including at farms in Wyre in Lancashire, Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire and 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



 China culls 80,000 birds in Hebei to tackle spreading bird flu [Reuters 5 May 2017]

China has culled 80,000 chickens in the country's north after detecting an outbreak of H7N9 bird flu on a farm of layer hens, said the agriculture ministry on Friday.

Five thousand hens on the farm in Xingtai in Hebei province died in late April, said the ministry, and another 8,500 hens were infected with the disease.

After confirming infection with the H7N9 virus, authorities ordered the culling of 80,057 poultry. The outbreak is under control, added the statement.

Infection with bird flu usually peaks during winter months and tails off in the spring but cases of H7N9 have been unusually high in the country since last year.

More than 200 people have died since last October and new cases continue to be reported, with the latest fatality occurring in Shaanxi province this week.

Outbreaks among birds have spread northwards, and the virus has evolved from a low pathogenic one into one with more serious symptoms.

(Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)



 How we are breeding the next swine flu or bird flu [Crikey (registration), 5 May 2017]

Australia's factory farming system is a perfect breeding ground for virulent, fatal disease, writes science writer Geoff Russell.

Bernard Keane did well to summarise the recent Productivity Commission “Regulation of Agriculture” report’s chapter on animal welfare. It’s 61 pages in an 800-page report, but there were a few more relevant chapters that are crucial to understanding how agriculture is and isn’t regulated in Australia. Probably the most important is that on biosecurity, and it demonstrates how easily the Productivity Commission can be led astray.

Keane notes that the commission brings animal welfare within its remit by putting numbers on the costs and benefits to the community of changing the way factories treat animals. I use the word “factories” because well over half of the meat eaten here comes from animals you’d never see in any drive through the Australian bush, except perhaps on the back of trucks. But to economists, animal suffering is of no consequence unless consumers put a monetary value on it.

Even if you choose to play by these commission rules, there are clear costs associated with factory (and traditional) farming of animals that the Commission simply ignores. Swine flu emerged from a mix of human, pig and chicken viruses on factory farms in the US in the late 1990s. It percolated away, picking up little bits of RNA here and there, before starting to kill people en masse in 2009. RNA viruses like influenza are intrinsically less stable and more prone to mutation than DNA viruses.

Swine flu might not have been born here, but it could have been, and the next pandemic influenza may well be. The relative sizes of the US, Australian and Chinese industries mean that such diseases are more likely to emerge there than here. But we all have to pay when it hits our shores.

What’s the cost? In it’s first 12 months swine flu killed 284,000 people globally. Unlike ordinary flu, it didn’t just kill the elderly on the cusp of death anyway, but 80% of its victims were under 65 years old. So we aren’t talking about future risks of events that have never happened. These risks have a real body count. Australia has a good hospital system and did better than many countries, but this influenza still killed an estimated 300 people younger than 65.
Economists aren’t normally shy about putting a value on human deaths, but the commission fails to do so.

How did swine flu emerge? And why is this relevant to commission considerations? To answer that, you need to understand some of the kinds of processes that can yield a new disease.
Here’s a method scientists use to reliably breed killer diseases. Infect a chicken with a harmless flu virus isolated from a waterbird. The chicken’s immune system will begin to kill the viral particles. After a few days, the particles that aren’t dead are the ones that have evaded the chicken’s immune system. Kill the chicken, grind up the lungs and you have something where the virus particles are, on average, a little more dangerous than the initial population you used to infect the chicken. Use this to infect a second chicken. In the time it takes the chicken to mobilise its immune system, the virus will multiply, and after a few days, the particles that are still poor at evading the immune cells will be dead, leaving just the nastiest viral particles. Do this over and over and eventually the virus will start to kill. In one such experiment, by the 24th passage through the 24th batch of chickens, the virus had evolved into a killer that killed 100% of the last batch of chickens.

Once a virus enters a chicken or pig factory, it begins a similar kind of cycling. It may arrive with the pigs or chickens and start off harmless, but it might not stay that way. A factory farm isn’t quite as efficient as a laboratory, but it is still very good at providing excellent conditions to encourage a virus to become deadly. Crowding causes stress and stress depresses immune function. Chickens in a broiler shed live in their feces for their entire lives. One gram of droppings from a chicken infected with bird flu can contain enough virus to infect the entire shed.

As of March this year, 77 countries were infected with 13 strains of avian influenza. Perhaps the next human pandemic will come from one of these, or, more likely, from some currently benign virus that isn’t yet causing enough symptoms to be noticed. Australia has had its own outbreaks of avian influenza in 1976, 1985, 1992, 1995, 1997, and 2010 and 2012.

So the commission chapter on biosecurity is an exercise in inverted logic. The issue isn’t how do we protect factory farms from things that might infect them. These are intrinsically leaky facilities and this is a distributed problem. Distributed problems are, by their nature tough to solve. You could protect one facility with robust safeguards, or perhaps 50, but there are more than 2500 chicken sheds in Australia, each holding 40,000 birds.

The real biosecurity challenge is how to protect people from the new diseases that evolve on factory farms; these are a potent source of totally new viral strains, not simply a conduit. The environment supplies the viral raw material, that’s true, but the factory farming conditions provide the conditions to amplify pathogenicity. This is not a particularly subtle distinction, and it shouldn’t have been missed by the commission.

So how did the PC miss this? There are 34 mentions of “trespass” in the 800-page report, including sub-sections devoted entirely to this topic. In contrast, avian influenza gets two passing references and no sections. So the commission wasted a whole lot of time on a trivial issue and totally missed an issue with literally fatal consequences. Clearly, the bleating and moaning by factory farming bodies about people exposing what goes on behind closed doors has distracted the commission from the main game.

Similarly missing in action is any systematic treatment of food poisoning. It gets a single mention in relation to salmonella from eggs, but what about the 31,000 hospitalisations for food poisoning, the majority of which will have been from animal products, either directly or indirectly when infection is spread to plant materials on cutting boards, knives and the like.

There is a significant part of our health sector that is no more than a hidden subsidy for our animal industries. Again, this is perfectly capable of being analysed and costed within the PC framework, but it wasn’t. Keane highlights the excellent treatment in the commission report of the way in which the animal industries control and subvert any attempt at regulation. But the commission itself has fallen victim to the tricks of the industry in letting them set the agenda on biosecurity and waste so much time on trespass and the resulting ag-gag laws while neglecting much bigger issues.

*Geoff Russell is the author of Greenjacked: The derailing of environmental action on climate change



 Farmers warned of ‘recurring’ bird flu threat after outbreak in Sweden [FG Insight, 5 May 2017]

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Poultry keepers have been told to remain on stand-by after officials warned bird flu could become a ‘recurring threat’.

Despite a drop in active disease levels of the H5N8 strain throughout the UK, a recent outbreak of bird flu in Sweden has prompted renewed concerns it could circulate once again.

NFU Scotland poultry policy manager Penny Middleton said the extent of disease seen this winter had ‘been unprecedented but could be the start of a recurring pattern’.

She said: “There is work needed to be done this summer to assess how we handle such situations in the future and for keepers to consider carefully their contingency plans and resilience to face similar situations in the future.”

Restrictions throughout the UK are expected to be relaxed by the end of the month but Defra chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens urged keepers to continue to follow best practice on biosecurity and remain vigilant for signs of the disease.

Officials confirmed the risk level would be kept under review but said the current risk should be assessed as low, meaning ‘outbreaks are rare but can occur occasionally’.

The statement added: “As time passes, with no further cases and despite the heightened exposure we can be more confident the risk has significantly reduced to approach levels prior to the current epizootic.”

It came as Northumberland County Show confirmed the cancellation of its poultry section due to ‘continuing restrictions’.

Chairman James Wardle said the decision followed ‘much thought and consideration’.

Disappointed

He added: “We are disappointed and saddened to not welcome the usual magnificent display of soft- and hard-feathered chickens and waterfowl, but we hope visitors will enjoy the egg show which will still be taking place.”

Tom Forgrave, Ulster Farmers’ Union chairman, supported the decision by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to extend its prevention zone until May 31.

He added: “The priority for bird keepers is the safety of their flock and they will continue to act responsibly in order to protect their birds.”



 Mexico reports H7N3 bird flu outbreak on commercial farm [Malay Mail Online, 5 May 2017]

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Health officers cull poultry at a wholesale market after a spot check at a local street market revealed the presence of H7N9 bird flu virus, in Hong Kong June 7, 2016. — Reuters pic

MEXICO CITY, May 5 — Mexico has reported an outbreak of the highly contagious H7N3 bird flu virus on a commercial farm in the state of Jalisco, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said yesterday, citing a report from Mexico’s agriculture ministry.

The virus, which does not pose a serious danger to people, was detected among laying hens in a flock of 15,000 birds that had been vaccinated and did not show any clinical signs of the disease, the Paris-based OIE said in a notification.

The farm, located in the town of Tepatitlan de Morelos, is under quarantine and the birds have been sent to a slaughterhouse near the site, it said.

Mexico’s agriculture ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Mexico is a major chicken exporter.

In March, a highly pathogenic strain of bird flu was found in a chicken breeder flock on a Tennessee farm contracted to Tyson Foods Inc, the first discovered in the United States this year. — Reuters

Zoonotic Swine Flu News - from 1 Apr 2017



 Swine flu cases on the rise [The Hindu, 7 May 2017]

B. Madhu Gopal

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Concern over shortage of testing kits at virology lab

The death of a man, reportedly due to swine flu (H1N1), has once again put the focus on the dreaded disease, which is spreading panic among the people whenever there is an outbreak.

Doctors, however, refuse to confirm it as swine flu death.

“He also had other complications besides swine flu and we can declare it as death due to swine flu only when the person dies after being affected by swine flu alone,” said a medical officer.

The most distressing part of swine flu is that it can be confused with normal flu as both have similar symptoms.

Coming to the testing part, though Visakhapatnam has a virology lab at Andhra Medical College (AMC), the meagre allocation of funds and shortage of ‘testing kits’ are coming in the way of its effective functioning.

“An amount of Rs. 2 lakh was sanctioned under the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) last year, which did not suffice our requirements in view of the growing number of samples being sent for collection. The testing kits have to be procured from Chennai and they supply the kits only after payment of advance. Last time I gave personal guarantee only after which the kits were supplied but I cannot do it every time,” AMC Principal P.V. Sudhakar said when the issue of shortage of kits at the lab was brought to his notice.

“The IDSP authorities have advised us to utilise the Hospital Development Society Fund. This cannot be done without the permission of the government. The lab is also undertaking the testing of samples coming from cases admitted at private hospitals also but it may no longer be possible to do so,” says Dr. Sudhakar.

The Government Hospital for Chest and Communicable Diseases (GHCCD) has two ventilators and isolation wards for treatment of swine flu patients but the complaint from patients and their relatives is that they are far from adequate to meet the growing requirements.

‘Enough ventilators’

“The existing ventilators are enough to meet the present needs as we get not more than two cases of swine flu on an average every day. Preference is given to swine flu patients over others as there are small ventilators to take care of other cases,” says GHCCD Superintendent G. Sambasiva Rao.

“In view of the shortage of testing kits we are sending the swabs to the virology lab at Tirupati for testing. There are delays in getting the reports due to courier and other problems. A total of 47 cases have tested ‘positive’ in the district so far this year,” says the Swine Flu Nodal Officer L. Kalyan Prasad.



 H1N1 claims first life in Kolkata, death toll reaches 3 Bengal [India Blooms News Service, 6 May 2017]

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Kolkata, May 6 (IBNS): The death toll from swine flu in West Bengal has risen to three as a 56-year-old man from Kolkata reportedly died of H1N1 influenza at a city hospital on Friday

According to reports, Arup Halder, a resident of city's Ekbalpore area, was tested positive for swine flu (H1N1) few days ago and he died at the privately-run Woodland Hospital in south Kolkata's Alipore area on Friday night.

Earlier last week, a 28-year-old woman and a minor girl from West Bengal's Nadia district died of swine flu in two private hospitals in Kolkata.

"We are looking into the matter and all privately-run hospitals in Kolkata and West Bengal have been directed to inform the government about swine flu cases," a senior official of state's health department told IBNS.

(Reporting by Deepayan Sinha)



 Swine flu claimed 185 lives in first 3 months of 2017 [The Asian Age, 6 May 2017]

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As a precautionary measure, instructions have been given to all state and civic-run hospitals.

They said that fluctuating temperature and decrease in immunity could be the reasons for the spurt in swine flu cases.

Mumbai: There has been a spurt in recorded deaths caused by swine flu (H1N1) in the first three months of this year in Maharashtra. The viral infection claimed 85 lives in the first three months of 2017 while there were only 25 deaths in the corresponding period of 2016.

According to health minister, Dr Deepak Sawant, “There is a rise in swine flu but we are treating it. There has been no change in the virus and we are still continuing with tablets of Oseltamivir.”

Of the 7 lakh patients screened for swine flu till date, 887 positive cases have been recorded and 11,940 persons were treated and discharged with another 18 people on ventilator, said health officials in the state. They said that fluctuating temperature and decrease in immunity could be the reasons for the spurt in swine flu cases. As a precautionary measure, instructions have been given to all state and civic-run hospitals.

Dr Sawant told The Asian Age, “We have been undertaking stronger screening for all cases reported to us and surveillance for all viral infections. We have started with vaccinating high-risk groups such as expecting mothers, and people suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure.”

Appealing to people, Dr Sawant said, “Please do not ignore early symptoms of swine flu such as fever, cold, cough and body ache. Avoid self medication and seek medical assistance immediately.” Civic hospital authorities have sent letters to both public and private hospitals to be watchful of H1N1 cases and report immediately if any swine flu symptoms are reported.



 H1N1 claims first victim in Kolkata this year; toll rises to 3 in West Bengal [Times of India, 6 May 2017]

KOLKATA: Swine flu took the first life in Kolkata this year on Friday. A 56-year-old man died in Woodlands Nursing Home in Alipore, less than a week after another patient succumbed to H1N1 last Saturday.

While deceased Arup Haldar was from Kolkata, the other two swine flu victims this year were from Nadia's Kalyani and Taherpur, respectively.

Haldar was brought to Woodlands on Wednesday. According to hospital sources, he was critical by the time he was wheeled in. Along with shortness of breath, Haldar was admitted with bouts of vomiting, loose motions and coughing.

"The patient was a diabetic and was on insulin. His condition kept deteriorating and he was put on ventilation and haemodialysis support within hours of admission," said a source in Woodlands.

Suspecting it to be a case of H1N1, the hospital sent his swab samples and it tested positive. Further investigations revealed evidence of pneumonia, sepsis and multi-organ failure.

"We put in our best efforts to save the patient. Unfortunately, he died within 48 hours of admission," the source said.

H1N1 already claimed two lives in April. Four-year-old Soham Ghosh became the first victim, staying admitted in AMRI Hospital Mukundapur for about three weeks before passing away.

The second death, a week later, was of a Kalyani resident. Homemaker Sima Ghosh, who died at AMRI Hospital, Salt Lake, on April 29, was referred from a local nursing home in a serious condition on April 17.

Virologists and doctors warn that those vulnerable to the infection should take extreme precaution. The virus is highly contagious and attacks people with certain health conditions more aggressively.

If the virus infects a healthy adult, the infection mostly is not noticeable as the symptoms are like those of no-rmal influenza.

According to doctors, diabetics are among the most susceptible. Others vulnerable to the virus include people with chronic ailments of heart, lungs, kidneys, immuno-compromised people like cancer patients on chemotherapy, the elderly, children and pregnant.

Doctors said the vaccine against H1N1 is available and those who fall into the vulnerable category should take the shot once a year.



 Swine Flu reported in Jharsuguda [Pragativadi, 4 May 2017]

Swine-Flu Swine Flu bb.jpg


Belpahar: A 36 year old man was reportedly tested positive for H1N1 virus (Swine flu) for the first time in Belpahar area of Jharsuguda district.

The breakout of the deadly disease was reported in 2012. Swine Flu was reported from other parts of the state. Now for the first time Belpahar has witnessed its first swine flu incident.

The patient was identified as Mukesh Agarwal. As per sources, Agarwal is now under treatment at a private hospital in Bhubaneswar where his condition remained critical. He was placed under intense care in the ICU.

His family members claimed that Agarwal’s health began to deteriorate after he took ill a week back. He became weaker with each passing day. Family members initially suspected of sunstroke and overwork due to which he became weak and admitted him to a local hospital.

However, there was no improvement in his conditions. Later, he was taken to Jahangir Gandhi Hospital. Again, he had to be shifted to a nursing home in Burla for further treatment as his condition kept worsening. However, doctors failed to diagnose his disease and sent him to a private hospital in Bhubaneswar. Nothing was confirmed by doctors while a relative said Agarwal’s medical reports suggested that he was affected by swine flu.

The incident has created panic among the locals. Locals even suspect that Agarwal of being infected with the disease after coming in contact with H1N1 virus-affected person while he was travelling outside the state.



 101 affected by swine flu in West Bengal since January [The Hindu, 4 May 2017]

Cases mostly from Kolkata, North 24 Parganas

At least 101 people have been affected with the Swine flu (H1N1 influenza virus) in West Bengal since January, a senior health official said on Wednesday.

Two persons also suspected to have died of the disease, though it is yet to be confirmed, the official said. The incidences were reported mostly from the city (36) and North 24 Parganas district (33), State Health Services Director Biswaranjan Satpathy told PTI.

Stray cases

He said that there were one or two stray cases reported from Howrah and Hooghly districts as well.

“There have been 101 cases of Swine Flu infection in West Bengal since January. Out of these, seven persons were from other States while the rest 94 were from West Bengal,” Mr. Satpathy said.

On the number of deaths from Swine Flu, the health official said, “So far we have received reports of two suspected cases of Swine Flu deaths. We are waiting for the death report to be sure of the cause.”

According to Mr. Satpathy, presently 10 persons, including four admitted on Wednesday, with the H1N1 virus infection were undergoing treatment at different hospitals in the State.

Swine flu is a respiratory disease caused by influenza viruses that infect the respiratory tract of pigs and result in a barking cough, decreased appetite, nasal secretions, and listless behaviour; the virus can be transmitted to humans.

When contacted, Kolkata Municipal Corporation MMIC (Health) Atin Ghosh, said that there were only eight cases reported from the city in a month’s time.

“Out of the eight cases reported from the city, seven have recuperated. Only one aged person from the city is undergoing treatment for Swine Flu,” Mr. Ghosh confirmed.

There have been no new cases of Swine Flu infection from the city for the last couple of days, he said.



 Swine Flu On The Rise: All You Need To Know About H1N1 Virus [Boom Live, 4 May 2017]

swine-flu Swine Flu.jpg


Swine flu has returned and this time it has claimed the life of an 18-month old in Mumbai. The boy, a resident of Worli in Mumbai succumbed to the virus on 28th April. The infant was treated in a hospital for a few days but his condition deteriorated. A total of 21 Swine flu cases have been reported by Mumbai’s civic body between January and April, say several newspaper reports.

But, the worst hit this time appear to be Maharashtra where the flu has claimed 85 lives in the first three months of this year, up from the 25 deaths recorded throughout 2016, reports Hindustan Times.

23 lives have been lost in Kerala alone, according to several news reports on May 1, 2017. “This year, the prevalence has gone up to 27%. This is the eighth year since the Influenza A H1N1 pandemic of 2009 and this virus is now part of our seasonal influenza viruses. Some cases should be expected every year,” says Amar Fettle, State Nodal Officer for H1N1, reports The Hindu.

While there are no official consolidated numbers of Swine Flu cases across the country, several hundred cases have been detected in West Bengal, Maharashtra and many of the north Indian states.

Here are 5 things to know about Swine Flu.

1) What is Swine Flu?

Swine flu is also known pig influenza or H1N1 influenza. It is a respiratory disease caused by the influenza virus that infects the respiratory tract of pigs. Influenza viruses that infect pigs may be different from human influenza viruses. In addition, because pigs are susceptible to avian, human and swine influenza viruses, they potentially may be infected with influenza viruses from different species (e.g., ducks and humans) at the same time. If this happens, it is possible for the genes of these viruses to mix and create a new virus. This type of major change in the influenza A viruses is known as antigenic shift. If this new virus causes illness in people and can be transmitted easily from person-to-person, an influenza pandemic can occur. This is what happened in 2009 when an influenza A H1N1 virus with swine, avian and human genes emerged in the spring of 2009 and caused the first pandemic in more than 40 years.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

2) Is the H1N1 strain similar to the one found post 2009?

Does not look like, if the National Institute of Virology (NIV) based in Pune are to be believed. The NIV say they have isolated a new strain called the Michigan strain, that has been in circulation in the US since the last two years. This strain, different from the California strain found in 2009 has now found its way to India.

3) How does H1N1 spread?

Influenza viruses can be directly transmitted from pigs to people and from people to pigs. These infections have most commonly been reported after close proximity to infected pigs, such as in pig barns and livestock exhibits housing pigs at fairs. Infected pig cough or sneeze and droplets with influenza virus in them can spread through the air. If these droplets land in your nose or mouth, or are inhaled, you can be infected. There is also some evidence that you might get infected by touching a surface with virus on it and then touching your mouth or nose. A third way to possibly get infected is to inhale droplets or dust containing influenza virus. Scientists aren’t really sure which of these ways of spread is the most common.

Human-to-human transmission of variant flu viruses also has occurred, though this method of spread has been limited. This kind of transmission is thought to occur in the same way that seasonal flu transmits in people, which is mainly through coughing or sneezing by people who are infected. People also may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. It’s important to note that in most cases, variant flu viruses have not shown the ability to spread easily and sustainably from person to person.

Pregnant women and those already suffering from a disease have a higher risk of getting the flu. Once cured, there are chances that the flu may lead into other serious problems like breathing problems, pneumonia, etc.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

4) What are the symptoms of Swine Flu?

The symptoms of swine flu are similar to regular flu. Fever, cough, nasal secretions, fatigue, chills, sore throat and headache are some of the common symptoms.

5) What are the precautions one can take?

Anyone experiencing the above symptoms should see a doctor. As all the symptoms of Swine flu and seasonal flu are the same, there are medical tests that need to be performed to determine the type of flu. Doctors advise those having these symptoms to stay at home to prevent the spread of the disease. Those with regular flu are more likely to get it. It is still unclear if vaccines that were used on a preventive basis for the previous strain of H1N1 can still be used to fight the disease.



 Gurgaon: Hospitals on alert after suspected swine flu cases reported [Hindustan Times, 5 May 2017]

Gurgaon residents have been advised to cover their mouths while sneezing or coughing

hindustan-thursday-wearing-hospital-hospitals-suspected-gurgaon_132c918c-30d9-11e7-aae9-524ad91d2809.jpg
All private hospitals in the city have been asked by the health department to report all confirmed cases of H1N1 flu to the district civil surgeon.(Parveen Kumar/HT PHOTO)

Hospitals in the city have geared up to prevent a swine flu outbreak after the city recorded a sharp spike in suspected cases of the highly contagious disease in a week.

All private hospitals in the city have been asked by the health department to report all confirmed cases of H1N1 flu to the district civil surgeon.

Though the virus was dormant for the past two years, it has suddenly become active this month.

During 2014, 37 cases of H1N1 were reported in Gurgaon. However, there were no casualties.

“The numbers of patients with symptoms of swine flu have increased over the last week. We have an isolation ward at the hospital and the drug, Tamiflu, is also in stock. We are geared up to deal with any kind of emergencies,” said Kanta Goyal, chief medical officer, civil hospital, Gurgaon.

All private hospitals have also made required arrangements to deal with swine flu cases.

“Swine flu virus gets active during the change of season. They spread either by direct contact with the infected person or with infected objects. Hand hygiene and social distancing are two key ways to prevent spread of the infection,” Rajesh Kumar, senior consultant, Internal Medicine, Paras hospital Gurgaon.

Doctors have advised residents to take precautions and cover their mouth and nose while sneezing. The symptoms of the disease include high temperature, tiredness, headache, sore throat, loss of appetite, diarrhoea and vomiting.

At present, the city has patients down with suspected category A and B swine flu.

The H1N1 virus is categorized under three categories. Patients diagosed with ‘Category A’ do not require testing for H1N1. The symptoms are mild fever, sore throat, cough, body ache, headache, nausea and diarrhoea. They are generally not advised to stay at home in isolation or are prescribed Tamiflu.

While, in ‘Category B’, the patients have high fever along with other symptoms of category A.

In Category C, the patients report symptoms of both Category A and B and are most below 5 or more than 60 years of age. They also run the risk of breathlessness and chest pain. They are mostly kept in isolation wards at hospitals.

Swine flu: Dos and Dont’s

Wash your hands properly and regularly

Use sanitisers, especially those that are alcohol based, for washing hands

Avoid crowded places in case the disease breaks out

If you feel any symptoms, stay at home and consult a doctor

Common symptoms

High fever

Sore throat, cough and cold

Breathlessness and tiredness

Headache

Loss of appetite, diarrhea or vomiting

When to go for the test?

If cough, cold and fever persist for more than three days along with breathlessness, visit a doctor. Also, stay away from people to avoid spread of infection.

How much time does it take to obtain reports?

The report is normally given in 24 hours.

In case of emergency cases, the report can be prepared in 5-6 hours.

What is the treatment available?

Doctors usually prescribe the antiviral drug, Tamiflu, to reduce the severity of symptoms.



 After a lull, swine flu strikes again, 1 dead [Times of India, 4 May 2017]


by V Kamalakara Rao

Visakhapatnam: A 52-year-old man with swine flu died in a corporate hospital at Ramnagar on Wednesday. Official sources from the department of medical and health said the victim came to the city from West Bengal on Sunday with severe health condition. He did not respond to the emergency treatment and died on Wednesday at around 3.30 am.

Health officials said the person was a businessman by profession and got infected with the disease 20 days back. The officials said they were now getting cases from Odisha and West Bengal. Meanwhile, as people throng theatres to watch Baahubali 2, health officials warn of spike in the outbreak of swine flu. Health officials said large gathering at theatre halls and the recently held Chandanotsavam atop Simhachalam hill are two incidents which could result in the spread of the swine flu virus in the city.

L Kalyan Prasad, Visakhapatnam district epidemiologist for Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) and in-charge of swine flu cases, told TOI that the H1N1 virus was still prevalent in the city with five people undergoing treatment at corporate hospitals. The virus is more active in cold climes. The air conditioning in theatres provide scope for the spread the virus, said Kalyan Prasad. "Overall, we are suspecting the spread of swine flu due to these two factors. We tested more than 250 cases from north coastal AP and neighbouring states like Odisha and finally confirmed 63 as positive from January 1 till date. We have reported two deaths including each one in January and April," Kalyan Prasad said. TP Anantham, manager of Leela Mahal and secretary of Visakhapatnam Film Exhibitors Association, said the initial mad rush at theatres was gradually decreasing. Regarding health issues, he said the theatre management takes steps to ensure the theatres and toilets are clean before every show.

However, to prevent spread of swine flu and other diseases, the audience should be more responsible and take preventive measures like wearing masks in public places, he said.

Anantham said Visakhapatnam city has nearly 35 single screen theatres and 18 multiplexes. Except two theatres, all theatres have AC. Dr KV Ram Kumar, managing director of Lakshmi Gayatri Hospital in the city, said, "People should not feel shy to wear mask in public places. They should at least place a handkerchief on their mouth and nose to avoid infection from viruses.

People also should always keep washing their hands before eating anything." In 2015, Visakhapatnam district registered 44 positive cases and 3 deaths due to swine flu. In 2014, two people died of swine flu in Visakhapatnam district and there were no reported cases in 2016.



 Telangana: 22 died of swine flu since August [Deccan Chronicle, 3 May 2017]

Adequate stock of testing kits and medicines were available at different hospitals in the state.

Hyderabad: Twenty-two people have lost their lives in Telangana state due to swine flu and related complications since August last year, the government said on Tuesday.

As many as 10,232 samples had been tested since August 1 and 1,446 of them tested positive for the H1N1 virus, the government said in a bulletin on swine flu.

It said 35 samples were tested on Tuesday and four of them were positive. No deaths were reported Monday.

Doctors are still puzzled by the presence of the virus in the intense heat of summer. It was assumed that the swine flu virus generally strikes when the weather is cool.

Adequate stock of testing kits and medicines were available at different hospitals in the state, the bulletin added.



 Swine Flu affects 101 people since January [Outlook India, 3 May 2017]

There have been no new cases of Swine Flu infection from the city for the last couple of days, Ghosh said adding that the civic body has been keeping a close watch in every ward of the city

kolkata, May 3 At least 101 people have been affected with the Swine Flu (H1N1 influenza virus) in West Bengal since January, a senior health official said today.

Two persons also died suspectedly of the disease, though it is yet to be confirmed, the official said.

The incidences were reported mostly from the city (36) and North 24 Parganas district (33), state Health Services Director Biswaranjan Satpathy told PTI.

He said that there were one or two stray cases reported from Howrah and Hooghly districts as well.

"There have been 101 cases of Swine Flu infection in West Bengal since January. Out of these, seven persons were from other states while the rest 94 were from West Bengal," Satpathy said.

On the number of deaths from Swine Flu, the health official said, "So far we have received reports of two suspected cases of Swine Flu deaths. We are waiting for the death report to be sure of the cause."

According to Satpathy, presently 10 persons, including four admitted today, with the H1N1 virus infection were undergoing treatment at different hospitals in the state.

Swine flu is a respiratory disease caused by influenza viruses that infect the respiratory tract of pigs and result in a barking cough, decreased appetite, nasal secretions, and listless behaviour; the virus can be transmitted to humans.

When contacted, Kolkata Municipal Corporation MMIC (Health) Atin Ghosh, said that there were only eight cases reported from the city in a month's time.

"Out of the eight cases reported from the city, seven have recuperated. Only one aged person from the city is undergoing treatment for Swine Flu," Ghosh confirmed.

There have been no new cases of Swine Flu infection from the city for the last couple of days, Ghosh said adding that the civic body has been keeping a close watch in every ward of the city.



 Swine Flu cases on the rise despite heat wave [The Hans India, 2 May 2017]

Ongole: The medical and health officials in Prakasam district observed a rise in the swine flu cases in the district for the past two weeks despite heat wave. District medical and health officer J Yasmin asked the public to take preventive measures if they observe any symptoms of the disease and join Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences in Ongole for better and early treatment.

Swine flu is a respiratory disease caused by influenza viruses. Its symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, chills, weakness, body and stomach aches. The disease spreads with skin to skin contact, airborne respiratory droplets, saliva or even touching a contaminated surface. The affected patient should be isolated immediately and the nearby people should be given vaccines to stop spreading the disease.

Though the symptoms of swine flu are common in other diseases, the people suffering from them are asked to consult a doctor immediately. If necessary, the doctor can send a sample for the confirmation and gives treatment accordingly.

Since January, the Prakasam district officials collected 42 swabs suspecting swine flu and sent to Sri Venkateswara Institute of Medical Sciences (SVIMS) in Tirupati. The SVIMS informed the officials that 20 of the samples were tested positive with swine flu. In the affected, seven people died and the remaining patients were crured.

Dr J Yasmin, the DMHO for Prakasam district said, “It is not that every patient whose sample is collected is a swine flu positive and every swine flu positive patient died is due to swine flu only. In the seven people died with swine flu in the district, four people are already suffering from cardiac disease and one person was suffering from bronchial asthma.

Though most of the positive patients are working in other districts like Krishna and Guntur districts and came to their native Prakasam district for treatment, we are taking preventive measures immediately in the area surrounding their home and vaccinating immediate family and others who they are closely associated with. As the patients are joining private hospitals first for treatment, we are offering vaccination to the staff of those hospitals, if a positive case is registered.

We have observed the positives cases are registering from coastal area of the district from places like Chirala, Ongole, Chimakurti and Podili mainly and taking up awareness as well as preventive measures in them.”Swine flu virus cannot live in hot atmospheric conditions. But the medical and health officials observed an increase in the number of suspect cases for the past two weeks in those days when high temperatures were registered.



 18-month-old becomes Mumbai's first swine flu casualty in two years [Times of India, 2 May 2017]

by Malathy Iyer

MUMBAI: An 18-month-old boy became the first casualty of the H1N1 virus, previously known as swine flu, in the city in the last two years.

The virus hasn't been active in the city though it has claimed 165 lives in rest of the state since January 1, 2017. "While the state has registered 844 positive cases in this period, Mumbai hasn't seen many cases,'' confirmed Dr Pradeep Awate of the state health department's epidemiological cell. BMC confirmed that only 21 cases have been reported in the city since January 1.

BMC officials said that the 18-month-old passed away due to complications of an H1N1 infection at the Kasturba Hospital, near Saat Raasta, on Saturday. He had diarrhea, vomiting and fever. "These generic symptoms prevented an early diagnosis of the flu," said a senior BMC official. The child was admitted to two hospitals before he was transferred to the BMC-run Kasturba Hospital in a severe condition. "He was a ventilator by the time he was brought to Kasturba Hospital,'' said a doctor.



 Swine flu claims 22 lives in Telangana since August last year [The Indian Express, 2 May 2017]

swine-flu-759.jpg
As many as 10,232 samples have been tested since August 1 and 1,446 of them tested positive for H1N1 virus, government said in a bulletin on swine flu. (Representational Image)

Twenty-two people have lost their lives in Telangana due to swine flu and related complications since August last year, the government said on Tuesday.

The death toll is till May 1.

As many as 10,232 samples have been tested since August 1 and 1,446 of them tested positive for the H1N1 virus, the government said in a bulletin on swine flu.

It said 35 samples were tested on Monday and four of them were positive. No deaths were reported on Monday.

Adequate stock of testing kits and medicines were available at different hospitals in the state, the bulletin added.

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App now



 Melbourne woman catches swine flu in China [Herald Sun, 2 May 2017]

by Luke Costin

cd9e05d3db9dbe6123047e5eec11bbc9.jpg
Kerri and Sam Cosma. Picture: Sherran Evans Out & About

A MELBOURNE grandmother who contracted swine flu while visiting family in China is fighting for life in hospital.
Kerri Cosma contracted the H1N1 influenza virus some time after arriving in China on April 13 and her condition rapidly declined, her husband says on an online fundraiser.

The personal trainer was placed in an induced coma in a Nanjing hospital early on April 23, Sam Cosma says.

“Kerri is currently doing really well and is receiving the best care possible. We do not know when she will be stable enough to fly home to Melbourne.”

Daughter Emma Madigan said she was told her mother was dying as she was hooked up to a life support machine last Saturday.

3e10aea93ba49244eef702d1db1fac9e.jpg
Kerri Cosma. Picture: Facebook

She said when tests came back positive for H1N1, her mother was put in full isolation and both doctors and family had to wear full body suits to go into the room.

“It was really distressing to watch,” she told 3AW on Monday.

“She’s in a much better position than she was in last Saturday.”

While the family says travel insurance will cover Ms Cosma’s medical costs, they are raising funds to cover loss of wages and the expense of rehabilitation and getting her family to her bedside.
— AAP



 Kerala: Swine flu claims 23 lives in 2017, 300-400 cases recorded [Daily News & Analysis, 1 May 2017]

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Representational Image (File Photo)

H1N1 virus has seen a rise in the entire south Indian region said a State Nodal Officer for H1N1.

H1N1 influenza has claimed 23 lives in Kerala so far in 2017 with the state recording higher incidence of the flu compared to the previous year, a health department officials said.

A total of 300-400 swine flu cases had been confirmed so far across the state and out of them as many as 23 people had died, they said.

State Nodal Officer for H1N1 Amar Fettle said the increase in the incidence of the disease this year was registered not only in Kerala but also in entire south India. Stating that there was no need for any panic, he said necessary steps had been taken to check the spread of the flu.

All government hospitals, including primary health centres, have been equipped with enough quantity of medicines and guidelines issued with regard to the treatment.

"This year, 27 per cent of samples of throat swabs tested from affected people were found to be positive for H1N1," Fettle told PTI. The official said the influenza was first spotted in the state in 2009. Since then, the disease had become a seasonal one in the region.

"People suffering from diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular issues, cancer and HIV among others
and pregnant women are considered to be the high risk or vulnerable group," he said.

Detailing the state health department's preparedness in this regard, he said the latest information, updates and guidelines about H1N1 was available in the official website of the Directorate of Health Services. Anybody, including private hospitals, can avail the service of state-run 'Disha', 24X7 tele-helpline, to get necessary information and treatment protocol related to the disease, he said. A programme to sensitise and create awareness about various aspects of the disease is already on in government hospitals, he said.

The official also wanted people, affected with common cold and suspected fever, to stay at home and take plenty of hot and nourishing fluids.



 Influenza update - 288 [World Health Organization, 1 May 2017]


01 May 2017, - Update number 288, based on data up to 16 April, 2017

2017_05_01_influenza_update_288.jpg


Summary

Influenza activity in the temperate zone of the northern hemisphere continued to decrease. Influenza activity remained low in the temperate zone of the southern hemisphere. Worldwide, influenza A(H3N2) and B viruses were predominant, with an increased proportion of influenza B viruses detected in recent weeks.

・In North America, overall influenza activity continued to decrease. In Canada, influenza A(H3N2) viruses continued to be the most common subtype of influenza detected, followed by influenza B virus; in Mexico, all seasonal influenza types/subtypes were detected; in the United States of America influenza B virus was predominant.

・In Europe, influenza activity continued to decrease to low levels, with detections of predominantly influenza B viruses in Northern and Eastern Europe. Influenza-like illness (ILI) and severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) indicators were generally low or below baseline in most countries.

・In Northern Africa, influenza activity remained low. Sporadic detections of influenza A(H3N2) viruses were reported in Tunisia.

・In Western Asia, influenza activity continued to decrease with influenza B viruses predominant in the region. SARI levels continued to decrease in Georgia, while remained stable in Armenia. In Oman, low influenza activity was reported with influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 virus predominant.

・In Central Asia, ILI and SARI activities continued to decrease; influenza virus detections were also low.

・In East Asia, influenza activity continued to be reported with all seasonal influenza types/subtypes detected in the region. In both Northern and Southern China, influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 virus detections increased in recent weeks. Influenza B virus detections continued to be reported in Southern China and the Republic of Korea; influenza B Victoria lineage was predominant in Southern China.

・In the Caribbean and Central America countries, respiratory virus activity remained low.

・In tropical South America, influenza activity increased slightly with influenza A(H3N2) viruses predominating. Other respiratory virus activities remained low in general, except in Colombia where elevated activity of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) continued to be reported.

・In Western Africa, low levels of influenza activity continued to be reported in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal and Sierra Leone, with all seasonal influenza types/subtypes co-circulating in the region. In Eastern Africa, increased detections of influenza A(H3N2)and B viruses were reported in Madagascar and Tanzania in the recent weeks.

・In Southern Asia, influenza activity continued to be reported although it appeared to be decreasing. In India and the Maldives, influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 continued to be reported. In Pakistan, sporadic cases of influenza A(H3N2) viruses were reported in the recent weeks. In Bhutan, ILI levels and influenza activity appeared to decrease, with influenza A(H3N2) and B viruses circulating.

・In South East Asia, influenza activity remained low, with all seasonal influenza types/subtypes detected in the region.

・In the temperate zone of the Southern Hemisphere, influenza activity was at inter-seasonal levels. In Chile, ILI activity increased but has not reached the seasonal threshold in recent weeks, consistent with past seasonal trends.

・National Influenza Centres (NICs) and other national influenza laboratories from 95 countries, areas or territories reported data to FluNet for the time period from 03 April 2017 to 16 April 2017 (data as of 2017-04-27 11:16:47 UTC).The WHO GISRS laboratories tested more than 109373 specimens during that time period. 14597 were positive for influenza viruses, of which 6108 (41.8%) were typed as influenza A and 8489 (58.2%) as influenza B. Of the sub-typed influenza A viruses, 1358 (42.5%) were influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 and 1834 (57.5%) were influenza A(H3N2). Of the characterized B viruses, 747 (49.3%) belonged to the B-Yamagata lineage and 767 (50.7%) to the B-Victoria lineage.



 Here's how to fence yourself against swine flu [Economic Times, 10 Apr 2017]

By Dr Manohar KN

The number of swine flu (H1N1) cases in the first three months of this year has already crossed the total number of cases reported in all of 2016. This reporting of cases only represents the tip of the iceberg because of two reasons -clinically it is impossible to differentiate H1N1 from normal flu and the lab facility to conduct the test is not freely available (may not be needed too).

SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST

No other organism can claim to have taken these words more seriously than the flu virus. By the unique mechanism of Antigenic Shift and Drift -change in the structure of viral protein to hoodwink the host defence -the flu virus reinvents itself into a more lethal form than the existing strain. This resultant loss of defence memory of the host results in rapid and devastating spread of flu from time to time, lead ing to a pandemic. The influenza virus is of three types A,B & C. Only the influenza A virus can affect species other than human beings, including birds and animals. H1N1 virus is a Type A influenza virus with a reassortment of human, avian and swine proteins, hence it is called the Swine Flu Virus.

SPREAD

People who have flu can spread it one day before they have any symptoms and as many as seven days after they get sick. Kids can be contagious for as long as 10 days.

I) DIRECT SPREAD `Droplet' Spread

Droplets containing the virus produced when coughing, sneezing and talking get deposited in the mouth, nose and eyes.

II) INDIRECT SPREAD

Touching the mouth, nose and eyes after touching contaminated surface.

The virus can survive on hard surfaces for a few hours (that is, on desks, chairs, door handles, etc).

SYMPTOMS

The symptoms are similar to those of seasonal flu. They are fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, joint pains, fatigue, diarrhoea and vomiting. Patients may experience some or all of these symptoms and may be contagious before symptoms are seen.

HIGH-RISK GROUPS

Children below five years of age and adults over 60 are at a greater risk of contracting the infection. Being in crowded places, at tending to someone with flu, caring for the sick and being exposed to school or hospital environments add to the risk Those pregnant, obese, diabetic, having cardiovascular disease, asthma and COPD should be extra cautious.

TREATMENT

Reassuring the public that H1N1 is not fatal in all cases and that most cases respond to simple measures is important. Early recognition of complications of respiratory distress is also crucial.

Most patients do not require any specific measures and are treated as normal flu cases. Based on the associated risk factors and presence of warning symptoms, other patients are categorised into A, B and C.

Besides supportive treatment, categories B and C should be treated with antiflu medication; it is important to recognise and treat the complications as well.

Some of the same antiviral drugs that are used to treat seasonal flu also work against H1N1 swine flu. Oseltamivir (Tamiflu), peramivir (Rapivab), and zanamivir (Relenza) are the drugs that are effective. It is important to note that these drugs work best when used within 48 hours of onset of symptoms.

We should discourage the routine use of antiflu drugs. The overprescription of these medicines is most often unnecessary and starting beyond 72 hours may not be helpful.

Antibiotics are useful only in case of secondary bacterial infection.

PREVENTION

While swine flu isn't as scary as it seemed a few years ago, it's still important to protect yourself against it. Here are some things you can do to stay healthy:

A) VACCINE

Flu vaccine can be taken as a shot or as a nasal spray. The injections have more predictable response compared to sprays.

B) OTHER METHODS

i) Wash your hands periodically with soap and water. You can use an alcohol based hand sanitiser too.

ii) Cover your nose and mouth while coughing and sneezing.

iii) Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth.

iv) Avoid people who are sick.

v) Mask, as a prevention of spread, is more useful when the patient wears it rather than close contacts wearing it.

vi) Close contacts (of H1N1 cases) can take oseltamivir once a day for 10 days, after consulting a doctor.

Resting at home when sick is the most important thing to do to minimise the spread in the community and for a speedy recovery .

--The writer is a consultant physician at Manipal Hospitals, Bengaluru.



 Three-yr-old succumbs to swine flu, 23 on ventilator [Times of India, 10 Apr 2017]

PUNE: A three-year-old succumbed to swine flu at a private hospital here on Sunday, taking the number of H1N1 casualties to 30 since the beginning of the year.

Currently, the condition of another 23 patients is critical. They are on ventilator at various hospitals across the city.

The girl, a resident of Ghodegaon in Ahmednagar district, developed influenza-like symptoms on March 26. She was running a temperature and was throwing up on March 26. By March 29, she also developed cold and cough, followed by drowsiness and breathlessness a day later.

She was initially treated by a general physician in the neighbourhood.

Eventually, she was admitted to a hospital in Ahmednagar on April 3. Her condition worsened and so she was moved to KEM Hospital in Pune on April 5 and was put on ventilator support two days later. However, she suffered a cardiac arrest due to swine flu-induced pneumonia with acute respiratory distress syndrome and died around 10.45pm on April 7. The toddler had tested positive for swine flu.

The girl's case does not stand in isolation. The civic health department's recent analysis of swine flu mortality this year clearly reveals that children below the age of 10 years and adults in the productive age bracket of 31-50 years are most vulnerable to swine flu.

Senior paediatrician Jayant Navarange explained, "Children, mainly below five years of age, are not exposed to H1N1 or any other influenza virus so their natural immunity is yet to develop.

Also, children in the 5-10-year age group have are in close contact with classmates, increasing their chances of being infected"



 H1N1 DEATH TOLL RISES TO 13 IN STATE. IS IT A MINI EPIDEMIC? [Bangalore Mirror, 9 Apr 2017]

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Probable minor mutation in the virus has led to a scare of swine flu (H1N1) epidemic in the state. The H1N1 death toll in the state has risen to 13 after two deaths were reported on March 3 from different districts. The last recorded death toll was 10, but within a week three deaths have been reported from different parts of the state.

Since January this year, a total of 1,793 people have tested positive for H1N1.

While the area within Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) limits has witnessed two deaths till date, with the number of positive cases reaching 758, Bengaluru Urban district has 192 positive cases and Bengaluru Rural six, although no deaths have been reported here.

The total number of positive swine flu cases (1,793) in the state has risen exponentially from last year’s 110 positive cases -- a whopping 170 per cent increase in the number of positive cases as per Karnataka Health and Family Welfare data released on March 7.

A health department official said that at the local level, special clinics are being operated to contain the outbreak. Swab samples are being collected from all the patients who are reporting fever of two days and more. These samples are sent to designated labs to confirm if they are suffering from swine flu or not.

WORRISOME

However, a senior health department official told Bangalore Mirror that the trend is a worrisome one as most swine-flu cases in Karnataka are reported during the winter season and the virus is not effective in high temperatures. But despite mercury rising in the state, the outbreak is not containing itself.

Earlier the experts from National Institute of Virology attributed the sudden spurt to a minor antigenic drift in the H1N1 virus that causes an epidemic. An antigenic drift is the process by which two or more different strains of a virus, or strains of two or more different viruses, combine to form a new subtype of the virus having a mixture of the surface antigens of the two or more original strains. Experts believe this has led to local outbreaks, especially in the South Indian states. However, they have ruled out major mutation of the virus.

This year, the patients contracting the deadly influenza (swine flu, or H1N1) are either minors or elders.



 Swine flu spreads in East Godavari [The Hans India, 9 Apr 2017]

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Kakinada: In the tough summer phase, the heat sensitive H1N1 virus has been spreading in East Godavari resulting in two deaths and thee positive cases in the district in the last five days.According to district medical authorities V. Girija Rani of Rajamahendravaram and Ch. Veeraraju of Kuyyeru in Tallarevu Mandal died on April 4 due to swine flu.

In the last three days 14 suspected cases have been identified at various places in the district. Of these 3 tested positive for swine flu [Swab test], six tested negative and result of tests for the remaining five suspected cases are expected from PCR lab at Visakhapatnam in a day or two.

Apart from Kakinada and Rajamahendravaram government hospitals, PHC at Oobalanka in Ravulapalem, mandal in the district has the facilities to treat the H1N1 cases. In this connection Dr K. Chandrayya East Godavari Dist Medical and Health Officer [DMHO] advised people to avoid attending festivities and crowded places besides travelling in AC buses and AC trains to the maximum extent to avoid spread of virus.

He also advised people to opt for frequent hand wash and avoid hand shake to prevent the spread of the virus. The DMHO also revealed that the district medical authorities are fully geared up to treat H1 N1, with 200 doses of medicine and treatment facility at Kakinada, Rajamahendravaram with ten bed isolated ward facility and at Oobalanka PHC in the district.

Dr. U. Sudheer, in charge superintendent of KGGH observed that tough the J1N1 virus is heat sensitive the same has been spreading in the present heat wave conditions. Dr Sudheer revealed that the virus as per observations is found active till eight hours in atmospheric conditions. He advised the people to take medical opinion in case of cold, headache and fever symptoms for H1N1.



 Two test positive for swine flu [The Hindu, 9 Apr 2017]

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Troubled times:A woman, suspected to be suffering from swine flu, at the GH in Kakinada on Saturday. By Arrangement SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

GH doctors on alert; reports of three patients awaited

Doctors at the Government General Hospital (GH) here are on a high alert with two patients testing positive for swine flu.

In the last week, five patients, including a seven-year-old boy, have been admitted with symptoms of the disease. Their nasal swabs have been sent to the regional laboratory in Visakhapatnam.

According to the laboratory reports, two women, one aged 28 and another 33, have tested positive for the virus. Reports of the remaining three patients are awaited.

Of the five, three are from Ramachandrapuram and one each from Kakinada and Appanapalli village in the Konaseema region.


“Three of them are undergoing treatment in the ENT special ward. The two who have tested positive are being shifted to the TB ward for better treatment,” says M. Raghavendra Rao, GGH superintendent. “We have adequate stock of medicines and oxygen cylinders. One of the two patients who tested positive has been put on ventilator,” he adds. Meanwhile, managements of private hospitals are cautious in admitting persons with symptoms of swine flu. If initial screening indicates the presence of the virus, the patients are referred to the GH.

Awareness drive

The district administration has swung into action to create awareness among the people about the spread of the disease. It is advising people to wear nose masks and consult a doctor if they have constant cold coupled with headache.



 Six-month-old dies of swine flu [The Hindu, 9 Apr 2017]

Virus causing infection among children even in summer

Amidst concerns of swine flu virus mutations, a six-month child succumbed to the virus at the State-run Gandhi Hospital on Saturday.

Hospital authorities said the child had been admitted for a congenital heart problem at the hospital about four days ago and had also shown lung problems including pneumonia.

Subsequent swine flu testing had confirmed an infection. The boy was later shifted to the swine flu ward at the hospital where he died on Saturday morning.

“We are seeing that the virus is causing infection in children even in summer. This was not the case before. Samples are being sent to the National Institute of Virology to determine if the virus has mutated,” hospital superintendent Shravan Kumar said.The hospital has 13 cases of infection, all in children, in its swine flu ward. Five of these cases had been referred by other hospitals on Friday night.

Children infected

Four of the five referrals were from Niloufer Hospital. A paediatrician at Niloufer Hospital too expressed concern.

“We cannot treat positive cases at Niloufer as it lacks a well-equipped swine flu ward. Once we receive positive confirmation of swine flu, we shift the child to Gandhi Hospital,” the doctor said.



 Swine flu patient dies [The Hans India, 3 Apr 2017]

Visakhapatnam: Zulfikar Ali Khan (35), who was undergoing treatment for swine flu in a private hospital on the Beach Road in Vizag, died on Sunday.

This is the second death in the state this year.According to Shaik Nagur, a relative of Khan, the patient developed swine flu symptoms 10 days ago. His kidneys also failed and he was undergoing dialysis in the private hospital.



 Man succumbs to swine flu [The Hindu, 3 Apr 2017]

by B. Madhu Gopal

Govt. hospitals did not admithim, allege his relatives

A man died of swine flu at a private hospital in the city on Sunday. The man, Zulfikar Ali Khan (35) of Gowri Nagar, Kancharapalem, was undergoing treatment for the past 11 days.

The victim’s relatives alleged negligence on the part of government hospitals stating that they did not admit him on the plea of lack of ventilators.

The medical authorities, however, said they had gone by the word of someone at the Government Hospital for Chest and Communicable Diseases (GHCCD) after making enquiries, without even bringing the patient.

“Zulfikar was diagnosed with fever 16 days ago. We took him to a private hospital and when normal drugs failed to bring down the temperature even after two days, the doctor suspected typhoid and suggested tests.

Meanwhile, on the suggestion of a relative, we took him to a private hospital on March 22. The doctors there told us that the case was critical and the patient needs ventilator support,” recalled Md. Kaisar Ali Khan, a close relative of the victim. “We took him to the GHCCD in the ambulance.

We went into the GHCCD as the ambulance waited outside and showed the reports to a lady doctor, who was examining patients there. She told us that the patient needs ventilator support, which was not readily available.

Though the doctor agreed to admit the patient, she told us that we would have to bear the risk,” Mr. Kaisar said.

“We shifted Zulfikar to another hospital, where he was put on ventilator support. A senior doctor suspected swine flu and Zulfikar’s blood sample was sent to Mumbai on March 23 and we got online confirmation of swine flu on March 25,” he said.

“Zulfikar used to run a small school in the city and a private coaching centre for competitive examinations. The government doctors should at least guide patients in the right direction, if they run short of facilities, which they failed to do,” alleged another relative Sk. Nagur.

District Medical and Health Officer J. Sarojini said that Zulfikar had renal problems and was a dialysis patient. Swine flu was detected incidentally and he tested positive. The patient was not taken to the GHCCD and his relatives merely made enquiries and left.



 51-year-old woman dies of swine flu [Times of India, 3 Apr 2017]

RAJKOT: A 51-year-old woman from Upleta taluka succumbed to the swine flu virus in Rajkot Civil Hospital on Sunday, taking the death toll due to this deadly H1N1 virus in the region to six this year.

The victim Hansaben, a resident of Kharachiya village near Upleta was admitted to the hospital on March 29 with symptoms of swine flu. On March 30, she tested positive for the disease.

Earlier, 35-year-old Kanchan Dabhi, a resident of Kotadiyavadi area in Jetpur town of Rajkot district, had died of swine flu in the civil hospital on March 11.

Before that, the virus had claimed Chetna Trivedi (5), resident of Shiv Kunj at Rain Nagar of Rajkot city, Chaturben Hinshu (65), resident of Krushnanagar in Rajkot and Kanta Bodar (52), resident of Kothariya Road in the city.



 Rising death toll from dengue and H1N1 [The Sunday Times Sri Lanka, 2 Apr 2017]

The prevailing unusual weather conditions are contributing towards rising deaths due to dengue and H1N1 influenza, health officials warned yesterday. With the death toll due to dengue rising to 53 in three months and the number of cases increasing to 27,898 the Dengue Control Unit has issued health warnings to 11 districts.

They are Colombo, Gampaha, Kalutara, Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Jaffna, Ratnapura and Kegalle. Last month, 9,004 dengue cases were reported to hospitals in contrast to 2,696 cases in March last year. Alongside dengue, H1N1 influenza has also seen an increase island wide.

The influenza virus that was said to have subsided has, however, spread to parts of the Central Province. Central Province Health Services Director Dr. Shanthi Samarasinghe told the Sunday Times that in the Province 115 patients were confirmed positive for the H1N1 virus while 17 deaths had bee reported in the Kandy and Matale districts districts in the first three months of the year.

Dr. Samarasinghe said the most vulnerable were the people suffering from chronic illnesses.

“The virus is a communicable disease. Therefore, it could spread fast. The people have to take precautions,” she said. She added that awareness programmes were being carried out by health officials and they were able to control the outbreak to some extent.

The Health Ministry’s Consultant Epidemiologist Dr. Samitha Ginige said that while the unusual weather pattern contributed to dengue, another factor was the improper waste disposal. He said the transmission of virus can take several patterns in different regions and at the moment the South East Asian Region is experiencing an extended outbreak.

Last year, 90 dengue related deaths were reported in the country with 55,150 cases.



 At 63, deaths from swine flu this year is the highest in Maharashtra [Free Press Journal, 1 Apr 2017]

By Aftab Khan and Agencies

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Nashik/New Delhi: Swine flu has claimed 160 lives in various parts of the country in the first three months of this year. And the highest number of deaths 63 have been reported from Maharashtra.

Union Minister of State for Health Anupriya Patel in a written reply in Lok Sabha on Friday said between January 1 to March 26, 160 people died from swine flu, while 6,062 cases were registered.

In Maharashtra, the dreaded disease continues to take lives in Nashik with 15 deaths reported from the city and the district in the last 3 months. District and state medical authorities have swung into action as swine flu thrives in the heat.

“The Nashik Civil Hospital and rural hospitals in the district have screened over 11,765 patients,” Dr S Jagdale, civil surgeon at the hospital.

Jagdale said that they had urged even private practitioners in the district to screen patients carefully. “The symptoms of swine flu and common flu are similar but still we have urged doctors to gauge the cases and begin treatment immediately,” he told Free Press Journal.

Medical authorities are stressing on the fact that doctors recognise the symptoms and begin early treatment. The government has said it will take action against any negligence on part of the doctors. “If the treatment is delayed, the patient becomes unresponsive to medicines. In fact, we will be sending notices to two doctors, who delayed the treatment of a patient by five days,” Dr Jagdale said.

The surgeon said that medicines used for treating swine flu patients like Tamiflu have been made available in most pharmacies.

Nashik Municipal Corporation health officer Dr Vijay Dekate told Free Press, “We are also working on educating the people about the disease. Delay in treatment can be fatal.” He said that eight persons have been admitted at the civil hospital and 198 patients treated in the last 3 months.



 Swine flu death toll 16 till March [Times of India, 1 Apr 2017]

NASHIK: Swine flu has claimed 16 lives from across the district from January to March this year. The steady rise in the number cases has been a cause of great concern for citizens and the civic administration of late.

Altogether 60 patients of swine flu have been reported from January till date, with 50 reported in March alone. Of the 60 patients, 25 were from the Nashik Municipal Corporation (NMC) limits and 35 were reported from outside the city. Four of the 16 deaths are from the city and 12 are from other areas in the district.

"We are maintaining a good stock of medicines. Our staff is continuing with awareness campaigns at our urban public health centres, hospitals and among the public. We will pep up our campaign soon," an NMC official said.

Zoonotic Bird Flu News - from 25 Apr till 4 May 2017



 Avian Influenza Prevention Zone extended [Newry Times, 4 May 2017]

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The Avian Influenza Protection Zone covering Northern Ireland is being extended until 31st May 2017, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has confirmed.

The current Prevention Zone, which expired at 11.59pm on 30th April, provides keepers in all areas of Northern Ireland with the option to let their birds outside subject to them complying with additional biosecurity mitigation measures.

Ahead of the implementation of the new Prevention Zone on Monday 1st May, Northern Ireland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Robert J Huey is reminding all bird keepers to remain vigilant.

He said, “The risk of infection from wild birds is decreasing and is expected to continue to decrease in the coming weeks.

“The decision to extend the prevention zone until the end of May has been made following a recent veterinary risk assessment which concluded that there is still a risk of avian influenza to poultry through direct or indirect contact with wild birds, although the risk has decreased.

“I would continue therefore to strongly encourage all bird keepers to maintain compliance with the additional biosecurity mitigation measures previously introduced on 17 March 2017.

“The main critical control points remain prevention of fomite spread into poultry premises and stopping direct and indirect contact between wild birds and domestic poultry.”

The Chief Veterinary Officer also spoke of the importance of keepers remaining vigilant for signs for the disease and to continue to practice the very highest levels of biosecurity.

He added, “It is essential that bird keepers comply with the biosecurity requirements set out in the declaration of the Prevention Zone if they are to minimise the risk of infection.

“Key to this will be ensuring that their birds are separated from wild birds when outside. Avian Influenza is a notifiable disease and any suspicion should be reported immediately to your local Divisional Veterinary Office.”

It is important that all bird keepers register their flocks. This ensures that they receive the latest information from the Department and also allows them to be contacted in an avian disease outbreak situation thereby enabling them to protect their flock at the earliest opportunity.

The declaration of the new Avian Influenza Prevention Zone as well as further guidance, and answers to frequently asked questions are available now on the Department’s website: ☞ Avian Influenza (AI) 

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



 Bird flu detected at UK farm [Sunday World, 4 May 2017]

Restrictions have been put in place around a Lancashire farm after bird flu was detected.

The H5N8 strain of avian flu was confirmed in a small backyard flock of chickens at the farm near Thornton-Cleveleys, Lancashire.

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.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: "The flock is estimated to contain around 30 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."



 BREAKING: Bird flu found at Lancashire farm [Express.co.uk, 4 May 2017]

By JON ROGERS

RETRICTIONS have been imposed around a farm in Lancashire after bird flu was detected.

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There has been an outbreak of bird flu on a farm in Lancashire

The H5N8 strain of avian flu was confirmed in a small backyard flock of chickens at the farm near Thornton-Cleveleys, Lancashire.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: "The flock is estimated to contain around 30 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."

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 Government has only recently decided to relax the Avian Flu Prevention Zones and a ban on poultry gatherings, which are set to be lifted across England from 15 May.

The Government still advises keepers to follow industry standard best practice on biosecurity, including minimising movement in and out of bird enclosures, cleaning footwear, keeping areas where birds live clean and tidy and feeding birds indoors.

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Several birds are said to have died due to avian flu (stock image)

Before today, the most recent case of H5N8 in poultry in England was confirmed on 24 February 2017 and the last finding in wild birds was on 10 March 2017.

Mexico has also reported an outbreak of the highly contagious H7N3 bird flu virus on a commercial farm in the state of Jalisco, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) confirmed today.

The virus, which does not pose a serious danger to people, was detected among laying hens in a flock of 15,000 birds that had been vaccinated and did not show any clinical signs of the disease, the Paris-based OIE said in a notification.

The farm, located in the town of Tepatitlan de Morelos, is under quarantine and the birds have been sent to a slaughterhouse near the site, it said.

In March, a highly pathogenic strain of bird flu was found in a chicken breeder flock on a Tennessee farm contracted to Tyson Foods Inc, the first discovered in the United States this year.



 Mexico reports H7N3 bird flu outbreak on commercial farm: OIE [Reuters, 4 May 2017]

Mexico has reported an outbreak of the highly contagious H7N3 bird flu virus on a commercial farm in the state of Jalisco, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said on Thursday, citing a report from Mexico's agriculture ministry.

The virus, which does not pose a serious danger to people, was detected among laying hens in a flock of 15,000 birds that had been vaccinated and did not show any clinical signs of the disease, the Paris-based OIE said in a notification.

The farm, located in the town of Tepatitlan de Morelos, is under quarantine and the birds have been sent to a slaughterhouse near the site, it said.

Mexico's agriculture ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Mexico is a major chicken exporter.

In March, a highly pathogenic strain of bird flu was found in a chicken breeder flock on a Tennessee farm contracted to Tyson Foods Inc, the first discovered in the United States this year.

(Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Mark Potter and Paul Simao)



 Bird flu: Kano poultry farmers beg Ganduje over compensation [Daily Trust, 4 May 2017]

By Yusha’u A. Ibrahim, Kano

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Alhaji Aminu Adamu

Poultry farmers affected by the Avian Influenza, also known as bird flu, in Kano have appealed to the state government to ensure payment of compensation for their birds killed during an outbreak of the disease in the state.

It would be recalled that over 3.5 million birds valued at N2.4bn were slaughtered in the state between December 2015 and January 2016 on the directives of the state government following an outbreak of the flu.

However, government was only able to pay the affected farmers N750m, while the balance of N1.7bn has not been paid two years after the unfortunate incident.

The Chairman of Nana Farms, Alhaji Aminu Adamu, who made the plea in an interview with Daily
Trust in Kano, said poultry farmers affected by the disease had not been paid compensation of their birds.

“Their birds were depopulated in an effort to cut out the spread of the disease. For the past two years, nobody has paid them compensation. I am afraid that if government does not pay them compensation, anytime a similar outbreak happens, farmers will resist any attempt by the government to kill their birds. Instead, they will sell the birds in the market and that will mean spreading the disease further,” he warned.

Adamu, therefore, urged government to quickly settle the affected farmers to avert the unnecessary loss in the poultry business sub-sector in the state.

Alhaji Adamu also advised the northern states to enact a law that would make it compulsory to give each student of boarding schools an egg a day, saying this would argument the poultry business and boost the nation’s economy.

“Zamfara State has set an example in that respect during the regime of the former governor, Alhaji Ahmed Sani Yarima, who enacted a law in the state that makes it compulsory to give one egg to each student of boarding schools in the state,” he said.



 Taiwan issues yellow travel alert for China’s Shaanxi over H7N9 bird flu [Taiwan News, 4 May 2017]

By Wendy Lee

H7N9 is a new strain of avian influenza that is highly pathogenic in poultry...

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TAIPEI (Taiwan News) - Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) under the Executive Yuan issued a yellow travel alert on Wednesday for China’s Shaanxi Province after the first confirmed case of H7N9 bird flu was reported.

Shaanxi Province Health Committee said yesterday a 62-year-old male was hospitalized with fever and severe respiratory symptoms in Xianyang City on April 23rd, who was later diagnosed with the H7N9 virus. The patient died on May 1st.

Following the incident, Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has raised the travel advisory for the region from “watch” to “alert,” the second-highest warning level on its three-tier warning system.

In addition to Shaanxi province, second-level travel advisories were also issued for China’s Zhejiang, Guangdong, Anhui, Hunan, Shanghai, Jiangxi, Jiangsu, Sichuan, Fujian, Shandong, Hubei, Hebei, Beijing, Tianjin, Liaoning, Henan, Yunnan, Guangxi, Guizhou, Chongqing, Gansu, Tibet, and Jilin.

Human cases of H7N9 avian flu have been increasing in China, with a total of 11 cases reported in 2017 so far. That brings the total of laboratory-confirmed H7N9 human infections to 1,421 since 2013, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

H7N9 is a new strain of avian influenza that is highly pathogenic in poultry and could be deadly for humans.

The MAC has advised people traveling to China to avoid direct contact with poultry and poultry farms, and consume only thoroughly cooked eggs in an effort to avoid infection. Travelers should also exercise good personal and food hygiene, the council added.



 Ducks can be carriers of avian influenza viruses [The cordova Times, 3 May 2017]

USGS names Izembek National Wildlife Refuge as one geographic area to focus on

A recent study by U.S. Geological Survey found that ducks in North American can be carriers of avian influenza viruses similar to those found in a 2016 outbreak in Indiana that led to the loss of hundred of thousands of chickens and turkeys.

“Viruses obtained by sampling wild birds in Alaska were included in this study,” said Andy Ramey, a research wildlife geneticist with the USGS Alaska Science Center in Anchorage. “We also included viruses obtained from throughout the United States and Canada.  The wild bird virus most closely related to the highly pathogenic influenza A virus causing a poultry outbreak in Indiana turkeys originated from a lesser scaup sampled in Kentucky.”

Ramey said there is certainly a risk that influenza A viruses in wild birds could be introduced to Alaskan poultry in the absence of good bio-security practices.

“Most influenza viruses in wild birds are unlikely to cause disease in domestic birds, but some viruses, specifically those of the H5 or H7 subtype, have the potential to develop high pathogenicity in poultry meaning they could cause disease,” Ramey said.

“The U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Department of Agriculture continues to sample wild birds for influenza A viruses in Alaska to understand how viruses may be disseminated by wild birds from East Asia to North America and to gain further information as to how viruses are maintained in migratory birds in this region.

“One geographic area that continues to be a focus of this effort is Izembek National Wildlife Refuge,” he said.

Introductions of avian influenza viruses from wild birds to domestic poultry present a continuous threat to the poultry industry.

In 2016, the USGS developed a science strategy that focuses on producing science to inform the national surveillance plan, which is coordinated through state and federal agencies across North America, and agency partners responsible for safeguarding U.S. poultry. Samples collected for this study were obtained as part of federal Interagency Wild Bird Surveillance and National Institutes of Health Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance programs. The U.S. Geological Survey conducts research and monitoring of avian diseases to safeguard the Nation’s health, economy, and resources by leading science to understand and minimize exposures to infectious disease agents in the environment.



 CDC is tracking emerging, deadly bird flu in China [FOX 5 Atlanta, 3 May 2017]

By: Beth Galvin

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Atlanta, GA - As the U.S. flu season winds down, scientists in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Atlanta flu lab are focused on finding the next pandemic flu threat.

And they're watching a deadly strain of bird flu in China.

She's talking talking about the H7N9 bird flu, which began spreading from poultry to people in 2013, with lethal consequences.

"And while this is the fifth year of seeing the disease, this year has been worse than any of the previous ones in China," Dr. Schuchat says.

So far, in the fifth outbreak alone, the World Health Organization says 623 people have been
sickened.

That brings the total of lab-confirmed H7N9 infections to 1,421 since 2013.

Most of those infected had been exposed to poultry, but there were some rare cases of limited person-to-person spread.

This virus moves quickly, progressing from high fever and cough to severe breathing complications like pneumonia.

The WHO says up to 40% of those infected die.

"When a new influenza strain it emerges, it is a risk from being spread easily from person to person," Dr. Schuchat says. "This one hasn't done that yet. But that's why we're keeping our eye on it. Because it has the capacity to evolve and change."

And that change is already happening.

The CDC had developed an H7N9 vaccine using earlier circulating strains of the virus. But Schuchat says they started seeing signs the flu has mutated, becoming more deadly in birds, and, they think, more resistant to the drugs we use to treat influenza.

"And when we got the strains and could actually look at them, what we see is that they have changed," Schuchat says. "So, they have developed away from the vaccine that was developed against this H7N9 strain into something that we need to attend to."

Now, with a surge in new infections, CDC scientists have gone back to the vaccine drawing board.

"Our scientists are taking that strain from the new bird flu viruses and making a candidate vaccine virus that can be used to hand off to companies, so that the flu vaccine manufacturers can make a new vaccine against that bird flu strain."

It could take months to develop a just-in-case vaccine.

But, Dr. Schuchat says, the good news is this virus has not learned yet to spread easily, which is a feature of pandemic flu.

So the risk of a worldwide outbreak, or pandemic flu, remains low.

"But we can never be complacent about the risk for new threats," Dr. Schuchat cautions. "We know that Ebola in West Africa seemed very far away to people, until it was on our doorstep here in Atlanta."



 New H7N9 virus kills man, 62, in NW China [Daily Trust, 3 May 2017]

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A 62-year-old man died from the H7N9 virus infection in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, local health authorities said on Wednesday.

The provincial health and family planning commission said the man surnamed Zhang, from Xianyang city, first showed symptoms of coughing and fever in late April.

The commission said he was treated at the First Hospital of Xianyang before transferring to the Second Affiliated Hospital of Xi’an Jiaotong University.

He tested positive for the virus and died on May 1.

Meanwhile, it was the first H7N9 bird flu case reported in the province.

The commission added that all live poultry markets in Xi’an and Xianyang have been closed, and medical workers are checking and disinfecting relevant trading areas.

According to the national health and family planning commission, nationwide, a total of 96 people were reportedly infected by the H7N9 virus in March, leaving 47 dead.




 Central China reports one H7N9 death [ecns, 2 May 2017]

A woman died of H7N9 bird flu infection in central China's Hubei Province, local authorities said Tuesday.

The woman, 68, tested positive for the H7N9 strain of virus on April 27 after days of high fever with no apparent cause, the emergency response office of Wuhan City Government said in a statement.

She died on April 30.

H7N9 is a bird flu strain first reported to have infected humans in China in March 2013.

Infections are most likely occur in winter and spring.



 Bird Flu behind bars [insidetime, 2 May 2017]

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It is bad enough that we have to reside in the filthy ghettos of the modern British prison system, but now our health is at risk as well.

Recently here at HMP Northumberland there has been an outbreak of Influenza A, which is the most infectious disease commonly known as ‘Bird Flu’. Last week I came back to the wing to find all staff wearing masks and ushering us into our cages and telling us nothing was wrong.

Next thing, there was a doctor at my door to take my temperature. There was no sign of anything wrong with me, but about 10 or 15 lads on my wing of 112 prisoners were not so lucky. They were locked behind their doors and quarantined for the next 3-days. The staff kept telling us that we were safe and there was nothing to worry about – but they were telling us this from behind their masks!

“I asked if I could also have a mask, but was told

I did not need one. I then asked, if that was the case, why were the staff wearing them? I was told it was ‘a precaution’”

I’m so happy to discover that the people responsible for my health and safety reassure me by putting on masks and refusing to give me one. It seems that prisoners’ well-being is not worth anything, just so long as the staff are safe.

No prisoner was kept informed as to what was going on, not even the lads in quarantine. This was handled in a very poor manner and a little bit of compassion from the staff would have gone a long way.



 Flu Scan for May 02, 2017 More avian flu outbreaks; Global flu decline [CIDRAP, 2 May 2017]


H5N1 strikes Vietnam again as European H5N8 detections continue

In the latest avian flu developments, Vietnam reported another highly pathogenic H5N1 outbreak and Denmark and Finland reported more H5N8 detections. Also, Taiwan reported several more outbreaks caused by low-pathogenic H5N2, according to the latest notifications from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

Vietnam, which has been battling a steady stream of H5N1 and H5N6 events, reported a new H5N1 outbreak in backyard poultry in Quang Ninh province in the north. It began on Apr 27, killing 2,000 of 5,000 susceptible birds.

In Europe, Denmark reported 11 H5N8 detections, all in wild birds found dead from Jan 2 to Apr 4 across a wide part of the country, many of them forested areas. The virus was confirmed in 14 birds, many of them birds of prey. And Finland reported that tests on a white-tailed eagle found dead on Apr 8 near the Aland Islands in the far southwest were positive for H5N8.

Elsewhere, Taiwan reported six more outbreaks linked to low-pathogenic H5N2, but they were all from 2015, but pathogenicity results were just confirmed on Apr 18. The island is still battling low-pathogenic H5N2 alongside highly pathogenic H5N2, H5N3, H5N6, and H5N8.

According to the OIE report, abnormal deaths were observed on five poultry farms, and symptoms were also seen in poultry carcasses at a slaughterhouse in Taipei City. The events led to the slaughter of 91,485 birds.

Influenza activity decreasing in US, Europe

Levels of flu continue to decrease in much of the Northern Hemisphere, but influenza A and B are still circulating, with more influenza B cases detected in recent weeks, according to a global flu update from the World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday.

All regions are reporting typical flu patterns for this time of year, the WHO said in the update.

The United States and Europe said that influenza B was predominating, while Canada still reported more influenza A. Asia reported all seasonal influenza strains to still be active and circulating. China was reporting increased 2009 H1N1 activity in both the northern and southern parts of the country.

Much of the Caribbean and South America reported low levels of influenza activity. Most of West Africa also reported low flu activity.



 Veterinarian in NYC contracts avian influenza from cat [Healio, 2 May 2017]

ATLANTA — A veterinarian in New York City was the first person in the United States to contract an avian influenza A virus from a cat, according to researchers.

The infection occurred late in 2016 during an outbreak of influenza A(H7N2) among cats at an animal shelter in Manhattan, according to Christopher T. Lee, MD, Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officer at the CDC, and colleagues.

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Image of a cat
A veterinarian in New York City contracted influenza from a cat while collecting oropharyngeal samples without using a respirator.
Source: Shutterstock.com

Lee and colleagues said the patient collected oropharyngeal samples from cats at the shelter without using a respirator. According to their report, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) was notified of the outbreak on Dec. 14. In an attempt to assess the human risk, Lee and colleagues interviewed hundreds of people who either adopted a cat from the affected shelter or who worked there between Nov. 12 and Dec. 29.

Initially, no cases were located, only suspected cases — people who developed either conjunctivitis or a number of other symptoms within 10 days of being exposed to cats at the shelter.

“This outbreak demonstrates the importance of close collaboration between human and animal health specialists for emerging diseases,” Lee told Infectious Disease News.

Lee and colleagues interviewed and tested 165 of the 265 people who worked at the shelter but did not find evidence of H7N2 infection. Likewise, among 188 people who adopted cats from the shelter during the investigation period, three were tested and all were negative for H7N2 RNA.

The patient who eventually tested positive for H7N2 began experiencing symptoms including sore throat, myalgia and cough on Dec. 18 and reported them to the DOHMH the following day, according to Lee and colleagues. Nasopharyngeal samples collected on Dec. 19 and Dec. 20 were positive and negative, respectively, for H7N2 RNA, and the patient recovered without being hospitalized, they said. Contact tracing revealed no further human cases, even among passengers who shared a flight with the patient, according to Lee and colleagues.

"We were able to rapidly respond to a potentially pandemic influenza strain by using the public health emergency capacity we developed during Ebola, Legionnaire's disease, and more recently, Zika virus,” Lee said. – by Gerard Gallagher

Reference:
Lee CT, et al. Identification of cat-to-human transmission during an outbreak of influenza A (H7N2) among cats in an animal shelter — New York City, 2016. Presented at: Epidemic Intelligence Service Conference; April 24-27, 2017; Atlanta.



 New bird flu strain raises pandemic fears in China [The Manila Times, 2 May 2017]


BY BEN KRITZ

A new strain of avian influenza, which has high pathogenicity in poultry and can be deadly for humans has surfaced in China, raising fears of a potential pandemic, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported.

The FAO said the new strain represented a worrisome mutation of the H7N9 virus, because until now, it has shown low pathogenicity, meaning that it causes only mild or no illness in poultry. Data from China’s Guangdong province suggests, however, that the new strain has shifted to high pathogenicity in poultry while retaining its capacity to cause severe illness in humans.

Reports indicated that the new strain of H7N9 could lead to high mortality for birds within 48 hours of infection, which could subsequently cause serious economic losses for the poultry industry.

The FAO said that human cases of bird flu have been increasing in China, but did not link these with the new strain of the H7N9 virus. In its March update, the FAO said that 20 human cases were reported in Hunan, Jiangsu, Guangxi, Fujian, Guizhou, Chongqing, Shandong and Zhejiang provinces, and in its April 12 update, the FAO reported 16 more cases, as well as two detected in birds.

So far, there is no indication that the new strain of the virus has spread to wild birds, the FAO said, and it has not been detected in poultry in other countries.

“However, these countries (with poultry farms) remain at risk and need to be vigilant for a potential incursion of the virus, in a low or highly pathogenic form,” Matthew Stone, Deputy Director General of the World Organization for Animal Health said in a statement. “Constant surveillance of domestic poultry as well as wild birds by national veterinary services is essential to reduce the risks associated with virus spread and protect both animal and human health, as well as livelihoods.”

“China has embarked on intensified surveillance and results are awaited to better assess the epidemiology and potential spread of this new, highly pathogenic virus,” Sophie Von Dobschuetz, Animal Health Officer at FAO, said. “FAO, through its office in Beijing, is in regular dialogue with the ministry of agriculture and providing recommendations for surveillance and control.”

As in previous human cases of the infection, most of the recently reported human cases of bird flu in China were the result of visiting live bird markets or coming into contact with infected birds on farms. Stone said that prevention measures to curb the spread of the H7N9 virus should include laboratory testing, increased hygiene at live bird markets and on-farm biosecurity to reduce exposure.



 Avian influenza – it’s a tale of three regions [AgriLand, 1 May 2017]

by Richard Halleron

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Decisions taken over the past few days will see Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland impacted differently by the avian influenza control measures taken in the three regions.

For Northern Ireland, it’s a case of continuing restrictions while in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland the decision has been taken to remove the current measures.

In Northern Ireland, the Avian Influenza protection zone is being extended until May 31, 2017, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has confirmed.

Ahead of the implementation of the new prevention zone today (Monday, May 1), Northern Ireland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Robert J Huey is reminding all bird keepers to remain vigilant.

“The risk of infection from wild birds is decreasing and is expected to continue to decrease in the coming weeks. The decision to extend the prevention zone until the end of May has been made following a recent veterinary risk assessment, which concluded that there is still a risk of avian influenza to poultry through direct or indirect contact with wild birds, although the risk has decreased,” he said.

“I would continue, therefore, to strongly encourage all bird keepers to maintain compliance with the additional biosecurity mitigation measures previously introduced on March 17. The main critical control points are the prevention of fomite spread into poultry premises and the need to stop direct and indirect contact between wild birds and domestic poultry.”

Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) Poultry Chairman, Tom Forgrave, said that, all along, the industry has been guided by the advice of DAERA veterinary officials.

“The most important thing is to protect the industry from avian flu,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Scottish government announced that its avian influenza prevention zone was lifted yesterday (April 30). Penny Middleton, Poultry Policy and Animal Health and Welfare Policy Manager for National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland, added her comments to the mix.

NFU Scotland welcomes the news that the latest veterinary risk assessment has concluded that the risk of AI (avian influenza) incursion into poultry in Scotland has reduced to ‘low’, allowing the lifting of the prevention zone on April 30.


“This has been a testing time for the Scottish poultry industry and its response and cooperation in the face of such heightened risk is to be applauded,” she said.

“Obviously whilst the risk has reduced it has not disappeared completely and keepers need to stay focussed on biosecurity – maintaining measures to minimise contact between the flock and wild birds and to minimise any spread of potential infection. The level of threat this winter has been unprecedented but could be the start of a recurring pattern.”



 Avian Flu Testing of Wild Ducks Informs Biosecurity and Can Reduce Economic Loss [United States Geological Survey (press release), 1 May 2017]

Ducks in North America can be carriers of avian influenza viruses similar to those found in a 2016 outbreak in Indiana that led to the losses of hundreds of thousands of chickens and turkeys, according to a recent study.

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Photo of a duck floating in the water. A profile view of a Lesser Scaup at the Lower Klamath Wildlife Refuge located in Tulelake, California. Lesser Scaup is listed as a species of concern.(Credit: Dave Menke, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Public domain.)

Understanding the genetic origins of avian influenza outbreaks through enhanced wild bird surveillance sampling can provide early warning to poultry producers, and lead to improved biosecurity measures that can reduce economic losses in future outbreaks.

To understand the origins of the novel strain of H7N8 avian influenza that caused the Indiana outbreak in January 2016, and possible role of wild birds in the outbreak, the USGS and collaborators examined over 400 wild bird viruses from across North America collected between 2007 and 2016.

They found that wild waterfowl, such as ducks and geese, commonly carry avian influenza viruses and typically show no signs of illness. Wild bird viruses can be transferred to commercial poultry through their fecal material when deposited on soil and in water.

“It is really interesting that the study identified diving ducks, such as the Lesser Scaup, as carriers of viruses closely related to those found in poultry,” said Andy Ramey of the U.S. Geological Survey, one of the co-authors of the study. “Diving ducks are not often targeted for influenza sampling.”

“We found that a similar virus circulated among wild ducks in the Mississippi Flyway during autumn 2015, prior to the outbreak in Indiana turkeys,” said Dr. Henry Wan of Mississippi State University, another co-author of the study.

The authors —including researchers from USGS, Mississippi State University, University of Georgia, The Ohio State University, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture— concluded that diving ducks may serve an important and understudied role in the maintenance and transmission of avian influenza viruses in North America.

Introductions of avian influenza viruses from wild birds to domestic poultry present a continuous threat to the poultry industry. In 2016, the USGS developed a science strategy that focuses on producing science to inform the national surveillance plan, which is coordinated through state and federal agencies across North America, and agency partners responsible for safeguarding U.S. poultry. Samples collected for this study were obtained as part of federal Interagency Wild Bird Surveillance and National Institutes of Health Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance programs. The U.S. Geological Survey conducts research and monitoring of avian diseases to safeguard the Nation's health, economy, and resources by leading science to understand and minimize exposures to infectious disease agents in the environment.

The new report in the Journal of Virology is entitled, “Low pathogenic influenza A viruses in North American diving ducks contribute to the emergence of a novel highly pathogenic influenza A (H7N8) virus.”

Additional information about avian influenza can be found at:

USDA 

U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Science Center 

U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Cente 



 Human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus – China [World Health Organization, 1 May 2017]

On 21 April 2017, the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China (NHFPC) notified WHO of 28 additional laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus in mainland China.

Details of the cases

Onset dates ranged from 22 March to 18 April 2017. Of these 28 cases, 11 were female. The median age is 55 years old (age range among the cases is 34 to 79 years old). The cases were reported from Anhui (1), Beijing (7), Gansu (1), Guangxi (1), Hebei (4), Hunan (5), Jiangxi (1), Liaoning (1), Shandong (2), Sichuan (3), and Zhejiang (2).

At the time of notification, of the 27 cases with information on medical condition, there were eight deaths, 17 cases were diagnosed as having either pneumonia (4) or severe pneumonia (13), and two cases were diagnosed as mild. Twenty-two cases were reported to have had exposure to poultry or live poultry market. One was reported to have had no known poultry exposure, and one was reported to have exposure to a person who had severe pneumonia and later died (but there was no indication the illness and death were related to avian influenza A(H7N9) virus infection). At the time of notification, there was no information available regarding poultry exposure for four cases. No clusters of cases were reported.

To date, a total of 1421 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 cases since December 2016, the Chinese government at national and local levels is taking further measures which include:

・Strengthening the risk assessment and prevention and control guidance for the northern provinces which had reported increasing cases.

・Continuing to strengthen control measures with focus on hygienic management of live poultry markets and cross-regional transportation.

・Carrying out detailed source investigations to inform effective prevention and control measures.

・Continuing to detect and treat human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) cases early to reduce mortality.

・Continuing to carry out risk communication and information publicity to provide the public with guidance on self-protection.

・Strengthening the virology surveillance, to define the scope of virus contamination and mutations, in order to provide further guidance for prevention and control.

WHO risk assessment

The number of human infections with avian influenza A(H7N9) in the fifth epidemic wave (i.e. onset since 1 October 2016) is greater than the numbers of human cases reported in earlier waves.

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 in a timely manner.

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. Although small clusters of cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus have been reported including those involving patients in the same ward, 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 poultry 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.



 As Bird Flu Strengthens In China, Midwest Farmers Prepare For The Next Outbreak [Flatland (blog), 29 Apr 2017]

By Grant Gerlock

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A stop sign at the edge of a Nebraska poultry farm serves as a biosecurity checkpoint. (Grant Gerlock | Harvest Public Media)

Midwest farmers are warily watching as one strain of a highly contagious bird flu virus infects and kills humans in China and another less-worrying but still highly contagious strain infects a Tennessee poultry farm. Two years after a devastating bird flu outbreak in the Midwest, many farmers here say they now have a better idea of how to keep bird flu at bay.

In January 2015, avian influenza, or bird flu, appeared in backyard flocks in Washington state. Within six months, the virus reached 15 states, including Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Missouri. About 50 million birds died.

Bill Bevans says each day on his farm near Waverly in eastern Nebraska started with a pit in his stomach.

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Farmer Bill Bevans raises nearly a million chickens and turkeys on his farm each year. (Grant Gerlock | Harvest Public Media)

Bird flu never did bring doom to Bevans’ farm and this time he feels confident his flock of nearly a million chickens and turkeys each year is safe. On a gravel road outside a long, steel turkey barn, Bevans shows off new biosecurity measures, the rules meant to keep the birds healthy. The first layer of protection: keep uninvited visitors and uninvited germs off the farm.

“First thing you see is the stop sign,” Bevans says. “That just lets them know that we’d prefer if they stay back.”

Joan Schrader, Bevan’s sister and the farm veterinarian, says each barn has a second layer of protection: a bench and containers of chlorine powder blocking the entryway, reminding workers to stop, change their boots and disinfect them before they go in and before they go out.

“That way you create a little island of that house and that flock by doing the boot change and the disinfectant going in and out of the house,” Schrader says.

Those kinds of biosecurity measures are not necessarily new, but on poultry farms throughout the Midwest they have taken on new significance in the wake of the 2015 outbreak. Roger Dudley, who tracks livestock disease as the animal epidemiologist for the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, says biosecurity in 2015 was on many farms often overlooked and flawed.

Now, Dudley says, feed trucks are often sprayed down with disinfectant when they arrive at the farm, workers are forced to change boots and some have to shower and change clothes before they go in.

“Biosecurity has to be everybody,” Dudley says. “It’s the feed truck drivers, the rodent control guys that show up. Everybody has to be involved in biosecurity in order to make it work.

At the same time, state and federal scientists test birds to monitor for illness, both at slaughter and on the farm. If the results show highly pathogenic avian influenza, the response is immediate: both the sick and healthy birds on the farm are euthanized. During the outbreak in 2015, farmers complained about how long it took federal officials to give farmers approval to eliminate their flocks.

“One of the real lessons learned from 2014-2015 is the quicker you can put the birds down the less likely it is to spread,” Dudley says.

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Joan Schrader, the veterinarian on the farm, sits on a bench that creates a staging area for workers to disinfect their boots. (Grant Gerlock | Harvest Public Media)

Tom Safranek, state epidemiologist at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, says animals are often sold alive in traditional markets in China, making people in those areas vulnerable. When livestock and people mix, so do viruses.

“It’s a perfect laboratory for co-mingling viruses and co-infection, be it a pig, a bird, or a human,” Safranek says.

The strains of bird flu found in the U.S. thus far in 2017 are a low risk to humans, but people can carry disease across the globe. Migrating birds leapfrogging the continents can also carry diseases. Precautions aimed at protecting chickens are aimed also at preserving public health.

Nebraska farmer Bill Bevans says he will keep his guard up in Nebraska, which means there is less traffic on his farm than there used to be.

“We used to meet salespeople, visitors,” Bevans says. “We’d walk them into the barn. We’d take pictures, you know. That just doesn’t even happen. No one even asks anymore.”

— Harvest Public Media, based at KCUR 89.3, reports on farm and food issues in collaboration with public media stations across the Midwest. For more information, visit www.harvestpublicmedia.org.



 Bird flu prevention zone extended in NI 
 [Irish Farmers Journal, 28 Apr 2017]

By Amy McShane

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Restrictions in NI for poultry have been extended until 31 May.

The avian influenza protection zone covering Northern Ireland was due to expire on Sunday night. However, DAERA has announced it is to be extended until 31 May.

The decision to extend was made following a veterinary risk assessment that found there is still a risk of avian influenza to poultry through direct or indirect contact with wild birds, DAERA said.

However, the risk has decreased.

Biosecurity mitigation measures came into effect from 17 March, when the housing restrictions were lifted.

Some of the measure included ensuring that bird’s feed and water cannot be accessed by wild birds, avoiding transfer of contamination between premises by cleansing and disinfecting equipment, vehicles and footwear, separating domestic waterfowl (ducks and geese) from other domestic species and reducing the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry or captive birds are kept.

Northern Ireland’s chief veterinary officer Robert J Huey told farmers to remain vigilant for the signs of disease: "It is essential that bird keepers comply with the biosecurity requirements set out in the declaration of the prevention zone if they are to minimise the risk of infection. Key to this will be ensuring that their birds are separated from wild birds when outside."

Phasing in to allow shows

From 1 May, restrictions on gatherings will also ease, allowing for shows to commence. Single demonstration flocks will be introduced to allow shows from the end of May but this is subject to there being no further avian influenza suspects or outbreaks.

Gatherings of pigeons, aviary birds and birds of prey can continue to take place, DAERA said and the conditions of the general licence for gatherings remain in place.

If farmers take birds to shows in Great Britain, they can only return to Northern Ireland with a specific import licence and compliance with the requirements of such licence.

England

Housing restrictions were lifted in England two weeks ago and an avian influenza protection zone was put in place.

However, it was announced on Friday that the zone is to be lifted from 15 May and farmers in England will no longer follow specific disease prevention measures to reduce the risk of infection from wild birds.

Republic of Ireland

On Tuesday, the Department of Agriculture lifted housing restrictions for with immediate effect.

Farmers were told to remain vigilant, monitor their birds for any signs of disease and implement strict disease control measures.

IFA poultry chair Nigel Renaghan said he was "ecstatic" about the lifting of housing regulations, and dubbed the management of the disease "a success story".



 Northern Ireland precautions against avian flu extended
 [BBC News, 28 Apr 2017]

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Poultry farmers have been warned to remain vigilant

Precautions against the spread of bird flu in Northern Ireland are to be extended for a month.

The Avian Influenza Protection Zone will remain in place until 31 May, the Department of Agriculture has announced.

Chief Veterinary Officer Robert Huey called on poultry keepers to remain vigilant against the spread of the disease.

"The risk of infection from wild birds is decreasing," he said.

"It is essential that bird keepers comply with the biosecurity requirements set out in the declaration of the Prevention Zone if they are to minimise the risk of infection."

Measures to ensure that poultry are kept separate from the wild population were introduced on 17 March.

According to the department, the threat to public health from the virus is very low and consumers should not be concerned about eating eggs or poultry.



 NI ‘bird flu’ biosecurity security extended 
 [ITV News, 28 Apr 2017]

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Bird flu protection measures will remain in place across Northern Ireland until 31 May. Credit: PA

Bird flu protection measures for Northern Ireland are being extended for another month, the Department of Agriculture has confirmed.

The decision to extend the prevention zone, which was due to expire on Sunday, has been taken following a recent veterinary risk assessment.

New extended measures will be put in place from 1 May until the end of the month.

Chief Veterinary Officer Robert J Huey explained that the risk assessment concluded “there is still a risk of avian influenza to poultry through direct or indirect contact with wild birds, although the risk has decreased”.

He added: “I would continue therefore to strongly encourage all bird keepers to maintain compliance with the additional biosecurity mitigation measures previously introduced on 17 March.

“The main critical control points remain prevention of fomite spread into poultry premises and stopping direct and indirect contact between wild birds and domestic poultry.”

There continues to be a ban on gatherings such as livestock fairs, auctions or shows for some species of birds until the end of May - those considered at higher risk of spreading avian influenza, including all poultry and game bird species, ducks, geese and swans.

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

Avian Influenza is a notifiable disease and any suspicion should be reported immediately to the local Divisional Veterinary Office.



 Swedish authorities says bird flu found at hen farm 
 [Reuters, 25 Apr 2017]

An outbreak of H5N8 bird flu has been detected at a hen farm near the town of Nykoping in eastern Sweden, the country's board of agriculture said on Tuesday.

The authorities have taken steps to contain the outbreak of the disease, imposing a three km safety perimeter and banning visits to the farm.

All or parts of the hen population would be destroyed, the agriculture board said in a statement.
Sweden eased restrictions on bird farms earlier this month. Bird flu was detected at a Swedish hen farm in December 2016 and has also been found in several wild birds in the country.

(Reporting by Johan Ahlander; editing by Niklas Pollard and Jason Neely)



 News Scan for Apr 25, 2017 
 [CIDRAP, 25 Apr 2017]

Officials report 29 more cases of H7N9 in China

In its latest weekly influenza report, Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection (CHP) today confirmed 29 new H7N9 avian flu cases in mainland China, the most since late February. There have now been 616 cases of H7N9 reported in China since October of last year, in what is the country's fifth wave of the disease, the CHP said.

Seven of the cases are in Beijing, with Hunan reporting 5 cases; Hebei, 4; Sichuan, 3; Shandong , 2; Zhejiang, 2; and Anhui, Gansu, Guangxi, Jiangxi, Jilin, and Liaoning with one each.

Eight of the patients died from avian flu complications, one is in critical condition, and the remaining reported severe pneumonia. Only two of the new cases were classified as mild.

Eighteen of the patients were men, 11 were women, and the range of ages was 34 to 79 years.

Beijing, which had seen very few H7N9 cases previously, reported a spike last week. The CHP reported no new cases of H5N6 avian flu, which much less commonly infects humans.

Apr 25 CHP report 
☞ Avian Influenza Report  



 China: Jilin Province man contracts H7N9 avian influenza, in critical condition 
 [Outbreak News Today, 25 Apr 2017]

The Health and Family Planning Commission of Jilin Province reported the first human case of avian influenza A(H7N9) in 2017.

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H7N9 avian influenza
Image/CDC

Health officials say the 34-year-old male patient from Tonghua City has been hospitalized for management and his condition is critical now.

As of Monday, the total human cases reported since 2013 has risen to 1412.

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.

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

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

West Nile Fever News from 16 Apr 2017



 West Nile case confirmed in Gainesville, TX [eParisExtra.com (blog), 28 May 2017]

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A Cooke County man has tested positive for the West Nile virus. McLeroy, Gibbs and Klein Medical Center in Gainesville confirmed the man tested positive and is now at home and expecting to make a full recovery.

Symptoms and Treatment of West Nile:

No symptoms in most people. Most people (70-80%) who become infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms.

Febrile illness in some people. About 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Most people with this type of West Nile virus disease recover completely, but fatigue and weakness can last for weeks or months.

Severe symptoms in a few people. Less than 1% of people who are infected will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues).

・The symptoms of neurologic illness can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures, or paralysis.

・Serious illness can occur in people of any age. However, people over 60 years of age are at the greatest risk for severe disease. People with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants, are also at greater risk for serious illness.

・Recovery from severe disease may take several weeks or months. Some of the neurologic effects may be permanent.

・About 10 percent of people who develop neurologic infection due to West Nile virus will die.

Treatment

No vaccine or specific antiviral treatments for West Nile virus infection are available.

Over-the-counter pain relievers can be used to reduce fever and relieve some symptoms
In severe cases, patients often need to be hospitalized to receive supportive treatment, such as intravenous fluids, pain medication, and nursing care.

Source: Center for Disease Control




 El Paso man diagnosed with West Nile virus in coma [KFOX El Paso 27 May 2017]

by Tomas Hoppough

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Victor Arellano is currently in a coma, according to his friends and family doctors then diagnosed him with West Nile Virus

EL PASO, Texas —

An El Paso man who was recently diagnosed with West Nile virus is in a coma, according to his friends and family.

Friends of Victor Arellano, who is in his 40s, said they are hoping for a miracle.

Sergio Martinez, who said he has known Arellano for 25 years, said that Arellano has been in a coma for nearly a month.

“At first he went to the University Medical Center when he had a fever,” Martinez said. “The doctors told Victor he had a temperature of one hundred and seven degrees. They gave him some medicine to try and cure that.”

Martinez said that the medicine didn’t help.

“He then went to the Providence hospital,” Martinez said. “After caring for him there, he fell into a coma.”

“It’s hard to go and see him there, not moving, or doing anything,” said Cristina Martinez, Sergio Martinez’s wife and friend of Arellano.

Sergio Martinez said after Arellano went into the coma the doctors started performing tests.

“It was a couple weeks later that they found out it was West Nile Virus,” Sergio Martinez said.

Arellano’s friends and family told KFOX14 they wished the doctors could have figured out it was West Nile sooner.

“I’m hoping that this situation can be learned from,” Cristina Martinez said.

Arellano’s family and friends are hoping he will pull through. A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the Arellano’s family.



 8-year-old Missouri boy dies suddenly and mysteriously with symptoms that match West Nile Virus [whnt.com, 27 May 2017]

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- A Missouri family is in shock after their 8-year-old son died mysteriously on Tuesday.

Dennis Burd got sick last weekend and his parents thought it was the flu.

The Burds took him to the emergency room after his condition worsened, but he was pronounced dead just two hours later. Preliminary autopsy findings show that the 8-year-old may have been sick with West Nile Virus.

The boy was active and healthy, and loved playing outside with his dad but that all stopped when he started feeling very sick last weekend.

"We did like everyone else would do, give him Tylenol and keep his temperature down," Larry Burd told our sister station FOX 4.

But on Tuesday, Dennis started having breathing problems and was complaining of back pain, to the point he could no longer walk. His parents rushed him to the ER.

"That's where we lost him," the dad said. Within two hours, Dennis was pronounced dead.

Dennis' parents got a call from the medical examiner the next day saying the boy had pneumonia in both lungs and symptoms that match up with West Nile. Doctors told the family their son could've caught the virus from a mosquito while playing outside, but it will take more testing to know for sure.

"Who would even think about that? Just go play in the backyard and end up with something like that," Burd said.

He wishes he could've protected his son, and warns parents to be diligent.

"Keep an eye on your kids. Even if they don't show signs of anything, take them to the doctor. Get them checked out," he said.

The medical examiner sent Dennis' information to the Centers for Disease Control. His parents say it could be another six months before they know for sure what happened to their little boy.



 First West Nile virus activity of 2017 detected in Michigan [Midland Daily News, 27 May 2017]


The first West Nile virus activity for Michigan in 2017 has been confirmed in three birds across the state.

West Nile virus has been identified in one turkey found in Barry County, and two crows — one from Kalamazoo County and one from Saginaw County. Residents are reminded that the best way to protect against West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses is to prevent mosquito bites.

People who work in outdoor occupations or like to spend time outdoors are at increased risk for West Nile virus infection from mosquito bites. Adults 50 years old and older have the highest risk of severe illness caused by West Nile virus.

Symptoms of West Nile virus include a high fever, confusion, muscles weakness and a severe headache. More serious complications include neurological illnesses, such as meningitis and encephalitis. Last year, there were 43 serious illnesses and three deaths related to West Nile virus in Michigan. Nationally, there were 2,038 human cases of the virus and 94 deaths reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Everyone older than six months of age should use repellent outdoors,” said Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive of MDHHS. “It only takes one bite from an infected mosquito to cause a severe illness, so take extra care during peak mosquito-biting hours, which are dusk and dawn for the mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus.”

Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection. For both safety and effectiveness, repellents should be used according to the label instructions.

The mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus may breed near people’s homes in storm drains, shallow ditches, retention ponds and unused pools. They will readily come indoors to bite if window and door screens are not maintained. As summer temperatures rise, mosquitoes and the virus develop more quickly, so it is important to protect yourself from mosquito bites as the weather warms, according to the state.

The three West Nile virus positive birds were found sick or dead in early May and tested positive at Michigan State University this week. Birds are the natural animal reservoir for the virus and carry it in their blood. Mosquitoes become infected when they bite an infected bird.

Most birds show no symptoms of infection, but certain bird species, such as crows, blue jays and ravens, are more sensitive to the virus and are more likely to become sick and die when they become infected with the virus.

“As with many wildlife diseases, vigilant observation and reporting from the public are critical in helping health and wildlife experts better understand and contain the transmission of West Nile Virus,” said Dr. Kelly Straka, state wildlife veterinarian. “We ask residents to contact us if they find sick or dead crows, blackbirds, owls or hawks or any other bird exhibiting signs of illness.”

For information about West Nile virus activity in Michigan and to report sick or dead birds, visit www.michigan.gov/westnile



 West Nile Virus Found In Midland County [WSGW, 26 May 2017]

By Ann Williams

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Midland County Mosquito Control says the first trace of West Nile Virus this season has been detected in Hope Township. A dead crow collected there this week tested positive for the virus.

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No human cases of West Nile Virus have been reported in Michigan yet this year, but activity often peaks in August or September, so officials advise residents to be aware and take precautions against mosquito bites. A major one is to empty water from flower pots, pool covers, scrap tires and other places it can collect. The kind of mosquitoes that can transmit West Nile often develop in containers around the home. Also use repellent containing DEET or Picaridin, and be aware that the peek time for mosquitoes to be present and biting are dusk and dawn.

Midland County Mosquito Control asks residents to call them at 989-832-8677 to report any dead crows or blue jays, which can be an indicator of West Nile activity. Saginaw County reported its first indication of West Nile last week.



 2 dead crows in 2 days test positive for West Nile virus in Midland [MLive.com, 26 May 2017]

By Bob Johnson

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Jeff Schrier | MLive.com A crew from Ovid-based Al's Aerial Spraying loads one of its six planes with a batch of larvicide at Harry W. Browne Airport in Buena Vista Township on Tuesday, April 18, 2017. Six planes are dropping granules containing Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, a biological larvicide, into standing water to kill mosquito

HOPE TOWNSHIP, MI -- Two dead crows tested positive for the West Nile virus in northern Midland County on two concurrent days, according to Midland County Mosquito Control.

A resident in Hope Township contacted Mosquito Control on Thursday, May 25, to report a dead crow and one that was still alive but looked ill, according to Director Carl Dowd.

"We collected the dead one and tested it and it tested positive," Dowd said. "We contacted the resident and the other crow had died and we collected it and tested it, and it was positive."

dead crow small.jpg</div> Dead crow The virus usually goes back and forth between a particular type of mosquito and the birds they feed on, Dowd said. Sometimes, that breed of mosquito will not get an adequate amount of blood from birds and will begin to feed on mammals, including humans. Blue jays and crows are closely monitored by Mosquito Control because they are most likely to die from West Nile, according to Dowd. Dowd urges people to do what they can to protect themselves against mosquito bites, though humans rarely get seriously ill with West Nile. Most people infected with West Nile virus will have no symptoms, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About one in five people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms. Less than 1 percent of infected people develop a serious, sometimes fatal, neurologic illness. "Use a repellant," Dowd said. "Be mindful to look around property for standing water that has been there for more than a week. Dump it out. It can breed mosquitoes." Dowd said Mosquito Control will enhance surveillance and various trappings they have for mosquitoes and will be sending some fog trucks to the area where the infected birds were found. To report a dead crow or blue jay in Midland County, call Mosquito Control at 989-832-8677. "Other counties have Mosquito Control as well and they do the same," Dowd said.



 Earliest appearance of West Nile in 10 years could mean more human cases [MLive.com, 19 May 2017]

By Michael Kransz

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Mosquito larvae, recognizable as wriggling, half-centimeter long tubes that are larger on one end, can be seen in a sampling cup as Bay County Mosquito Control treats standing water after recent 3-4 inch rainfall in Bay County on Aug. 17, 2016

Health experts confirmed Friday the discovery of three birds that tested positive for West Nile virus in Michigan -- the earliest detection of the virus in the past decade.

The first detection of positive birds in the state this early into the year indicates a higher risk for human West Nile cases later in the summer, said Ned Walker, a researcher of mosquito-borne diseases at Michigan State University.

"Early bird positive means early season transmission activity and heightened early seasonal risk," Walker said. "More virus early, more human cases later."

West Nile virus was identified this week in one turkey found in Barry County and two crows -- one from Kalamazoo County and one from Saginaw County, said Jennifer Eisner, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Although it's the first time in 10 years West Nile virus has been found in birds this early in the year, Eisner said it's important to note the detection process largely relies on the public to report dead birds for testing.

Because Barry and Kalamazoo counties have no mosquito control authorities, Walker said findings of the virus in those counties this early suggests widespread, early mosquito transmission.

"Every once in a while there is an early bird infection but having three spread out across the state like that is a bit unusual," Walker said. "The warm weather is key and it hasn't been that warm in Michigan, rather on the cool side."

Last year, there were 43 serious illnesses in people and three deaths related to West Nile virus in Michigan, Eisner said.

The majority of human cases were in Southeast Michigan, according to the department.

The three West Nile-positive birds this year were found sick or dead early in May and were tested this week at Michigan State University, Eisner said.

West Nile is transmitted to humans most often through mosquito bites, Eisner said. The mosquitoes themselves become infected after feeding on a bird carrying the virus.

About two in 10 people bitten by an infected mosquito experience any illness, said William Stanuszek, director of the Saginaw County Mosquito Abatement Commission.

For those who experience illness, it typically comes on about three to 15 days after being bitten and carries mild symptoms of fever, headache and body aches, Stanuszek said.

About one in 150 people will suffer severe illness, Stanuszek said. Those most at risk for severe symptoms are people over the age of 50.

Kelly Straka, a wildlife veterinarian with the state, said it's important the public reports all sick and dead birds to help experts better understand and take measures against the virus.

"As with many wildlife diseases, vigilant observation and reporting from the public are critical in helping health and wildlife experts better understand and contain the transmission of West Nile Virus," Straka said in a statement.

"We ask residents to contact us if they find sick or dead crows, blackbirds, owls or hawks, or any other bird exhibiting signs of illness."

Montgomery County reports first West Nile Virus case for 2017
[KBTX, 15 May 2017]


By Rusty Surette

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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Tex. (KBTX)- County Judge Craig Doyal asks that Montgomery County residents take appropriate precautions as the county has reported its first case of West Nile virus for 2017.

According to the Montgomery County Public Health District, a 60-year-old female Montgomery County resident has contracted West Nile Virus; this is the first case in the county for 2017.

She is in stable condition and recovering at home. According to the public health district, on this date in 2016, we didn’t have any confirmed cases. The first case in our county last year occurred in August. Public Health continues to ask homeowners to do their part to help fight West Nile Virus.

"We appreciate our public health district being vigilant in alerting the public concerning West Nile cases. We urge the public to take some common-sense steps to minimize their exposure to mosquitoes," Judge Doyal said.

"While the CDC says the most effective way to avoid West Nile Virus disease and Zika is to prevent mosquito bites, county commissioners, as they always do, will take appropriate steps regarding mosquito spraying, testing and other measures to protect the public," said Judge Doyal.



 Maricopa county confirms first detection of West Nile virus for 2017 [AZFamily, 2 May 2017]

By Eric Zott

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 The first presence of West Nile virus this season has been detected by county officials. 1 May 2017 [Source: 3TV / CBS 5]

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

The first presence of West Nile virus for the 2017 season has been confirmed by county officials

The Maricopa County Environmental Services Department spokesman, Johnny Dilone said their office has confirmed a positive mosquito sample containing West Nile virus was collected recently in an East Valley location.

Maricopa County Environmental Services Director, Steven Goode said, “Through our routine year-round surveillance of collecting and testing mosquitoes throughout the county, the West Nile virus positive mosquito sample was discovered.”

West Nile virus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. Symptoms may include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, swollen lymph glands, and skin rash. These flu-like symptoms can occur within 3 to 15 days after a mosquito bite.

“Effectively controlling and eliminating mosquito breeding places results in reduced cases of West Nile virus and any other mosquito-borne diseases,” said Goode.

The Maricopa County Vector Control office advises that the best thing each of us can do to protect ourselves and our families from this and other mosquito-related diseases is to prevent getting bit by mosquitoes and to eliminate breeding sites on our own property.

Here are a few tips from the Maricopa County Vector Control office on ways to eliminate mosquito breeding and reduce the risk of bites:

・Eliminate standing water where mosquitoes can breed.

・Check for items outside the home that collect water, such as cans, bottles, buckets, old tires, and other containers.

・Change water in flower vases, birdbaths, planters, and animal watering pans at least twice a week.

・Repair leaky pipes and outside faucets, and move air conditioner drain hoses frequently.

・Avoid being bitten by mosquitoes when going outside at night by using insect repellant with DEET. Wear light weight clothing that covers the arms and legs.

For more information or to report a mosquito problem in your area, call (602) 506-0700, or visit www.FightTheBiteMaricopa.org.



 CDPH: First West Nile virus illness confirmed in California [KCRA Sacramento, 28 Apr 2017]

KINGS COUNTY, Calif. (KCRA) — The first West Nile virus illness was confirmed in California Friday, the Department of Public Health said.

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Last year Sacramento County had 10 West Nile cases.

The illness occurred in Kings County near Fresno, officials said. No information about the patient has been released.

According to officials, the West Nile virus has been detected in three dead birds found in San Mateo, Orange and San Diego counties this year.

“West Nile virus activity in the state is increasing, so I urge Californians to take every possible precaution to protect against mosquito bites,” CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith said.

Officials said heavy rains this winter have contributed to an increase in mosquito breeding sites. It is unknown what impact the rainy weather will have on the actual virus transmission risk in humans.

The West Nile virus activity is expected within levels, officials said.

The West Nile virus can be transmitted to humans and animals with the bite of an infected mosquito, officials said. The risk of serious illness is low to most people. However, some individuals can develop neurological illnesses, such as meningitis, the CDPH said.

Older individuals and people who suffer with diabetes have a higher chance of getting sick and are more likely to develop complications, officials said.

The CDPH urged the public to protect themselves against mosquito bites.

・Apply insect repellent containing DEET, picaradin, oil of lemon eucalyptus. Repellents should keep the mosquitoes from biting.

・Mosquitoes usually bite in the early morning and evening so it is important to wear proper clothing and repellent if outside during these times.
・Make sure that your doors and windows have tight-fitting screens to keep out mosquitoes. Repair or replace screens that have tears or holes.

・Eliminate all sources of standing water on your property, by emptying flower pots, old car tires, buckets, and other containers.



 CDPH Confirms First Human West Nile Virus Illness of Year [NBC 7 San Diego, 28 Apr 2017]

By Jaspreet Kaur

Mosquito-GettyImages-563546355.jpg
 Held by a pair of tweezers, one of thousands of mosquitos trapped by Los Angeles County Vector Control officers at their lab in Lakewood where they are catagorized and shipped to a lab at UC Davis to be tested for West Nile Virus on 07/27/2004. (Photo by Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The first case of human West Nile Virus (WNV) illness for this year was confirmed in Central California, according to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

The case was discovered in Kings County, CDPH confirmed--which includes cities such as Corcoran and Hanford.

According to public health officials, WNV activities were found in San Diego, Orange and San Mateo counties. The rainy season has also effected the mosquito breeding sites.
WNV can be transmitted to humans and animals through infected mosquitoes--although the risk serious illness for people is low, CDPH said.

But the virus can cause serious neurological illnesses in less than one percent, including meningitis or encephalitis. Individuals over the age of 50, or those with diabetes or hypertension have a higher chance of getting sick.

The CDPH is urging all Californians to take necessary precautions against the virus by doing the following:

・Apply insect repellent that contains DEET, eucalyptus or lemon oils, picaradin

・Watch out for mosquitoes in the early mornings and evenings since they usually bite around that time

・Drain any standing water on your property, including flower pots and buckets to stop mosquitoes from laying eggs



 State confirms first human West Nile Virus case of 2017
 [The Mercury News, 28 Apr 2017]

By JASON GREEN

SACRAMENTO — California’s first human West Nile virus case of the year has been confirmed in Kings County.

Friday’s announcement by the California Department of Public Health comes after the virus was detected in three dead birds found in San Mateo, Orange, and San Diego counties.

The virus is spread to humans and animals by the bite of an infected mosquito. The risk of serious illness to most people is low, but some individuals can contract serious illnesses such as encephalitis and meningitis, according to the Department of Public Health.

People who are 50 or older and those with diabetes or hypertension have a higher chance of getting sick.

The condition of the person in Kings County is unknown.

The Department of Public Health said heavy rains this winter contributed to an increase in mosquito breeding sites, but it is unknown what impact the wet weather may have on virus transmission risk in humans. So far this season, virus activity is within expected levels.

To safeguard against mosquito bites, the Department of Public Health recommends applying an insect repellent that contains DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535; wearing long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active; and draining standing water.



 DNREC Mosquito Control urges property owners to ‘Look About, Dump It Out!’ to eliminate standing water that can breed mosquitoes 
 [news.delaware.gov, 28 Apr 2017]

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DOVER – Through a new public awareness campaign beginning today, DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife Mosquito Control Section urges residential and business property owners throughout the state to empty all standing water sources, large and small, to reduce mosquito-breeding habitat on their properties. The “Look About, Dump It Out!” campaign will be featured in television and radio public service announcements, billboards and public outreach.

mosquito control logo“Any standing water left for four or more consecutive days has the potential to breed mosquitoes, whether it’s in the bottom of a boat or a bottle cap, and it needs to be drained to help eliminate breeding habitat and reduce mosquito populations. That’s our message in ‘Look About, Dump It Out!’” said Mosquito Control Administrator Dr. William Meredith. “With mosquito-borne illnesses such as West Nile virus already established in Delaware and the possibility of Zika virus occurring in the local mosquito population, reducing mosquito-breeding habitat is more crucial than ever.”

Items that should be drained or otherwise rendered unable to hold water include: discarded cans, buckets, jars, jugs; tires; clogged/improperly draining rain gutters and flexible downspouts; flower pot liners; stagnant bird baths; ornamental ponds; uncovered dumpsters, trash cans and lids; pet dishes and animal troughs; abandoned swimming pools and kiddie pools; children’s toys; upright wheel barrows; depressions in tarps; boats with drain plugs in place; abandoned vehicles and large household appliances.

Nineteen out of the 57 mosquito species found in Delaware are known to bite humans and several can transmit mosquito-borne diseases. Of these, two are short-distance flyers that breed primarily in artificial container habitats commonly found in urban or suburban locations and some rural areas. The native common house mosquito is primarily a nighttime biter but is also active around dawn and dusk, and is the primary transmitter for West Nile virus in Delaware. The non-native, invasive Asian tiger mosquito, which bites during daylight hours and around dawn and dusk, is a secondary vector for West Nile virus in Delaware, but is also known to carry dengue fever, chikungunya and Zika virus in other parts of the world. Both species can be difficult to control with insecticides, with eliminating breeding habitat the best means of population control.

For more information about Delaware’s Mosquito Control program, please call 302-739-9917.

Media contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902



 Mosquito Sample Tests Positive for West Nile Virus in Grand Prairie 
 [NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth, 28 Apr 2017]

Mosquito+Spraying+03.jpg


The city of Grand Prairie is reporting its first positive West Nile virus mosquito sample of the 2017 season.

The sample was collected in the southwest part of the city, and crews plan to ground spray in the area Thursday and Friday nights beginning at 9 p.m., weather permitting.

The spray area is bound by East Polo Road on the north, Matthew Road on the east, Sandra Lane on the south, and Kite Road and Barn Owl Trail on the west.

There have been no confirmed human cases of West Nile virus yet this season in North Texas.

How to Protect Yourself from Mosquito Bites

・Dress in long sleeves, pants when outside: For extra protection, spray thin clothing with repellent.

・DEET: Make sure this ingredient is in your insect repellent.

・Drain standing water in your yard and neighborhood: Mosquitoes can develop in any water stagnant for more than three days.

It has been recommended in the past that to avoid mosquito bites you should avoid being outdoors during Dusk and Dawn (the 4 Ds). While this is true for mosquitoes that commonly carry the West Nile virus, other types of mosquitoes that are more likely to carry Zika, dengue and chikungunya are active during the day. When outdoors, no matter what time of day, adjust your dress accordingl and wear insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus as your first line of defense against insect bites.



 The world’s deadliest animal lives in your backyard 
 [In-Depth-OCRegister, 27 Apr 2017]

By KEITH SHARON
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 outhern house mosquito larvae in the lab at the Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District office in Garden Grove on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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 Lesly Saba, an Orange County vector control inspector, places Gambusia, also known as mosquitofish, into a backyard pond at a home in Orange on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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 Gambusia, also known as mosquitofish, swim in a tank at the Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District office in Garden Grove on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

0428_nws_ocr-l-vector-04.jpg Red Imported Fire Ants climb on a small glass vial in a yard in Orange, that Lesly Saba, an Orange County vector control inspector, will take back to the lab at the Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District office in Garden Grove for testing, on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. Saba treated the colony with Amdro Pro, a cornmeal that is people and animal safe but will kill the ants. (Photo by Mark Rightmire,Orange County Register/SCNG)

0428_nws_ocr-l-vector-05.jpg
 Lesly Saba, an Orange County vector control inspector examines a sample of water for mosquito larvae she scooped up from a pool of water between the railroad tracks and N. Orange Olive Road in Orange, on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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 A southern house mosquito in the Insectary at the Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District office in Garden Grove on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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 Lesly Saba, an Orange County vector control inspector uses her scoop to get a sample of water from urban runoff to check it for mosquito larvae under the bridge of Glassell Street in Hart Park in Orange, on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

0428_nws_ocr-l-vector-08.jpg
 Mosquito larvae found in stagnant water in Hart Park in Orange, on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, swim in a small vial that she will take back to the lab at the Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District office in Garden Grove for testing. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

0428_nws_ocr-l-vector-09.jpg
 Lesly Saba, an Orange County vector control inspector checks a sample of water from urban runoff for mosquito larvae in Hart Park in Orange, on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. The sample was full of mosquito larvae and she treated the water with Altosid pellets. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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 The sign outside the Insectary at the Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District office in Garden Grove on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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 Lesly Saba, an Orange County vector control inspector, gathers Gambusia, also known as mosquitofish, from a tank at the Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District office in Garden Grove on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, to take and put into a backyard pond at a home in Orange. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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 Lesly Saba, an Orange County vector control inspector speaks with David Tindall after checking his backyard pond for mosquito larvae in Orange, on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. Tindall’s pond was mosquito free due to the water is constantly moving. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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 Lesly Saba, an Orange County vector control inspector treats a drainage channel with stagnant water that was filled with mosquito larvae in a backyard adjacent to Hart Park in Orange, on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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 Lesly Saba, an Orange County vector control inspector sprays an oil on to stagnant water in a drainage channel with that was filled with mosquito larvae in a backyard adjacent to Hart Park in Orange, on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)


0428_nws_ocr-l-vector-15.jpg
 Lesly Saba, an Orange County vector control inspector holds a container of Altosid pellets that she uses to treat water from urban runoff for mosquito larvae in Hart Park in Orange, on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

0428_nws_ocr-l-vector-16.jpg
 Lesly Saba, an Orange County vector control inspector checks for mosquito larvae in a bucket filled with water in a front yard of a neighborhood in Orange, on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. The water was filled with mosquito larvae and she dumped it out. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

0428_nws_ocr-l-vector-17.jpg
 Lesly Saba, an Orange County vector control inspector examines a sample of water for mosquito larvae she scooped up from along a curb on N. Orange Olive Road in Orange, on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

0428_nws_ocr-l-vector-18.jpg
 Lesly Saba, an Orange County vector control inspector uses her scoop to get a sample of water from a drain in a neighborhood in Orange, on Wednesday, April 26, 2017 and check it for mosquito larvae. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)


The blood-lusting killers attack in the darkest hours, after you’ve gone to bed or early in the morning.

If they were zombies or vampires, you would fear them. But these killers, which are very real, don’t get the respect or caution they deserve. Consider this: Since 2014, these creatures have passed along the potentially deadly West Nile virus to 1,311 people in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. How would you react if that number were connected to the phrases “mountain lion attacks” or “shark bites?”

Mosquitoes are the world’s deadliest animals, according to the World Health Organization. And, over the next few months, Southern California insect experts are bracing for a massive, region-wide mosquito attack.

Heavy rains during winter and spring washed away a key natural predator (the tiny gambusia fish), so mosquitoes have been reproducing “unchecked” according to Orange County Vector Ecologist Laura Krueger.

The rains left standing water everywhere, and that’s where the larvae from this unchecked mosquito reproduction are deposited.

You do not want nearby mosquitoes — disease-carrying blood suckers — to practice free love. But when they do, you rely on people like Lesly Saba, a Vector Control Inspector, to eradicate their offspring.

Ask what she does for a living, and she will say it succinctly:

“I am a mosquito killer,” said Saba, one of 19 killer/inspectors in Orange County.

And, of the coming season, Saba adds this:

“We need to get revved up.”

Bugs don’t know borders

In Los Angeles County, inspectors say their mosquito trap counts have doubled in recent weeks.

“The winter and spring storms have been a concern,” said Levy Sun, public information officer for Greater Los Angels County Vector Control District.

Levy said he is particularly concerned about the San Fernando Valley where a hot summer will allow the West Nile virus to replicate faster in the mosquitoes who carry it.

In Riverside County, vector experts are particularly concerned about a recently arrived invasive mosquito, Aedes aegypti, which carries yellow fever and the zika virus.

“The Aedes mosquito prefers to breed in very small amounts of water in or around homes,” said Dottie Merki, Public Information Officer with the Riverside Department of Health. “We educate (residents) to look for anywhere water is pooling such as upturned bottle caps, toys, tarps etc.”

On the front lines of this mosquito battle, Saba, 28, wears a long-sleeve shirt even though she can’t remember the last time she was bitten.

She and her team are good at what they do. In 2014, there were nine West Nile deaths in Orange County. That number dropped to eight the following year, then one last year. West Nile cases overall dropped in the county from 280 in 2014 to 36 last year.

Saba gives some of the credit to the inch-long gambusia. “That fish,” she said, “is my weapon of choice.”

The gambusias, said Vector communications specialist Patrick McCaffrey, “are saving Orange County in a big way. This is nature at work.”

Saba spends her days driving through Orange County neighborhoods, bringing with her a bucket with thousands of tiny gambusias. When she finds pools of standing water — sometimes in a public place, sometimes in a backyard – she dumps the gambusias and they start eating the mosquitoes.

Vector Control estimates there are 7,200 unfiltered or poorly maintained swimming pools in Orange County. They are called “green” pools, which is a euphemism. Really, Saba said, they’re brown or black pools. Such pools are disgusting, and when mosquitoes see them they lay eggs on the surface of the standing water. If that water moves, the larvae drown and the mosquitoes don’t reproduce. If it doesn’t move, the larvae survive.

Lately, a lot of that water hasn’t moved.

Bug detectives

Saba spent a recent morning in Orange, pouring tiny fish into two backyard fountains. The homeowner says his daughter had been bitten by a mosquito, so Saba checks the grounds very closely.

This time, the mosquitoes escape. But she’ll remember this place, and check it again soon.

Back in the lab, Krueger is talking about her concerns.

“This was the wettest winter since 2010,” Krueger said. “We’re most concerned about the Culex tarsalis (mosquito), which carries West Nile and can fly 15 miles.”

She wants Orange County residents to know what she knows. One way to track the disease is through dead birds. If you see a fresh, whole dead bird, Krueger wants you to call (714) 971-2421 ext. 117 to give a report.

Mosquitoes move the virus from birds to people.

In 2016, Krueger and her team in the lab tested more than 500 birds.

At Vector Control, they also go after fire ants, flies and rats. But none pose the same risks as mosquitoes.

The county has no programs to stop fleas, ticks or bees; there are no public agencies dedicated to eradicating spiders or snakes.

The pursuit of mosquitoes takes up 70 percent of Vector Control’s time.

“It’s a never-ending job,” Saba said



 Milford’s Mosquito Control Program Kicks Off 
 [Patch.com, 27 Apr 2017]

By Brian McCready

Mosquito control efforts early in the season can decrease the risk of human transmission of West Nile Virus (WNV).

MILFORD, CT — With the return of warmer weather and spring rain, residents can also expect the return of mosquitoes. Milford’s mosquito control program has kicked off, with All Habitat Services monitoring the wetlands habitats in Milford and treating the marshy areas throughout the City.

Next on the list are the storm drains and catch basins. The primary focus of the Milford Health Department’s program is prevention through mosquito breeding site reduction, especially in densely populated areas, and education about personal protection.

Mosquito control efforts early in the season can decrease the risk of human transmission of West Nile Virus (WNV) and other vector borne associated diseases. As mosquitoes and Zika virus continue to make headlines, it is important to note that Zika virus is spread to people through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito.

This mosquito species is not present in Connecticut and a closely related species found in low numbers in Connecticut is unlikely to present a risk of Zika virus infection to people. The CT Agricultural Experiment Station reported that there was no Zika virus activity detected in mosquitoes for 2016. Nonetheless, it is critical to remain vigilant in monitoring mosquito activity and limiting mosquito contact with humans.

“Monitoring mosquitoes and applying larvicide treatments to key breeding sites in Milford greatly reduces the number of adult mosquitoes” said Ms. Deepa Joseph, Milford’s Director of Health, “Mosquito control activities combined with taking appropriate personal prevention measures is the best way to avoid mosquito bites.”

In June, the CT Agricultural Experiment Station will begin mosquito monitoring throughout Connecticut to identify, trap and test insects for early detection of West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, as well as monitoring for Zika virus.

Mosquito trapping is conducted daily from June through October at 91 permanent locations throughout the state with two locations in Milford. “It was a warm winter with an unpredictable spring so far and we want to make sure everyone knows what they can do to minimize mosquito bites as the weather warms up,” said Mayor Benjamin Blake. The Milford Health Department advises residents to follow the 3 D’s for protection:

・DRAIN or dump any standing water that may produce mosquitoes, including in ceramic pots, used tires, tree holes and other cavities in plants.

・DRESS! Wear light colored, loose fitting clothing. When practical, wear long sleeves and pants.

・DEFEND against mosquito bites by using a mosquito repellent that has been registered by the Environmental Protection Agency, such as DEET, Picaridin, or Oil of lemon eucalyptus.

For additional prevention tips or more information, visit the Milford Health Department website at http://www.ci.milford.ct.us/environmental-health-division/pages/mosquito-control. To report unusual numbers of mosquitoes, please contact the Milford Health Department at 203-783-3287.



 Heavy rainfall prompts fears over West Nile virus 
 [Davis Enterprise, 27 Apr 2017]

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy

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WOODLAND — The heavy rainfall of the past few months may have lifted California out of the drought, but it also has produced some challenging conditions for local mosquito and vector control specialists.

Gary Goodman, district manager of the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito & Vector Control District, told Yolo County supervisors Tuesday that all that water makes for a lot more breeding ground for mosquitoes, including those that infect residents with West Nile virus.

“Driving over the bypass this morning, you saw quite a bit of water, and that will make things tougher for us,” Goodman said.

Particularly at risk are cities surrounded by agricultural areas, rice fields and flood plains that now hold a lot of water.

Mosquitoes breed in those areas, Goodman noted, then fly into nearby residential areas like Davis and Woodland, which in the past couple of years have seen the highest amount of West Nile activity in the county.

But it’s not just the large bodies of water that present challenges, he noted.

“Mosquitoes only need a tablespoon of water to breed,” he said, so even small amounts of rain water left standing in a dog dish, bucket or other small container in someone’s back yard “can impact an entire neighborhood.”

And while the vector control district sets traps throughout the district, picks them up daily and tests captured mosquitoes to see if they’re carrying West Nile or other diseases, those are mostly done in open, accessible areas.

With all the recent rain, Goodman said, “there is a tremendous amount of water creating a lot of backyard sources that are difficult for us to find.”

That means residents themselves need to play their part.

“Make sure you’re going around your yard and dumping any standing water that you have,” Goodman said.

Specific areas to check: bird baths, wading pools, flower pots — particularly dishes capturing water underneath — tire swings, gutters and pet food bowls.

West Nile virus remains the biggest concern, Goodman said, although two invasive species of mosquitoes — the Asian tiger mosquito and the yellow fever mosquito — are finding their way into California, meaning the diseases they carry, including Zika, may be as well.

So far, the only Zika cases in California have been travel-related, with residents infected while abroad visiting countries where Zika transmission has been active.

Another mosquito-borne disease of concern is dog heartworm, Goodman said.

West Nile, meanwhile, caused 19 deaths in California last year and infected at least 442 people, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that for every reported case of neuroinvasive West Nile, another 30 to 70 go unreported.

The past few years have seen a major resurgence of West Nile cases in California, Goodman said, with 801 cases in 2014 and 783 in 2015. Not since 2005 had there been more than 500 cases reported in a single year.

The drought likely played a role in the resurgence of the disease in 2014 and 2015, Goodman said, because with fewer water sources, birds and mosquitoes tended to congregate in the same places. Birds serve as the host for the disease and mosquitoes as the vectors that transmit the disease from birds to humans.

With the drought now over, Goodman said, “we’re hoping (West Nile cases) will go down,” even as heavy rainfall makes for ever more mosquito breeding grounds.

The district urges all local residents to take preventative measures against all mosquito-borne diseases, including the “seven D’s”:

・Drain standing water;
・Dawn and dusk are times to avoid being outdoors;
・Dress in long sleeves and pants when outdoors;
・Defend yourself with an effective repellent;
・Doors and screens should be in good working condition;
・District personnel are available to help.

For assistance, contact the Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito & Vector Control District at 1-800-429-1022 or visit www.FightTheBite.net.



 Officials warn public of mosquito-borne issues such as Zika, West Nile 
 [KXXV News Channel, 24 Apr 2017]

By Estephany Escobar

WACO, TX (KXXV) -

The Waco-McLennan County Public Health District warns the public to beware of mosquito-borne illnesses due to an increase in mosquito activity.

Anita Indellicate has noticed more mosquitoes in Central Texas since March. She usually wears long sleeve shirts and leggings to avoid mosquito bites. She also makes sure her children wear long pants and have on a homemade repellent before leaving the house.

According to the mother of two, mosquitoes are more than a nuisance for her children.

"We just have to be really vigilant because the bites do affect my kids but mostly my oldest one,” Indellicate said. “He was bit several times in one outing and it caused his body to swell quite badly, so we have the Epinephrine pen for him.”

Indellicate added she also worries about mosquitoes transmitting diseases, such as Zika virus.
That is a concern shared by the Waco- McLennan County Public Health District.

Environmental Health Manager David Litke said the department pays close attention to the three species of mosquitoes in the county (out of 26 species) that carry diseases, such as West Nile, Zika, Chikungunya, dengue, yellow fever and heartworm in cats and dogs.

“These viruses have been more prevalent and possibly could be brought into the county, so we have an increased concern about mosquito control because we now have those viruses potentially emerging in our area,” Litke said.

No Zika cases have been reported in McLennan County, but that is something the health district is tracking closely. Litke said the public health concern is that someone who travels to an area with Zika, brings it back while infected, and a mosquito in this area bites them and starts transmitting the disease.

To protect your family from mosquitoes, the public health district advises residents to eliminate standing water to prevent mosquito breeding sites. He said the three types of disease-carrying mosquitoes the health district tracks don’t fly long distances, so the source they came from can be between 150 feet to 450 feet.

"Any container of any type that is holding water, get rid of that. See if you can talk [neighbors] into doing the same thing, looking at their property,” Litke said.

If you can’t eliminate the water, you can use products to kill larva in stagnant water.

In addition, officials advise using repellent with ingredients like DEET to keep mosquitoes away and being aware of mosquitoes being more active at dusk and dawn. However, the Zika-carrying mosquito is a daytime biter.

If you have any symptoms of a mosquito-borne illness after getting a bite, you are advised to go to your doctor.


West Nile arrives early in North Texas, but its bite remains unclear [Fort Worth Star Telegram, 21 Apr 2017]


BY BILL HANNA

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The culex quinquefasciatus mosquito is the primary vector for the West Nile virus in North Texas. Purdue University

It’s early, but concern is growing that 2017 could be another bad year for the West Nile virus.

Tarrant County saw its earliest positive West Nile sample earlier this month in Grapevine, and the city did ground spraying on April 13.

It was the earliest positive pool since testing began following the 2012 West Nile outbreak. Last year’s first positive Tarrant County sample occurred May 6 in Arlington.

But early samples do not neccesarily translate into a lengthy West Nile season.

“It’s difficult to predict how the season is going to turn out this early,” said Anita Kurian, associate director at Tarrant County Public Health.

There are a number factors that come into play.

Only one mosquito pool has tested positive in Tarrant County and it was a culex restuans mosquito, which can overwinter in Texas. The primary vector for West Nile transmission to humans in Texas comes from the culex quinquefasciatus.

“We’re are cautiously optimistic because we haven’t seen a positive in the Culex quinqs,” Kurian said.

But Joon Lee, an associate professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, said the early positive sample is a cause for concern. With the help of his students, he traps and tests for West Nile at 62 locations across Fort Worth.

“Detection of West Nile virus in the mosquito population in April indicates that a sizable amount of the virus transmission has already started in bird populations and the virus transmission to humans will start early,” said Lee. “Thus, it is reasonable to expect that there will be more human West Nile virus cases.”

Rain a factor

Weather conditions can play an important role.

The right kind of rainfall can help wash away mosquito pools while hot, dry weather can help fuel mosquito breeding.

“If you have heavy rainfall that goes on for days, it’s a good natural way of preventing large mosquito pools,” Kurian said. “But if you have a small amount of precipitation that’s not prolonged over a long period of time, you can have standing water that helps mosquitoes breed more easily.”

Officials are hoping to avoid a repeat of 2012 when Texas led the nation for the year with 1,868 West Nile cases, including 89 deaths. That year, Tarrant County saw 280 cases and 11 deaths.

Last year, Tarrant County had two West Nile deaths. There were 44 human cases. 28 cases were the more serious neuroinvasive, plus 16 that were West Nile fever.

A Tarrant County death in January also was connected to West Nile. Gary Curtiss Copeland of Keller, 71, died three months after being bitten by a mosquito. His cause of death was bacterial pneumonia, with West Nile virus as an underlying cause, according to his death certificate.
Dallas County is preparing for the possibility of another difficult year.

Ground spraying has already taken place in two Mesquite ZIP codes and one Balch Springs ZIP code after mosquito traps tested positive for West Nile. Last year, Dallas County had 61 West Nile cases and three deaths.

Worried about Zika

Zachary Thompson, Dallas County Health and Human Services director, is just as concerned about the Zika virus. While many think it is unlikely to get established in North Texas, Thompson said there is still much to be learned.

Six locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus were found in Cameron County last year near the
Texas-Mexico border. More than 260 cases have been reported in South Florida, according to the Miami Herald.

“The lesson learned from Cameron County and Florida is if you do find one localized transmission, there’s going to be other local Zika cases, too,” Thompson said.

While many humans who contract the Zika virus show no symptoms, it can be devastating for pregnant women.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released earlier this month said 1 in 10 pregnant women in the U.S. who were confirmed to have Zika last year had a fetus or baby with a brain abnormality or other neurological disorder.

The Texas Department of State Health Service issued a health alert in early April that recommends all pregnant residents of Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, Webb, Willacy and Zapata counties be tested in both the first and second trimesters of pregnancy.

Testing is also recommended for any residents from those counties who have a rash and any of the other common Zika symptoms, fever, joint pain or eye redness.

Zika is carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can also transmit dengue fever. Health officials hope dengue provides a roadmap for how Zika will act in Texas.

This year, Tarrant County will be trapping for aedes aegypti to monitor the prevalence and numbers, but not testing for Zika unless officials start seeing local transmission.

There has been local transmission of dengue fever in South Texas but only isolated cases in the rest of the state.

So far, Tarrant County has had 27 travel-related cases of Zika, but no local transmission has been reported.

Protecting against West Nile

[新月] Wear long sleeves and pants.
[新月] Use EPA-approved insect repellent.
[新月] Dump standing water.
[新月] Keep vegetation trimmed.

Joon Lee.jpg
Dr. Joon Lee holds a mosquito trap (with mosquitoes inside) in his lab in a 2014 file photo. Paul Moseley pmoseley@star-telegram.com

West Nile shows up earlier than usual in Dallas County this year [FOX 4 News, 15 Apr 2017]

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Mosquito samples tested positive for West Nile virus earlier than usual in Dallas County this year.

The mosquito traps were collected by Dallas County Health and Human Services in the 75108 zip code of Balch Springs and the 75149 and 75150 zip codes of Mesquite.

Zoonotic Bird Flu News - from 14 till 24 Apr 2017




 Avian flu restrictions at Cotswold Wildlife Park gave the birds another type of fever... the love bug! 
 [Bicester Advertiser, 24 Apr 2017]

by Pete Hughes

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LONG periods in close confinement can have strange effects on people, and, in the case of the birds at Cotswold Wildlife Park, the results were rather surprising.

Park keepers were forced to lock up hundreds of tropical and exotic birds in December under nationwide avian flu precautions issued by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

That meant Cotswold Wildlife Park, like farmers in Oxfordshire and across the county, had to keep all birds indoors until further notice.

When the restrictions were finally lifted this month park keepers started unlocking cages only to discover the long period in close quarters had seemingly created a romantic mood, and several species had begun breeding.

As a result the Bird Walkthrough at Cotswold's Walled Garden, home to the scarlet ibis, Bali starlings and others will remain closed until further notice.

Curator Jamie Craig explained: "Following the news from Defra that avian influenza restrictions have now been lifted, the tropical house and lake area are once again open to visitors. We remain vigilant and are prepared to take action should the situation change.

"The Bird Walkthrough in the Walled Garden remains closed as several bird species started to breed during the time of the recent restrictions. As not to disturb the breeding birds at this delicate stage, the enclosure is currently closed but is fully visible to visitors."

The avian flu restrictions came in after the disease was detected in more than 5,000 birds on a poultry farm near Louth in Lincolnshire.

It was the first confirmed case in Britain of the highly pathogenic H5N8 strain, which had already been circulating in countries across Europe, from Poland to France.

DEFRA announced on April 11 that all poultry was to be once again allowed out as of the 13th

UK chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens said that while the H5N8 strain of bird flu which caused more than 1,000 outbreaks across Europe over winter may remain in the environment, the danger of cross-contamination had subsided.

A ban on gatherings of poultry, such as pure breed showings, remains in place until further notice.

It's especially good timing for Cotswold Wildlife Park as the the new came just in time to celebrate World Penguin Day.



 What not to catch this fishing season: The avian influenza virus 
 [Timesonline.com, 24 Apr 2017]

By Capri Stiles-Mikesell

Fishing season! That time of the year when you put on your rubber boots, grab your fishing pole and head out to the nearest stream, river, lake or pond in the hopes of “bagging the big one.” Anglers across the state are hoping to get the catch of the day.

This year, you may not want catch the “big one.”

Sure, you want to catch the biggest fish, but there is another “big one” you do not want to bring home: the avian influenza virus.

You may be asking yourself, what do fishing and avian flu have in common? The answer: More than you ever suspected.

Numerous wild waterfowl across the United States, including birds in Pennsylvania, have tested positive for low path avian influenza and in a few cases, including Tennessee, high path avian influenza. It is also important to note that low path can quickly shift or drift to high path under spring weather conditions. The two recent outbreaks in Lincoln County, Tenn., likely originated in waterfowl migrating through the mid-Atlantic flyway.

Anglers need to be vigilant about their role in containing the virus. The avian flu virus can remain contagious in cold water for up to three weeks. High levels of the virus thrive in organic matter such as droppings from migrating ducks and geese. The spread of the disease from wild waterfowl to domesticated poultry flocks is believed to occur most often when fecal matter and mud collect in the soles of boots and shoes worn by anglers.

These contaminated boots act as a vector, carrying the virus from one area to another. People who visit waterways for fishing or recreation can help prevent transmission of the avian influenza virus by changing their boots or shoes before leaving these areas and washing their vehicles as quickly as possible.

Here are some ideas you can implement to help prevent accidentally transmitting the disease to your flock or someone else’s flock.

Best prevention measures

Have two pairs of boots -- one for fishing or walking near waterways or in fields where wild waterfowl have inhabited and one pair of boots or shoes for doing barn chores and other farming activities.

Run your truck or vehicle through a car wash before returning to the farm. Scrubbing the tire tread, mud flaps, fender wells and pockets where mud collects is essential.

Moderate prevention measures

Scrub the boots or shoes with a stiff brush, removing all debris. Spray clean boots with sanitizer and wait as long as you can before wearing them around the farm.

Pay careful attention to runoff when you wash your vehicle and avoid walking near your driveway when you are on your way to feed your birds.

Note: Using spray sanitizer only does not kill the virus. Sanitizer rarely penetrates into the caked mud enough to destroy the virus.

If you own birds, you need to ask everyone who visits your farm a few important questions:

Have you been fishing or golfing in the last 24 hours?

Have you visited any areas where waterfowl are known to stop?

Could you please keep your vehicle at the end of the lane?

You need to assume that any visitors could potentially be carrying the disease. Wild waterfowl have been known to inhabit parks, golf courses and backyards. The ability of the avian influenza virus to live over a period of weeks makes it very difficult to contain.

The take-home message here is “bag the big one" -- the big fish and the potential avian influenza virus. Put your fishing boots in a plastic bag after scrubbing them, and ask visitors to your farm to wear plastic bags or boots as soon as they leave their vehicle.

For more information on how you can prevent avian influenza, Google “Penn State poultry.” If you believe your birds are sick, call the state veterinarians at 717-772-2852 to help you identify what you are dealing with.

Capri Stiles-Mikesell is a biosecurity educator for Blair County Penn State Cooperative Extension. 4-H Grows Here is a monthly column that will profile local 4-H Club members and events.



 Iran reports H5N1 bird flu outbreak in northern part of country: OIE 
 [Reuters, 24 Apr 2017]


Iran has reported an outbreak of the highly contagious H5N1 bird flu virus in backyard ducks in the northern part of the country, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said on Monday, citing a report from the Iranian agriculture ministry.

The outbreaks killed 10 birds out of a total of nearly 230 in a house in Mahmoodabad on the coast of the Caspian Sea, the OIE said in a report posted on its website. All other animals were destroyed.

Last year Iran had reported outbreaks of another highly contagious bird flu virus, the H5N8.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide, editing by Louise Heavens)



 As Bird Flu Strengthens In China, Midwest Farmers Prepare For The Next Outbreak 
 [KCUR, 24 Apr 2017]


By GRANT GERLOCK

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A stop sign at the edge of a Nebraska poultry farm serves as a biosecurity checkpoint.
GRANT GERLOCK / HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIA

Midwest farmers are warily watching as one strain of a highly contagious bird flu virus infects and kills humans in China and another less-worrying but still highly contagious strain infects a Tennessee poultry farm. Two years after a devastating bird flu outbreak in the Midwest, many farmers here say they now have a better idea of how to keep bird flu at bay.

In January 2015, avian influenza, or bird flu, appeared in backyard flocks in Washington state. Within six months, the virus reached 15 states, including Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Missouri. About 50 million birds died.

Bill Bevans says each day on his farm near Waverly in eastern Nebraska started with a pit in his stomach.

“Kind of the feeling of living under a shadow of potential doom,” Bevans says, of watching the news during the 2015 outbreak. “Every time you open the door to your barn you take a sigh of relief when everybody’s still happy and healthy.”

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Farmer Bill Bevans raises nearly a million chickens and turkeys on his farm each year.
CREDIT GRANT GERLOCK / HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIA

Bird flu never did bring doom to Bevans’ farm and this time he feels confident his flock of nearly a million chickens and turkeys each year is safe. On a gravel road outside a long, steel turkey barn, Bevans shows off new biosecurity measures, the rules meant to keep the birds healthy. The first layer of protection: keep uninvited visitors and uninvited germs off the farm.

“First thing you see is the stop sign,” Bevans says. “That just lets them know that we’d prefer if they stay back.”

Joan Schrader, Bevan’s sister and the farm veterinarian, says each barn has a second layer of protection: a bench and containers of chlorine powder blocking the entryway, reminding workers to stop, change their boots and disinfect them before they go in and before they go out.

“That way you create a little island of that house and that flock by doing the boot change and the disinfectant going in and out of the house,” Schrader says.

Those kinds of biosecurity measures are not necessarily new, but on poultry farms throughout the Midwest they have taken on new significance in the wake of the 2015 outbreak. Roger Dudley, who tracks livestock disease as the animal epidemiologist for the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, says biosecurity in 2015 was on many farms often overlooked and flawed.

Now, Dudley says, feed trucks are often sprayed down with disinfectant when they arrive at the farm, workers are forced to change boots and some have to shower and change clothes before they go in.

“Biosecurity has to be everybody,” Dudley says. “It’s the feed truck drivers, the rodent control guys that show up. Everybody has to be involved in biosecurity in order to make it work.

At the same time, state and federal scientists test birds to monitor for illness, both at slaughter and on the farm. If the results show highly pathogenic avian influenza, the response is immediate: both the sick and healthy birds on the farm are euthanized. During the outbreak in 2015, farmers complained about how long it took federal officials to give farmers approval to eliminate their flocks.

“One of the real lessons learned from 2014-2015 is the quicker you can put the birds down the less likely it is to spread,” Dudley says.

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Joan Schrader, the veterinarian on the farm, sits on a bench that creates a staging area for workers to disinfect their boots.
CREDIT GRANT GERLOCK / HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIA

While drastic, Dudley and other state regulators say it is necessary to stop the disease from infecting more birds, and to preserve the safety of the human population. Recent outbreaks of avian influenza have not spread from birds to humans in the U.S. But in China, a strain of bird flu has reportedly killed at least 162 people since September.

Tom Safranek, state epidemiologist at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, says animals are often sold alive in traditional markets in China, making people in those areas vulnerable. When livestock and people mix, so do viruses.

“It's a perfect laboratory for co-mingling viruses and co-infection, be it a pig, a bird, or a human,” Safranek says.

The strains of bird flu found in the U.S. thus far in 2017 are a low risk to humans, but people can carry disease across the globe. Migrating birds leapfrogging the continents can also carry diseases. Precautions aimed at protecting chickens are aimed also at preserving public health.

Nebraska farmer Bill Bevans says he will keep his guard up in Nebraska, which means there is less traffic on his farm than there used to be.

“We used to meet salespeople, visitors,” Bevans says. “We’d walk them into the barn. We’d take pictures, you know. That just doesn’t even happen. No one even asks anymore.”



 Deadly new bird flu strain could lead to devastating pandemic [Inhabitat, 21 Apr 2017]

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by Lacy Cooke

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You probably haven’t thought about the bird flu in a couple of years, unless you’re a virologist, but a new strain that resurfaced in China has the potential to be pandemic. The H7N9 virus only caused mild illness in poultry until recently, but a genetic change means the new strain is deadly for birds. Now, H7N9 has led to more human deaths this season than any other season since it was detected in people four years ago.

Between September and March 1, 162 people perished from H7N9. Human cases have increased since December, with reports from eight different provinces in China. Hong Kong University research lab director Guan Yi told NPR, “We’re trying our best, but we still can’t control this virus. It’s too late for us to eradicate it.”

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) called for increased surveillance. FAO animal health officer Sophie Von Dobschuetz said China has started intensified observation while the FAO Beijing office has been providing recommendations for the country’s ministry of agriculture. As with past avian flu strains, patients said they were exposed to infected birds or went to live bird markets.

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Guan is concerned with how rapidly the H7N9 strain is evolving. He said ten years ago chickens were barely affected by the strain, but his lab’s research revealed the new strain can kill every chicken in his lab in 24 hours. There isn’t evidence the new strain will be deadlier in people, but when people do catch the virus from birds over one third of them perish. Guan said China’s government is already investigating vaccinating chickens.

“Today, science is more advanced, we have vaccines and it’s easy to diagnose. On the other hand, it now takes hours to spread new viruses all over the world,” Guan told NPR. “I think this virus poses the greatest threat to humanity than any other in the past 100 years.”

Via SciDev.net and NPR

Images via CDC Global on Flickr and M M on Flickr



 Congress, WHO sound the alarm over pandemic avian flu in China [Washington Times, 21 Apr 2017]

By Tom Howell Jr

House GOP chairman says cases underscore need for domestic plan

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In this Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014, file photo, health workers in full protective gear collect dead chickens killed by using carbon dioxide, after bird flu was found in some birds at a wholesale poultry market in Hong Kong. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, file)

House Republicans sounded the alarm Friday over an avian flu threat that’s escalating in China, saying it underscores the need to finish and vet an overdue plan for responding to pandemic flu at home.

The H7N9 avian influenza virus mainly affects people who’ve been exposed to live poultry. It’s infected nearly 1,000 people in Asia and had a 40-percent fatality rate since its discovery in 2013, though the latest spurt of cases has been worse than previous ones, according to the World Health Organization.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, Oregon Republican, and Rep. Tim Murphy, Pennsylvania Republican, say it is more important than ever to have a solid response plan in case the virus or other types of pandemic flu reach the U.S.

Last year, the Obama administration told Congress it was updating a decade-old plan to incorporate lessons from the U.S.’s brush with the H1N1 pandemic in 2009. The Health and Human Services Department told lawmakers it would release the document before the end of last year, but there’s still no plan.

“The need for the updated Pandemic Influenza Plan is vital as there is a current potential pandemic threat,” Mr. Walden and Mr. Murphy said in a letter to HHS Secretary Tom Price.

They cited an expert who said that H7N9 poses the largest pandemic threat in the last 100 years, raising the specter of yet another global health scare after recent outbreaks of Ebola in West Africa and the mosquito-borne Zika virus in the Americas.



 China's H7N9 cases spike, led by infections in Beijing
 [CIDRAP, 21 Apr 2017]

by Lisa Schnirring

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josephbergen / Flickr cc

After several weeks of declining H7N9 avian influenza activity, China's cases are rising again, partly related to a recent spurt of local infections in Beijing, an area that usually doesn't see many cases and is located north of the main hot spots.

Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection (CHP), citing mainland health officials, said today that 27 more cases, 7 of them fatal, were reported from Apr 14 to Apr 20. Seven of them are in Beijing. Cases peaked in January and February, but over the past few weeks, new infections had declined to about 15 a week.

New cases in 10 provinces
Of the latest patients, 21 had known exposure to poultry, poultry markets, or market stalls. Ages range from 34 to 79, and 16 are men and 11 are women.

China is still in the fifth and largest H7N9 wave, and patients are from a much wider geographic range, as has been the recent pattern. The latest cases include residents from Beijing and 10 provinces.

Beijing sees late-season spike

Until a few weeks ago, Beijing had reported only three H7N9 cases, all imported from other provinces. Since then, its cases have soared to 13, mostly due to infections contracted after exposure to live poultry. The cases include a two-person cluster, and both patients had a common exposure history.

A statement yesterday from the Beijing Center for Disease Control, translated and posted by Avian Flu Diary, an infectious disease news blog, addressed the city's recent uptick. It said 7 of the 13 cases during this wave are local and 6 were imported.

All of the local case-patients had live-poultry or poultry-market exposure, three of them having contact with dead poultry. Another change during this wave of H7N9 activity has been the detection of a highly pathogenic form of H7N9 in poultry in some parts of China; it's unclear if high-path H7N9 has been found in Beijing poultry.

China has now reported at least 639 cases in the unprecedented fifth H7N9 wave, at least 186 of them fatal.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday in an update that since 2013 when the virus was first detected in humans, it has received reports of 1,393 cases. The update didn't include the cases noted by the CHP today.



 CHP notified of human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) in Mainland 
 [CHP statement, 21 Apr 2017]


The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (April 21) received notification from the National Health and Family Planning Commission that 27 additional human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9), including seven deaths, were recorded from April 14 to 20, and strongly urged the public to maintain strict personal, food and environmental hygiene both locally and during travel.

The 16 male and 11 female patients, aged from 34 to 79, had onset from March 22 to April 18, of whom seven were from Beijing, five from Hunan, three each from Hebei and Sichuan, two each from Shandong and Zhejiang, and one each from Anhui, Gansu, Guangxi, Jiangxi and Liaoning. Among them, 21 were known to have exposure to poultry, poultry markets or mobile stalls.

Travellers to the Mainland or other affected areas must avoid visiting wet markets, live poultry markets or farms. They should be alert to the presence of backyard poultry when visiting relatives and friends. They should also avoid purchase of live or freshly slaughtered poultry, and avoid touching poultry/birds or their droppings. They should strictly observe personal and hand hygiene when visiting any place with live poultry.

Travellers returning from affected areas should consult a doctor promptly if symptoms develop, and inform the doctor of their travel history for prompt diagnosis and treatment of potential diseases. It is essential to tell the doctor if they have seen any live poultry during travel, which may imply possible exposure to contaminated environments. This will enable the doctor to assess the possibility of avian influenza and arrange necessary investigations and appropriate treatment in a timely manner.

While local surveillance, prevention and control measures are in place, the CHP will remain vigilant and work closely with the World Health Organization and relevant health authorities to monitor the latest developments.

The CHP's Port Health Office conducts health surveillance measures at all boundary control points. Thermal imaging systems are in place for body temperature checks on inbound travellers. Suspected cases will be immediately referred to public hospitals for follow-up.

The display of posters and broadcasting of health messages in departure and arrival halls as health education for travellers is under way. The travel industry and other stakeholders are regularly updated on the latest information.

The public should maintain strict personal, hand, food and environmental hygiene and take heed of the advice below while handling poultry:

・Avoid touching poultry, birds, animals or their droppings;

・When buying live chickens, do not touch them and their droppings. Do not blow at their bottoms. Wash eggs with detergent if soiled with faecal matter and cook and consume them immediately. Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling chickens and eggs;

・Eggs should be cooked well until the white and yolk become firm. Do not eat raw eggs or dip cooked food into any sauce with raw eggs. Poultry should be cooked thoroughly. If there is pinkish juice running from the cooked poultry or the middle part of its bone is still red, the poultry should be cooked again until fully done;

・Wash hands frequently, especially before touching the mouth, nose or eyes, before handling food or eating, and after going to the toilet, touching public installations or equipment such as escalator handrails, elevator control panels or door knobs, or when hands are dirtied by respiratory secretions after coughing or sneezing; and

・Wear a mask if fever or respiratory symptoms develop, when going to a hospital or clinic, or while taking care of patients with fever or respiratory symptoms.

The public may visit the CHP's pages for more information: the avian influenza page, the weekly Avian Influenza Report, global statistics and affected areas of avian influenza, the Facebook Page and the YouTube Channel.




 Beijing CDC - Three More Locally Acquired H7N9 Cases 
 [Avian Flu Diary, 20 Apr 2017]

FAO Fifth Wave Map.jpg
 Credit FAO - North South Dividing Line Added

Up until a few weeks ago Beijing had been largely exempt from H7N9 - reporting only 9 cases over the first four epidemic waves - with most of those imported from neighboring provinces.

As the (slightly edited) FAO map above illustrates, H7N9 has only rarely been reported above the 38th parallel, leaving the residents (and ruling elite) in Beijing feeling safely removed from what has been largely viewed as a `Southern' problem in China.

Less than 3 weeks ago (April 1st), Beijing was reporting just 2 cases for this 5th epidemic wave, both imported (from Hebei & Liaonging Provinces).


As of two days ago, that number had abruptly jumped to 10, with 6 imported cases, and 4 locally acquired infections (see Beijing CDC - Now Reporting 10 H7N9 Cases In 5th Epidemic Wave).

Today, Beijing's CDC has announced three more locally acquired cases, all reportedly with recent contact with poultry.

Focusing on the prevention of H7N9 protection, do not panic

Published: 2017-04-20
Source: Advocacy Center - CDC

Yesterday the city has added one case of H7N9 cases. Up to now, since January 2017, the city reported a total of 13 cases of H7N9 cases, including seven cases to local cases, six cases of imported cases. Were found in seven cases of local patients live or live bird market exposure history (3 patients had history of exposure to birds died), wherein ago, five cases of live poultry from later onset cases of the street vendors, the final two cases of live poultry in the survey source still lookup.

H7N9 virus in our country belong to B infectious diseases, according to the WHO announcement, there is no evidence that the H7N9 virus sustainable interpersonal communication, the public need not panic, prevention of H7N9, the most important thing is to reduce exposure, good personal protection, to develop good health habits. The Beijing Center for Disease Control to remind you:

1, to avoid contact with livestock, poultry found dead not to be thrown away, disposed of, must promptly report animal diseases department;

2, do not buy itinerant traders, farmers' markets and fairs of live poultry; poultry slaughter attention away from the scene, not to eat the meat of sick or dead poultry;

3, buy chilled poultry regular production from the formal channels, poultry eggs for eating fully cooked fully cooked, and pay attention to separate raw and cooked; after proper preparation and cooking of meat is safe, safe to eat;

4, poultry farmers such as fever should be timely treatment, and inform the history of exposure to poultry doctors, help doctors diagnose ;

5, when coughing or sneezing, use surgical masks, paper towels or a cuff or bend the elbow to cover your mouth and nose; the used tissues immediately thrown into a closed trash; wash their hands immediately after contact with respiratory secretions;

6, diligence hands, pay attention to personal hygiene, especially after handling raw meat, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water; reasonable diet, to ensure adequate nutrition and sleep; pay attention to timely change clothes. There are underlying diseases of the elderly and children not to live bird markets.

7, do not believe rumors about the epidemic, the epidemic-related information, please visit the Beijing Municipal Center for Disease Control and Prevention official micro-blog, micro-channel and official website.

Sharon Sanders of FluTrackers also posted this report, along with two notices from Beijing's Ministry of Agriculture on the investigation of local markets, and a recent H7N9 drill held in the region.

This 5th H7N9 epidemic wave has been notable for several reasons:

・An unprecedented spike in human infections, nearly doubling in the past 6 months the largest previous yearly tally of cases.

・The emergence of a new lineage (Yangtze River Delta) of the virus, which has spread rapidly, and has shown subtle changes in behavior (see Eurosurveillance: Preliminary Epidemiology & Analysis Of Jiangsu's 5th H7N9 Wave)

・The emergence of an HPAI version of H7N9, which also has the ability to infect humans.

・The geographic expansion of the virus to regions where it has either never (Sichuan, Tibet, Gansu, Yunnan, Chongqing, Macao) or only rarely (Beijing, Liaonging, Guizhou) been reported before.

While none of these can be viewed as favorable signs, this year's expansion of the virus both north and west adds to the concerns that this virus is becoming more mobile, and could eventually move beyond China's borders (see China's Nervous Neighbors).

Beyond the fact that H7N9 has breached the Capital, the continual spread and evolution of this virus (or more properly, these H7N9 viruses) provides fresh opportunities for the virus to change and adapt going forward.


Two months after Beijing Ordered The Closure Of Live Bird Markets To Control H7N9 - instead of stalling out as in years past - this year's epidemic continues to hang on. And as an added twist, has recently started turning up in new - previously unaffected - regions.



 Beijing Reports 10 H7N9 Cases This Year [The Poultry Site, 19 Apr 2017]

CHINA - Beijing has reported 10 human H7N9 avian flu cases in 2017 so far, according to the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control on Tuesday.

The latest two cases were reported on 5 April. The two patients had contact with live poultry.

One of them died of the infection on 8 April after treatment failed. The other is still being treated in a hospital and is in stable condition.

Beijing has launched environmental monitoring in six districts involved in agriculture.

H7N9 is a bird flu strain first reported to have infected humans in China in March 2013. Infections are most likely to occur in winter and spring.

Disease control and prevention experts have said that the H7N9 virus was not transmitted from person to person.

Experts recommend that people avoid contact with dead and live poultry, and only buy poultry with quarantine certificates.



 Georgia, UGA farmers take preventative measures after avian flu outbreak [Red and Black, 19 Apr 2017]

by Erin Schilling

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Devon L. Tucker The UGA Poultry Science building uses typical process to provide poultry for the state. Georgia ranks as one of the top states pf poultry production. (Photo/Devon L. Tucker)

Jessica Fife, program coordinator for the poultry science department at the University of Georgia, usually takes students from organizations like 4-H and Future Farmers of America to tour the poultry research farm on Milledge Avenue.

However, ever since the outbreak of avian influenza in of March, the farm has been shut down to visitors.

Fife said at the end of last week she was given the green light to start the tours again, but the department set this precaution because of how widely contagious avian flu is for poultry.

“Since these are research birds, there’s a lot of research money and things like that on the line,” Fife said. “We had to take some drastic precautions just to be on the safe side, since the case in Chattooga County.”

Avian flu is a virus with varying strengths that comes from wild bird populations and can easily infect poultry, according to the Georgia Department of Agriculture. The first Georgia case was found during a routine check on a commercial flock in Chattooga County and was confirmed on March 27.

The virus does not affect humans nor will it affect the food supply, according to a GDA press.

The virus found was low pathogenic, or LPAI, meaning the chickens showed no signs of illness.

Despite this, UGA poultry science professor and extension coordinator Bruce Webster said it’s routine to “stamp out” the flock, regardless of the strength of the virus.

“It seems like a bit of an extreme measure to take, but it’s really for the safety of the poultry industry and backyard flocks in the states,” Webster said. “The intent is to stop the manufacture of the virus and remove from circulation the litter, eggs or whatever else may have been affected by the flock.”

The poultry industry is the largest agricultural industry in the state, bringing in $25.9 billion for the Georgia economy, according to the GDA.

Fife said if Georgia was competing as a country for poultry production, it would rank No. 5 in the world.

Avian flu has a huge economic impact, Webster said, specifically in regards to foreign trade.

The U.S. is a member of the World Organization for Animal Health, which monitors foreign animal diseases in international trade, and members of the organization are required to report these diseases to the organization, Webster said.

The U.S. reported a high-pathogenic case in Tennessee on March 5 where 73,500 birds had to be depopulated, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture press release.

Because of this case, South Korea stopped importing poultry from the U.S., Webster said.

“Other countries will restrict imports from the state,” Webster said. “The worse the outbreak we have, if it spread across the southeast, then the implications for foreign trade greatly increase.”

These potential economic losses is one of the reasons that Georgia has such “a highly developed response plan,” Webster said.

Webster said the Tennessee case appeared to have mutated from a low-pathogenic strain, which is why the poultry industry takes no chances, eliminating the entire flock no matter the strain’s strength.

After a case of avian flu, it’s customary to set up surveillance areas, usually around six miles from the infected flock, to monitor the spread, Webster said.

At the end of March the GDA also suspended poultry assemblies such as exhibits, festivals, flea markets and more to limit contamination among flocks.

“Anything you might need to control an outbreak is available,” Webster said. “It’s known to be available, contracts have been put in place.”

Webster said Georgia started responding to the chance of avian flu after the Tennessee outbreak, which allowed them to quickly tackle the case in Chattooga.

“You might say there was a great effect on the state to ensure there was a minimal effect on the state,” Webster said.

Webster said that commercial flocks are routinely checked for the virus before being sent to stores.

After a 2015 avian flu outbreak where 15 million birds were destroyed in the midwest, UGA began increasing their extension efforts to increase awareness around the state for the flu, Webster said.

Poultry owners are encouraged to disinfect equipment and lock chickens up in coops so they don’t come in contact with wild birds and contract the disease, the poultry site said.

The site also said that “this fall highly-pathogenic avian influenza virus is expected to be brought to the Southeast by migratory waterfowl traveling the Atlantic flyway.”

For now, though, Webster said since it’s getting warmer, the cases shouldn’t continue spreading throughout the state because the virus doesn’t survive well in temperatures above 65 degrees Fahrenheit.



 FCT laments loss of 1.5m birds to avian flu influenza [NIGERIAN TRIBUNE (press release) (blog), 19 Apr 2017]

FCT laments loss .jpg


THE Agriculture and Rural Development Division of the Federal Capital Territory Administration has revealed that it has lost of over 1.5 million birds to avian influenza.

Acting Secretary, Agriculture and Rural Development of the FCT, Dr. Musa Aliyu, who made this known in Abuja, said in January, 2016, the agriculture secretariat was hit by an outbreak of the deadly avian flu influenza.

He said: “In January, 2016, the agriculture secretariat was hit by an outbreak of the deadly avian flu influenza. The disease later spread to many parts of the FCT, leading to the death of over 1.5 million birds.”

As part of the measures to prevent further attacks, he added that the administration carried out the vaccination of over 20,000 livestock and birds across the six area councils of the territory.

The administration had also earmarked an estimated 274,000 hectares of land for the development of agriculture to boost food production and reduce the prices of foodstuffs in the area.

Aliyu explained that the disease could have caused more damage if the FCT Minister, Mallam Muhammad Musa Bello had not intervened.

According to him: “The administration has started an emergency sensitisation campaign against avian flu to educate and enlighten farmers, residents and other stakeholders on the prevention of further outbreak.

“The workshops were held at the FCT’s six Area Councils for poultry farmers, farm workers, veterinary officials and other stakeholders. The veterinary officials of the secretariat have routinely visited the affected farms to ascertain the level of disease’s outbreak, while farms and markets were fumigated to guard against the spread.”

He urged farmers to take advantage of the 274,000 hectares of land provided by government to enable them to key into the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s Anchor Borrowers’ Scheme.



 Four provinces in Vietnam infected with bird flu [VietNamNet Bridge, 19 Apr 2017]

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A veterinary staff sprays disinfectant on ducks to prevent bird flu infection.

Four provinces in Viet Nam have reported six outbreaks of bird flu, according to the Department of Animal Health.

The provinces affected are Vinh Long, Dak Lak, Quang Ninh and Thua Thien-Hue.

An outbreak was detected in the southern province of Vinh Long on Saturday at a household in Binh Tan District’s My Thuan Commune which affected 300 chicken.

More than 3,000 chicken also tested positive for A/H5N1and were disposed of at a farm in the province’s Binh Minh Town.

In the northern province of Quang Ninh, 320 poultry were reported to have fallen ill and died in the past four days. The number of poultry culled was 670.

Two farms in the central province of Thua Thien - Hue's Phu Loc District lost 6,500 ducks due to infection, while the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak recorded 43 infected poultry.

The animal health department said the country now faces a high risk of a bird flu epidemic.

A number of avian flu types that haven’t been found in Viet Nam such as A/H7N9 and A/H5N2 could enter the country via trading poultry with unclear origin, particularly in northern provinces bordering China, it said.

The department asked localities to be active in bird flu prevention and strictly deal with poultry smuggling.

It was necessary for localities to supervise poultry to detect bird flu outbreaks and tackle them promptly.

Last week, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development launched a National Monitoring Programme for avian flu to prevent the spread of the virus.

The programme emphasises early detection to enable early warnings about the virus entering Viet Nam.

It is also expected to help build virus-free zones and facilities to diminish the risk of virus transmission to human beings, foster sustainable growth of poultry and promote exports of poultry products.

Under the programme, regular sample checks will be conducted at all live poultry markets in provinces where poultry farming is a key industry, and in border provinces.

Monitoring activities and sampling will also be conducted on wild birds and farming of wild birds.

All provinces and companies with poultry production and export chains, as well as farms under the management of the central Government or local authorities, are subject to regular monitoring.

The programme will help improve the capacity of monitoring bodies by organising training activities for staff at seven regional veterinary agencies and 63 city or provincial departments of husbandry and veterinary, as well as all veterinary laboratories which conduct avian flu tests.



 Nations pare back avian flu efforts, but tough new steps in France [CIDRAP, 18 Apr 2017]


by Lisa Schnirring

angry_goose-castgen.jpg
Copyright www.flickr.com/photos/castgen/7306896928/in/photostr

Some countries hit by avian flu outbreaks over the winter are scaling back some of their response measures as the pace of new outbreaks eases, but farmers in France's southwestern foie gras production were ordered to cull their birds and halt production for 6 weeks in an aggressive new control step.

France's foie gras industry has been hit hard by outbreaks 2 years in a row and has battled the highly pathogenic H5N8 strain reported by several European countries, plus some in the Middle East and Africa. France has also battled four other low-pathogenic strains: H5N2, H5N1, H5N3, and H5N9.

Easing restrictions in some countries

South Korea is stepping down its avian flu alert by one category from the highest level effective tomorrow, Reuters reported today, citing the country's agriculture ministry.

Officials said the country experienced its worst-ever avian flu season, which began in November and led to the culling of 37 million poultry. No new outbreaks have been reported since Apr 4.

The outbreaks in South Korea this season were marked by highly pathogenic H5N8 as well its first appearance of highly pathogenic H5N6.

Meanwhile, Japan said in an update to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) today that it lifted movement and shipment restrictions on poultry from Miyagi and Chiba prefectures, since culling has been completed and 21 days have passed with no new H5N6 outbreaks.

In a separate report to the OIE today, Japan detailed 168 H5N6 detections in wild birds found dead across a wide portion of the country from Nov 18 to Mar 8. Testing confirmed the virus in birds from 26 different species, though swans were hardest hit.

Elsewhere, the UK Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced on Apr 10 that, as of Apr 13, poultry in high-risk areas will be able to be kept outside again. Earlier this season, officials ordered the poultry be housed indoors or in netting to protect them from wild birds carrying avian flu viruses.

DEFRA said, however, that poultry workers must still follow strict biosecurity measures and that a ban on poultry gatherings remains in place.

New tough measures in France

The French government told about 2,000 farms in the southwestern part of the country that they must stop foie gras production for 6 weeks and destroy all the birds to halt the spread of H5N8, the The Times of London reported today, noting that about 3.2 million ducks and geese will be killed because they are infected or as a preventive step.

Called the "sanitary vacuum" plan, farmers must also disinfect their buildings and leave them empty until the end of May.

Similar outbreaks in the same region last year led to a 2-week production hiatus at 4,000 farms and prompted a 60% drop in revenue. Producers warn that this year's losses will be even greater.

New outbreaks in Europe

Though the pace of new outbreaks has slowed considerably, countries continue to report more outbreaks, according to other OIE reports. France reported three new low-pathogenic H5N3 outbreaks from two departments in the already-affected southwest. The virus was detected in late March on tests done in advance of the lifting of movement or surveillance zones.

Also, Romania reported two more highly pathogenic H5N8 detections in wild birds. Both involved waterfowl found dead on Apr 12 in Bucharest, the country's capital.



 Human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus – China 
 [World Health Organization, 18 Apr 2017]

On 7 April 2017, the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China (NHFPC) notified WHO of 14 additional laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus in mainland China.

Details of the cases

Onset dates ranged from 14 March to 4 April 2017. Of these 14 cases, four were female. The median age is 55 years old (age range among the cases is 38 to 70 years old). The cases were reported from Beijing (3), Chongqing (1), Fujian (1), Guizhou (1), Henan (1), Hunan (2), Jiangsu (2), Shandong (1), Tibet (1), and Zhejiang (1). This is the first time a human case with avian influenza A(H7N9) has been reported from Tibet Autonomous Region.

At the time of notification, there was one death and 13 cases were diagnosed as having either pneumonia (5) or severe pneumonia (8). Thirteen cases were reported to have had exposure to live poultry or a live poultry market. One case had no definite live poultry exposure.

One cluster was reported:

・A 52-year-old male from Beijing. He had symptom onset on 1 April 2017 and was admitted to hospital on 5 April 2017. At the time of reporting, he had pneumonia. He was exposed to live poultry purchased from street vendors.

・A 66-year-old male from Beijing. He also had symptom onset on 1 April 2017 and was admitted to hospital on 5 April 2017. At the time of the report, he had severe pneumonia. He is the brother of the 52-year-old male and was also exposed to live poultry purchased from street vendors.

To date, a total of 1378 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 cases since December 2016, the Chinese government at national and local levels is taking further measures which include:

・Continuing to strengthen control measures with a focus on hygienic management of live poultry markets and cross-regional transportation.
・Requesting all provinces to stay vigilant and fully implement control and preventive measures.
・Providing guidance to epidemic areas on strengthening control and prevention.
・Conducting public risk communication and information publicity to provide the public with guidance on self-protection.
・Strengthening trace-back investigations and etiology surveillance to define the scope of virus contamination and mutations, in order to provide further guidance for prevention and control.

WHO risk assessment

The number of human infections with avian influenza A(H7N9) in the fifth epidemic wave (i.e. onset since 1 October 2016) is greater than the numbers of human cases reported in earlier waves.

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 in a timely manner.

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. Although small clusters of cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus have been reported including those involving patients in the same ward, 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 poultry 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.



 Chicken Exports Decline Due to Bird Flu [Financial Tribune, 17 Apr 2017]

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Close to 50,000 tons of chicken were exported from Iran in the last fiscal year (March 2016-17), down from 80,000 tons the previous year, registering a 37.5% decline, the head of Broiler Breeders Union said.

“The reason for this decline is that poultry and egg exports from the country were banned due to the outbreak of avian flu,” Mohammad Yousefi was quoted as saying by the Persian daily Abrar-e-Eqtesadi.

H5N8, a dangerous strain of the bird or avian flu virus, was first detected in seven provinces late November.

Mehdi Khalaj, the head of Iran Veterinary Organization, announced on Saturday that the outbreak, which had previously spread to 24 provinces across the country, is subsiding, yet this does not mean that it has been completely eradicated.

“Since the migration of birds from the south of the country to the northern regions continues, there are still chances of the outbreak of the disease. IVO is taking all measures to ensure this does not happen,” he was quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency.

Different strains of bird flu have been spreading across Europe and Asia since late last year, leading to the large-scale slaughter of poultry in some countries.

Iran culled some 12 million chicken since the outbreak of bird flu in the country, up until mid-March.



 H7N9 avian influenza in China: 14 additional human cases [Outbreak News Today, 15 Apr 2017]

H7N9 avian influenza in China.png
avian influenza prevention/CHP

The Chinese National Health and Family Planning Commission reported on 14 additional human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9), including two deaths.

The eleven male and three female patients, aged from 39 to 81, had onset from March 27 to April 11, including three from Sichuan, two each from Henan, Shandong and Xizang, and one each from Anhui, Beijing, Hunan, Tianjin and Zhejiang. Among them, 13 had exposure to poultry, poultry markets or mobile stalls.

China has now reported some 612 cases and at least 179 deaths in its fifth and largest H7N9 wave.

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health in Hong Kong offers the following advice while handling poultry:

• Avoid touching poultry, birds, animals or their droppings;

• When buying live chickens, do not touch them and their droppings. Do not blow at their bottoms. Wash eggs with detergent if soiled with faecal matter and cook and consume them immediately. Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling chickens and eggs;

• Eggs should be cooked well until the white and yolk become firm. Do not eat raw eggs or dip cooked food into any sauce with raw eggs. Poultry should be cooked thoroughly. If there is pinkish juice running from the cooked poultry or the middle part of its bone is still red, the poultry should be cooked again until fully done;

• Wash hands frequently, especially before touching the mouth, nose or eyes, before handling food or eating, and after going to the toilet, touching public installations or equipment such as escalator handrails, elevator control panels or door knobs, or when hands are dirtied by respiratory secretions after coughing or sneezing; and

・Wear a mask if fever or respiratory symptoms develop, when going to a hospital or clinic, or while taking care of patients with fever or respiratory symptoms.



 Niger reports first H5N8 outbreak; high-path viruses hit other nations [CIDRAP, 14 Apr 2017]

by Lisa Schnirring

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Niger reported its first highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza outbreak, the fourth African nation to detect the virus, and four European countries reported more outbreaks involving the same strain.

In other avian flu developments, South Korea and Vietnam reported more H5N6 outbreaks, with Vietnam also reporting two new H5N1 events, according to the latest reports from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

H5N8 in Niger
Niger's outbreak began in late February in backyard birds in Tillaberi department in the west.

The virus killed 5 of 40 birds at the holding, and the remaining poultry were culled.

Last fall, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said West Africa was among the regions likely to see H5N8 outbreaks, following the summer detection of the strain in migratory birds in Russia.

More H5N8 in Europe

Meanwhile, four European countries reported more H5N8 outbreaks:

• Finland reported finding the virus in a white-tailed eagle found dead on Apr 8 in the country's southwest.

• Italy confirmed that the virus struck a turkey farm in Veneto region in the north, beginning on Apr 11, killing 36 of 13,015 birds.

• Dutch officials reported three outbreaks in waterfowl, with start dates ranging from Mar 15 to Mar 22, affecting 40 birds in three different provinces: Drenthe, South Holland, and Utrecht.

• Russia noted one more outbreak in backyard poultry, an event that began on Apr 12 in Moscow oblast in the west, killing 15 of 40 susceptible birds.

H5N6 and H5N1 outbreaks in Asia

Elsewhere, South Korea and Vietnam reported further outbreaks involving the highly pathogenic H5N6 strain.

South Korea reported nine more H5N6 events on commercial farms, eight in North Chungcheong province in the central part of the country and one in Gyeonggi province in the southwest. All of the outbreaks had November start dates, with 305,568 birds—mainly ducks—destroyed.

In Vietnam, the virus struck backyard birds at two locations in Thua Thien-Hue province in the central part of the country. The outbreaks both began on Apr 3 and killed 1,000 of 6,500 susceptible poultry. Officials culled the remaining birds, and vaccination was among the control steps that authorities ordered.

Vietnam also reported two more H5N1 outbreaks, also in backyard birds. One began Apr 8 in Vinh Long province in the south, while the other in Quang Ninh in the north started on Apr 12.

Taken together, the virus killed 670 of 3,670 birds at the two holdings.



 Avian Flu Risk May Continue Through May [Lancaster Farming, 14 Apr 2017]

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HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania’s agriculture secretary and state veterinarian are urging poultry owners to practice good biosecurity measures to keep their flocks safe, following the discovery of highly pathogenic avian influenza in two Tennessee chicken flocks.

“Effective biosecurity plans remain the best protection for Pennsylvania poultry,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “Migrating waterfowl may be carrying avian influenza as they fly over Pennsylvania after a winter down south. Flock owners should take extra precautions during migration seasons.”

Dr. David Wolfgang, the state veterinarian, strongly recommends that all poultry be housed indoors until the spring migration has ended.

“Right now, we need to prevent any contact between our domestic poultry and any wild birds, especially waterfowl,” Wolfgang said.

“After the spring migration is over and the threat to resident domestic poultry is reduced, we will re-evaluate the risks and adjust our recommendations, if appropriate,” he said.

Looking ahead to summer fairs and outdoor festivals, many states already have decided to restrict poultry shows and exhibitions.

Pennsylvania officials remain cautiously optimistic and will continue to monitor the situation before deciding whether the risk for avian flu in Pennsylvania justifies banning birds from such events.

“We ask that local shows or swaps limit participation to birds from Pennsylvania, or allow entries only from neighboring states that are free from HPAI,” Wolfgang said.

“Our Bureau of Animal Health and Diagnostic Services will closely monitor the situation within Pennsylvania and in neighboring states,” he said.

“If all appears safe by the middle of May, we should be able provide a more definitive answer regarding poultry at fairs in 2017,” Redding said. “We hope that poultry producers and exhibitors will be patient and realize our decisions are based on what we believe is best for flock owners of all sizes — from those who enjoy raising and exhibiting backyard chickens to those in the poultry production industry.”

Zika News updates from 1 Apr 2017



 Zika virus can lead to visual impairment, says new study [Economic Times, 26 May 2017]

NEW YORK: Zika virus infection may cause lasting eye diseases and may be thus posing a wider threat in human pregnancies than previously thought, scientists have found.

The study, conducted on rhesus monkeys, showed that although the foetus affected with Zika virus did not show its typical symptoms such as shrunken heads or microcephaly, unusual inflammation in the foetal eyes, in the retinas and optic nerves, in pregnancies infected were observed.

"Our eyes are basically part of our central nervous system. The optic nerve grows right out from the foetal brain during pregnancy," said Kathleen Antony, professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"It makes some sense to see this damage in the monkeys and in human pregnancy -- problems such as chorioretinal atrophy or microphthalmia in which the whole eye or parts of the eye just don't grow to the expected size," she added.

In the study, published in the journal PLOS Pathogens, the team infected four pregnant rhesus macaque monkeys with a Zika virus dose similar to what would be transferred by a mosquito bite.

The findings revealed that the virus was present in each monkey's foetus.

"That is a very high level -- 100 per cent exposure -- of the virus to the foetus along with inflammation and tissue injury in an animal model that mirrors the infection in human pregnancies quite closely," Golos said.

Moreover, three of the foetuses involved had small heads, but not quite so small as children born with microcephaly.

Studying Zika infection in monkeys may help follow the progress of the mosquito-transmitted infection and associated health problems in humans, the researchers said.

"The results we're seeing in monkey pregnancies make us think that, as they grow, more human babies might develop Zika-related disease pathology than is currently appreciated," Golos noted.



 Zika virus infection – India [World Health Organization, 26 May 2017]

On 15 May 2017, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare-Government of India (MoHFW) reported three laboratory-confirmed cases of Zika virus disease in Bapunagar area, Ahmedabad District, Gujarat, State, India.

The routine laboratory surveillance detected a laboratory-confirmed case of Zika virus disease through RT-PCR test at B.J. Medical College, Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The etiology of this case has been further confirmed through a positive RT-PCR test and sequencing at the national reference laboratory, National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune on 4 January 2017 (case 2, below). Two additional cases (case 1 and case 3), have then been identified through the Acute Febrile Illness (AFI) and the Antenatal clinic (ANC) surveillance.

The cases are reported below in chronological order:

・Case 1: During the Acute Febrile Illness (AFI) surveillance between 10 to 16 February 2016, a total of 93 blood samples were collected at BJ Medical College (BJMC), Ahmedabad, Gujarat State. One sample from a 64-year-old male presenting with febrile illness of 8 days’ duration (negative for dengue infection) was found to be positive for Zika virus at BJMC, Ahmedabad. This is the first Zika positive case reported through AFI surveillance at BJMC, Ahmedabad, Gujarat State.

・Case 2: A 34-year-old female, delivered a clinically well baby at BJMC in Ahmedabad on 9 November 2016. During her hospital stay, she developed a low grade fever after delivery. No history of fever during pregnancy and no history of travel for the past three months was reported. A sample from the patient was referred to the Viral Research & Diagnostic Laboratory (VRDL) at the BJMC for dengue testing and thereafter found to be positive for Zika virus. She was discharged after one week (on 16 November 2016). The sample was re-confirmed as Zika virus positive by RT-PCR and sequencing at NIV, Pune.

・Case 3: During the Antenatal clinic (ANC) surveillance between 6 and 12 January 2017, a total of 111 blood samples were collected at BJMC. One sample from a 22-year-old pregnant female in her 37th week of pregnancy has been tested positive for Zika virus disease.

Public health response

・National Guidelines and Action Plan on Zika virus disease have been shared with the States to prevent an outbreak of Zika virus disease and containment of spread in case of any outbreak.

・An Inter-Ministerial Task Force has been set up under the Chairmanship of Secretary (Health and Family Welfare) together with Secretary (Bio-Technology), and Secretary (Department of Health Research). The Joint Monitoring Group, a technical group tasked to monitor emerging and re-emerging diseases is regularly reviewing the global situation on Zika virus disease.

・All the international airports and ports have displayed information for travellers on Zika virus disease.

・The airport health officers along with airport organizations, National Centre for Disease Control, and the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme are monitoring appropriate vector control measures in airport premises.

・The Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) is tracking for clustering of acute febrile illness in the community.

・In addition to National Institute of Virology, Pune, and NCDC in Delhi, 25 laboratories have also been strengthened by Indian Council of Medical Research for laboratory diagnosis. In addition, 3 entomological laboratories are conducting Zika virus testing on mosquito samples.

・The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has tested 34 233 human samples and 12 647 mosquito samples for the presence of Zika virus. Among those, close to 500 mosquitos samples were collected from Bapunagar area, Ahmedabad District, in Gujarat, and were found negative for Zika.

・The Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK) is monitoring microcephaly from 55 sentinel sites. As of now, no increase in number of cases or clustering of microcephaly has been reported from these centers.

・Risk communication materials are being finalized by the Central Health Education Bureau, in consultation with UNICEF.

WHO risk assessment

This report is important as it describes the first cases of Zika virus infections and provides evidence on the circulation of the virus in India. These findings suggest low level transmission of Zika virus and new cases may occur in the future. Efforts to strengthen surveillance should be maintained in order to better characterize the intensity of the viral circulation and geographical spread, and monitor Zika virus related complications. Zika virus is known to be circulating in South East Asia Region and these findings do not change the global risk assessment. WHO encourages Member states to report similar findings to better understand the global epidemiology of Zika virus.

The risk of further spread of Zika virus to areas where the competent vectors, the Aedes mosquitoes, are present is significant given the wide geographical distribution of these mosquitoes in various regions of the world. WHO continues to monitor the epidemiological situation and conduct risk assessment based on the latest available information.

WHO advice

Prevention and control relies on reducing mosquitoes through source reduction (removal and modification of breeding sites) and reducing contact between mosquitoes and people. During outbreaks, health authorities may advise that spraying of insecticides be carried out.

Insecticides recommended by the WHO Pesticide Evaluation Scheme may also be used as larvicides to treat relatively large water containers.

Basic precautions for protection from mosquito bites should be taken by people traveling to high risk areas, especially pregnant women. These include use of repellents, wearing light colored, long sleeved shirts and pants and ensuring rooms are fitted with screens to prevent mosquitoes from entering.

WHO does not recommend any travel or trade restriction to India based on the current information available.


Phylogenetically Mapping the Evolution of the Zika Virus as It Spread Across the World [Contagionlive.com, 24 Apr 2017]

by ADRIANO DE BERNARDI SCHNEIDER, MS

During the first months of 2016, my research team and I started tracking the genetics of the Zika virus’ spread across the world using Nvector, a tool developed, and currently only in use in our laboratory at the Department of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. The combination of traditional phylogenetic tools and Nvector allowed us to rapidly perform phylogenetic analyses of the genomic differences and relationships of the Zika virus sequences generated by different research groups around the world, and project the generated phylogenetic trees onto a global map. This approach was pioneered by Daniel Janies, PhD, a Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished Professor of Bioinformatics and Genomics at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who had performed similar analyses during prior outbreaks of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and influenza A viruses.

With these analyses, we were able to phylogenetically demonstrate that the viral sequences obtained from Zika as it crossed the Pacific Ocean (and subsequently radiated across northern Latin America and the Caribbean) were unlikely to be derived from the African strain of the virus, which was first described in 1947. The sequences from Brazilian and Pacific Island Zika isolates clearly clustered as a different strain, or clade, and were found to be more closely related to the historic Asian rather than the historic African isolates. This cluster is now usually referred to as the Asian-Pacific-American strain (also known as the Asian strain). Our review of the historic literature as well as subsequent genetic analyses suggests that these African and Asian genetic clusters (or clades) had circulated largely independently for many years prior to the first detection of the virus in the Zika forest of Uganda in 1947.

When analyzing the metadata associated with these various sequences, we realized that most of the Zika sequences isolated in Africa were from either different species of mosquitoes or from non-human primates, rather than from patients, whereas the available Asian sequence accessions were exactly the opposite; most Asian Zika sequences were sourced from human serum-isolated virus. This observation raised concerns about intrinsic selection bias and skewing within the available data, which we highlighted in our study published in Cladistics in December 2016, as the consistency and predictive value of our analyses were dependent on the data available at the time.

In early 2016, one of the most pressing questions surrounding Zika, was why the virus appeared to be causing a (previously unreported) birth defect syndrome in infants, as well as Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) in adults. We hypothesized that both syndromes may reflect a type of autoimmunity, which could have been triggered by changes in the Zika genome, and that we could quickly gain insight into this possibility using computational modeling tools. As we were already investigating the phylogenetics and evolution of the Zika virus, it was fairly straightforward to search these evolving viral sequences for changes in predicted Zika virus protein B cell epitopes, and then compare these evolving Zika epitopes to computationally predicted human protein epitope sequences.

With the help of Robert Malone, MD, MS, and Jane Homan, PhD, BVMS, MVSC, and others from Atheric Pharmaceutical and ioGenetics, we identified a set of mutated viral sequences encoding predicted epitopes with homology to epitopes predicted for human neural development-related proteins: NDF4 (Neurogenic differentiation factor 4) and Nav2 (Neural navigator protein 2). Based on this observation, we raised the hypothesis that epitope mimicry may contribute to both congenital Zika syndrome as well as GBS. To better explain, one hallmark of epitope mimicry is when a patient’s proteins become a target of their own adaptive immune response (autoimmunity) after they have been infected by a pathogen, which expresses antigenic proteins with similarities to proteins that are normally produced by the patient’s own cells. Clinical autoimmunity can occur when virus proteins are similar to human proteins; antibodies produced to fight the virus can end up fighting not only the virus but also the human host.

By using computer software tools to predict and compare Zika viral B cell epitopes likely to be recognized by the human immune system, identifying which of these epitopes corresponded to viral genetic changes during evolution and spread across the Pacific to Brazil, and then comparing these mutated epitopes to the entire predicted human B epitope proteome, we were able to identify two sets of mutated sequences (with homology to human proteins NDF4 and NAV2) which were specific to the evolving Asian-Pacific-American strain. This is important because it may help explain a change of behavior of the disease consequent to changes in computer-predicted B epitopes. Human neurogenic differentiation factor 4 (NeuroD4 or NDF4 UniProtKB Q9HD90) is a basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor that is involved in neurogenesis and control of neuronal differentiation. Neural navigator protein 2 (NAV2 UniProtKB Q8IVL1), a voltage gated sodium channel, is also involved in neuronal development, specifically in the development of different sensory organs. NAV2 is expressed in lung, heart, dorsal root ganglia, and Schwann cells in the peripheral nervous system, and in the central nervous system expression is concentrated in the circumventricular organs involved in body-fluid homeostasis. Among other activities, NAV2 affects cell migration and cytoskeletal functions by participating in regulation of microtubule dynamics. Epitope mimics present in Zika may act directly to interfere with cellular targets of these proteins, or may interact indirectly by eliciting autoimmune responses.

In our analysis, we also evaluated the structure of the Zika virus untranslated regions (UTR’s), which are important regulatory sequences located next to the coding sequence of the viral polyprotein. These sequences control both Zika virus replication and protein expression. By evaluating the pattern of genetic changes in the Zika genome as it crossed the Pacific, we identified conserved mutations which predict significant changes in both of these regulatory regions. Within the upstream sequences (5’UTR), one particular change we found was in the sequence flanking part of the Zika genome coding for the start of the Zika polyprotein.

In the genetic control sequences at the opposite end of the Zika genome, a Musashi Binding Element (MBE) consensus sequence was identified. Musashi-1 and -2 are RNA binding proteins involved in the control of RNA translation, and are often implicated in stem cell replication and differentiation in both developing brain and during spermatogenesis. We were able to document mutations in the MBE region which were acquired and then preserved as the virus moved across the Pacific. Biochemical calculations based on previously published models indicate that these conserved mutations may have altered Musashi protein binding affinity to these sequences, which could help explain some differences in the pattern of human cell infection by the outbreak version of the Zika virus. So, what’s next? At this point, all our analyses are purely computational, and so the next step is to functionally test the significance of the observations and hypotheses using different viruses, cultured cells, and animal models. In addition, this work is being used by Atheric Pharmaceutical and ioGenetics to help design experiments and interpret a wide range of experimental data, including studies involving human serum samples from patients that have been infected with Zika, and from patients who have developed autoimmune diseases after being infected. The computer predictions are being used to help design Zika vaccine candidates as well as methods for safety testing those candidates. The discoveries from this computer modeling and the analyses are even helping researchers interpret the importance of various mechanisms of action associated with different drugs which inhibit Zika virus replication, and which may be acting in part via Wnt-beta catenin and Notch/Numb signaling, both of which are associated with Musashi regulation. Adriano de Bernardi Schneider is a Brazilian biologist and researcher who has been involved in the fight against the Zikavirus in the United States since the last epidemic in Brazil in 2015. He acquired a Master of Science degree in Crop Science from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil in 2012. He is currently pursuing his PhD in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at UNC Charlotte. His research focuses on evolutionary biology of arboviruses, mainly Zika and Chikungunya viruses. In 2016, he published several studies that have helped advance the understanding of Zika virus evolution. In that same year he, in a joint effort with researchers from Boston, won a series of awards, such as the International Development Innovation Network (IDIN), MIT -, Awardee of Microgrant, for the creation of a mechanism to combat mosquitoes in South America.


'It’s going to hit the poorest people': Zika outbreak feared on the Texas border [The Guardian, 23 Apr 2017]

by Tom Dart

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More than 1.3 million people live in the Rio Grande valley. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

As mosquito season ramps up again, activists and health workers fear the worst for the the Rio Grande Valley, where conditions are ripe for mosquitoes to breed

When Patricia Pena hosted a Zika awareness class near the Texas border with Mexico on Tuesday, only four people showed up.

“Even though there’s been a lot of announcements on TV about it and how to protect yourself, families are still very naive when it comes to the information on Zika,” said Pena, who works with La Frontera Ministries, a community nonprofit.

While Zika cases in south Florida drew most of the headlines last year, the mosquito-borne virus also struck in the Rio Grande valley. As mosquito season ramps up again, activists and health workers fear that the region is at risk of an outbreak.

More than 1.3 million people live in the Valley, many in deprived neighbourhoods known as colonias, where conditions are ripe for mosquitoes to breed: sprawling settlements limit the effectiveness of spraying, standing water is common, and many houses lack window screens or air-conditioning.

“You have a lot of these families who don’t even have money to get rid of their garbage,” Pena said, “and their houses are infested with all kinds of creatures, including mosquitoes.” She added that many people don’t have equipment to cut their grass, which could hide breeding pools, and that the streets lack proper drainage.

“It’s going to hit the poorest people,” said Joseph McCormick, regional dean of the University of Texas School of Public Health. “People that live in areas where mosquitoes are going to breed, areas where they have poor housing, just like it is in South America.”

Michael Seifert, a community organiser in Brownsville, suggested that until people see local cases of babies with microcephaly, a birth defect that can be caused by Zika, the virus will be viewed as a sort of “urban legend”, distant and unlikely.

It is real enough, if not widespread: according to state health department statistics, 10 Zika cases have been documented in Texas this year and 320 in 2016 and 2015. About 250 women and children have shown evidence of infection reported to the federal Zika Pregnancy Registry.

Last November the state’s first reported case of local mosquito-borne Zika infection was in Brownsville, leading the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to designate the city, of about 185,000 people, a Zika “cautionary area” which pregnant women should consider avoiding.

There were six cases of local transmission via mosquitoes reported in Brownsville in the final two months of 2016. This month the state health department issued a recommendation that all pregnant women in six border counties be tested in their first and second trimesters, as well as others exhibiting possible Zika symptoms.

Efforts to fight Zika and accurately assess the risk and spread are complicated by the lack of access to healthcare: there is no public hospital in the region and the rate of people without health insurance is among the highest in the nation.

Tracking Zika is complicated further by the large volume of cross-border traffic and significant numbers of undocumented immigrants, especially since the Donald Trump’s harsh deportation efforts have caused many people to fear any interaction with authorities.

Seifert said he recently heard from a county official that it’s unclear where Zika cases originated, in part becase “people are too afraid to tell us if they were traveling to Mexico and back, because of the whole Trump mess”.

“If you show up at my door and you’re a health person, and I’ve been shown to have Zika and they say, ‘were you traveling?’ I’m not so sure I’ll tell you that.”

A 25-mile drive from South Padre Island, one of the country’s most popular spring break destinations, Brownsville stands across from the Mexican city of Matamoros, separated by the Rio Grande.

“When they say we have travel cases of Zika, it’s not like somebody flew in from Brazil,” said Lisa Mitchell-Bennett, a project manager at the School of Public Health. “They went to visit their aunt or their boyfriend 100 metres across the river on the weekend, or they went to their family Sunday dinner.”

McCormick, a member of the CDC’s global advisory group, said the numbers probably do not tell the whole story: 80% of Zika cases do not show symptoms, including cases that cause birth defects, and officials have struggled to develop an improved tracking system.

“We have to have better surveillance so that we know if the virus is expanding, where is it going,” McCormick said. “We need human surveillance and some mosquito surveillance to know where the mosquitoes are.

“This is the tip of the iceberg,” he added. “Without some kind of surveillance of actually testing people we have no idea, frankly, what’s going on.”

With many important questions still to be answered, including for how long a man infected with Zika could sexually transmit it, McCormick said that severe budget cuts to medical research proposed by the Trump administration are worrying.

“More resources are going to have to come but it’s not clear it’s going to come from this administration,” he said. “That part of it’s bleak.”

“There are a lot of unknowns here that are distressing everybody in the public health world.”

Mosquitoes can be a year-round problem in parts of the southern US and in Texas, where an unusually warm winter and rainy spring have created conditions for mass breeding. West Nile virus has already been detected this year in some mosquito pools in the Dallas area.

Dengue fever cases have previously occurred in the valley, and some experts are concerned that other insect-borne tropical diseases transmitted are more prevalent in Texas than previously though. Some fear Chagas disease, typically spread to humans by a “kissing bug” bite around the mouth or eyes, followed by defecation while feeding on blood that transmits a parasite. Chagas can cause fatal heart conditions that may go undetected for decades.

With Zika, Mitchell-Bennett said it can be hard for authorities to explain their fears: they promote early testing, stress that the disease can spread through sex, and warn people to use repellent, stay indoors and drain standing water.

“I think it’s pretty clear that we’re going to get more cases,” Mitchell-Bennett said. “When, how quickly, I don’t think anybody knows.”


Zika Virus Warning Santa Barbara Edhat, 18 Apr 2017]

As summer approaches and mosquito season begins, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (SBCPHD) would like to provide an update on Zika virus disease and steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from this and other infections spread by mosquitoes.

About Zika

Zika primarily spreads through bites from infected mosquitoes. Note that the type of mosquito that carries Zika has not been found in Santa Barbara County. Zika can also be passed through sex, even if the infected person does not have any symptoms, and a pregnant woman who is infected can pass the infection to her baby. No cases of Zika transmission have been reported through breastfeeding or blood transfusion in the US.

Nearly 5,200 cases of Zika disease have been reported in the US between January 1, 2015, and April 12, 2017. Almost all (94%) were in travelers returning from affected areas, including Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico. Maps of affected areas can be found at www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html.

As of April 14, 2017, California has had 533 confirmed infections, all of which were travel-related. As of April 12, 2017, the SBCPHD laboratory has processed 320 samples for Zika testing, including 82 from pregnant women. Eight have tested positive, including 1 from a pregnant woman. One additional sample from a pregnant Santa Barbara County resident tested positive in another county. The first case in a County resident occurred in August 2016.

“We have unfortunately had several County residents become infected with Zika virus,” said Dr. Charity Dean, Santa Barbara County Health Officer. “All of these cases were related to travel, and there is currently no risk of contracting Zika from infected mosquitoes in Santa Barbara County. However, we encourage you to remain cautious and to take steps to protect yourself from mosquito bites.”

Symptoms of Zika Infection

Many infected persons will not have any symptoms or will have only mid symptoms. Common symptoms include fever, rash, headache, joint pain, eye redness, and muscle aches. No specific treatment is available, and symptoms resolve on their own in a few days to a week.

The greatest concern is for unborn babies when the pregnant mother is infected with Zika. In these situations, the virus can cause small head size (microcephaly), brain damage, and congenital Zika syndrome that includes brain abnormalities, eye defects, hearing loss, and limb defects. Among pregnant women with confirmed Zika infection in the US in 2016, about 1 in 10 had a baby with birth defects. Risk is greatest during the first trimester. In Santa Barbara County, there have been no reported cases of birth defects in babies born to infected mothers to date.

If you have symptoms of Zika infection and have visited an affected area or had unprotected sex with someone who has visited an affected area, see your healthcare provider. This is particularly important if you are pregnant. Zika can be diagnosed with a blood or urine test.

How To Protect Yourself

There is currently no vaccine for Zika, although research is being done in this area. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the SBCPHD recommend the following steps to protect yourself and your family from Zika and other diseases spread by mosquitoes:

・If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, do not travel to affected countries. If you must travel, speak with your healthcare provider first.

・If you travel to affected areas, use mosquito repellent while abroad and for 3 weeks after returning. In addition, use condoms with sexual activity while abroad and for at least 8 weeks (women) or 6 months (men) after returning.

・Protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites:

・Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or other approved active ingredients

・Do not apply repellent to babies younger than 2 months old. Do not apply to a child’s hands, eyes, or mouth.

・If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and repellent second

・Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants

・For additional protection, clothing can be treated with permethrin.

・Take steps to control mosquitoes inside and outside your home

・Use air conditioning and screens on windows and doors. Sleep under a mosquito net if these are not available.

・Empty standing water weekly from containers such as flowerpots, buckets, and birdbaths (mosquitoes need water to grow)

Resources

The SBCPHD is working closely with state and federal agencies to monitor the evolving Zika situation. SBCPHD provides updates and testing recommendations to local health care providers and coordinates information with the Mosquito and Vector Management District of Santa Barbara County. Please report mosquito problems, particularly aggressive daytime biting mosquitoes, to the Mosquito and Vector Management District. More information about Zika can be found at:

Santa Barbara County Public Health Department☞ Zika Virus Information 

What Californians Need to Know, California Department of Public Health☞ Zika 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ☞ Zika Virus 


Zika Attack - Almost 8,000 Suspected Cases Of The Virus In Ja 15 Months [Jamaica Gleaner, 16 Apr 2017]

by Erica Virtue

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De La Haye

ZikaVflyerB20151211C.jpg


Brazil20170416.jpg
A baby born with microcephaly is being examined by a neurologist in Brazil.

Local health officials have recorded almost 10,000 notifications of suspected cases of the Zika virus (ZIKV) in Jamaica between January 2016 and March 2017.

Figures from the health ministry seen by The Sunday Gleaner show that from the notifications, 7,767, or 77 per cent, were determined to be suspected cases of ZIKV. So far, 203 confirmed cases of the virus have been recorded.

According to Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health Dr Winston De La Haye, the numbers are not causing panic among health-care officials, but underscore the need for alertness and vigilance.

"The numbers you see are from private- and public-sector practitioners, and that's exactly what we want them to do. We do not want them to take any chances. We want them to report the cases so that each one can be carefully assessed so that the necessary actions can be taken," said De La Haye.

Microcephaly In Babies

With Zika being linked to microcephaly in babies, De La Haye noted that among the notifications received by the health ministry were 827 pregnant women. That group had 698 suspected cases and 78 confirmed cases.

He said the health professionals were equally vigilant about symptoms for malaria and yellow fever as they were about microcephaly - a rare neurological condition in which an infant's head is significantly smaller than the heads of other children of the same age and sex.

Malaria, yellow fever and Zika all have in common the bite of the infected Aedes aegypti mosquito.

De La Haye said, "There are no cases of ZIKV-related microcephaly in Jamaica," as he sought to quell fears among many persons that babies are born with microcephaly because the mothers were bitten by the infected mosquito.

Congenital syndrome associated with the Zika (CSAZ) virus has seen 50 suspected cases to date, of 170 notifications.

Forty-six of the cases were determined to be microcephaly with 35 non-severe cases, four showing other abnormalities such as 'crooked joints', while 11 cases have shown severe microcephaly.

De La Haye said all the children are currently living with their mothers, but this could change.

"Those children are being monitored and are seen a bit more regularly at the clinics. Continuous assessments are made to determine if those children may need to be kept in homes. But for now they are with the parents."

The monitoring is done because children with microcephaly often have developmental issues, and with no treatment for the abnormality, early intervention with supportive therapies, such as speech and occupational therapies, may help improve quality of life, he said.

Meanwhile, there are 166 cases of notified cases of babies with Zika neurological complications.

Of that number, 37 are suspected cases, 30 fit the Brigton criteria (specific measurement criteria); seven the Guillain-BarrE syndrome (GBS) variant, and four Zika-positive.

Of the total numbers presented, the health ministry said 77 per cent fit the case definition and were classified as suspected. Of the suspected cases, nine per cent were pregnant women, with less than one per cent being suspected CSAZ.


Another Type of Mosquito May Carry Zika [Tucson.com, 14 Apr 2017]

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FRIDAY, April 14, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Traces of Zika virus genetic material have been found in a second mosquito species, researchers report.

The main carrier of Zika is the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti). But researchers have now found fragments of Zika RNA during genetic testing of Asian tiger mosquitoes collected in Brazil.

This doesn't prove that the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) can transmit Zika to people.

But it does emphasize the need for further research into other possible carriers of Zika, according to study author Chelsea Smartt. She's an associate professor from the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory at the University of Florida, in Vero Beach.

"Our results mean that Aedes albopictus may have a role in Zika virus transmission and should be of concern to public health," Smartt said in a news release from the Entomological Society of America.

"This mosquito is found worldwide, has a wide range of hosts and has adapted to colder climates. The role of this mosquito in Zika virus transmission needs to be assessed," she added.

Smartt and her colleagues collected mosquitoes in Brazil and hatched the eggs. The researchers found Asian tiger males tested positive for Zika RNA -- but not the live Zika virus.

Smartt said "extensive research still needs to be done" to determine whether this type of mosquito can transmit Zika.

The new findings also underline the need for insect scientists and medical researchers to be extremely cautious.

"It is important to test all mosquitoes collected in areas with a high number of Zika cases for Zika RNA, and if the mosquitoes are positive for Zika RNA they must be tested for live Zika virus prior to transport or use in a laboratory for experiments," Smartt said.

The study was published online April 13 in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on Zika☞ CDC   .


Health District reminds residents to guard against Zika [Corpus Christi, 14 Apr 2017]

By Mike Gillaspia

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 South Texans continue to be on the alert for signs of the Zika virus.

The potential for the Zika virus appearing continues in south Texas. That has leaders with the Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District on the alert, and on the offensive when it comes to reminding residents of how to protect themselves against the disease.

As it can cause birth defects in infants, the virus is of particular concern to those who are pregnant or who may become pregnant. Not only does it spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, it may also be transmitted through sex with an infected partner.

The most common symptoms of Zika are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes), all of which can last for several days.

People usually do not get sick enough to go to the hospital, and they very rarely die of Zika. For this reason, many people might not realize they have been infected. Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.

There is no vaccine to prevent Zika. The best way to keep yourself safe is to make sure you guard against mosquito bites by doing the following:

・Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

・Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.

・Take steps to control mosquitoes inside and outside your home.

・Treat your clothing and gear with permethrin or buy pre-treated items.

・Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. Always follow the product label instructions. When used as directed, these insect repellents are proven safe and effective even for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Do not use insect repellents on babies younger than 2 months old.

・Sleep under a mosquito bed net if air conditioned or screened rooms are not available or if sleeping outdoors.

・Prevent sexual transmission of Zika by using condoms or avoiding sexual intercourse.

For additional information, call the Zika Information Hotline at (361) 826-7204.


New concerns arise about Zika virus [WNYT, 14 Apr 2017]

There are new concerns about the Zika virus after traces of it were found in a different species of mosquito.

University of Florida researchers found fragments of the virus in the RNA of Asian Tiger mosquitoes in Brazil.

While it's still too early to know if Asian Tiger mosquitoes can transmit Zika to humans, researchers say their ability to survive in colder climates is concerning.


Traces of Zika Found in Asian tiger mosquito in Brazil [Science Daily, 14 Apr 2017]

Virus fragments detected in species other than Zika's known primary vector

In a recent test of Asian tiger mosquitoes collected in Brazil, researchers found fragments of Zika virus RNA, raising concerns that it may be carried by species other than Zika's known primary vector, the yellow fever mosquito.

The research does not conclude that the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) can transmit Zika to humans, but it highlights the need for deeper research into additional potential vectors for the virus that has rapidly spread through the Americas since its initial outbreak in 2015, says Chelsea Smartt, Ph.D., associate professor at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory at the University of Florida and lead author on the study to be published this week in the Entomological Society of America's Journal of Medical Entomology.

"Our results mean that Aedes albopictus may have a role in Zika virus transmission and should be of concern to public health," Smartt says. "This mosquito is found worldwide, has a wide range of hosts and has adapted to colder climates. The role of this mosquito in Zika virus transmission needs to be assessed."

Smartt and an international team of researchers collected the mosquitoes from homes in Brazil and hatched eggs from those mosquitoes in the lab. Male Ae. albopictus mosquitoes that hatched tested positive for Zika RNA (ribonucleic acid), meaning that females collected in the field had encountered Zika and passed fragments of the virus to their offspring. Whether that means Ae. albopictus can "vertically transmit" live Zika virus to its offspring is still unclear.

"Detecting Zika RNA fragments without finding live Zika virus suggests that either the female parent was not itself infected with live Zika virus or it was not able to transfer live Zika virus to
her eggs," Smartt says.

Thus far, the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) is the species known to be the primary transmitter of Zika to humans, though researchers suspect other species may be involved. However, Smartt says "extensive research still needs to be done" to confirm whether the Asian tiger mosquito is also a culprit.

Meanwhile, though, the current findings emphasize the need for abundant caution among insect scientists and medical researchers, as well. "It is important to test all mosquitoes collected in areas with a high number of Zika cases for Zika RNA, and if the mosquitoes are positive for Zika RNA they must be tested for live Zika virus prior to transport or use in a laboratory for experiments."

Story Source:
Materials provided by Entomological Society of America.

Journal Reference:
Chelsea T. Smartt, Tanise M. S. Stenn, Tse-Yu Chen, Maria Gloria Teixeira, Erivaldo P. Queiroz, Luciano Souza Dos Santos, Gabriel A. N. Queiroz, Kathleen Ribeiro Souza, Luciano Kalabric Silva, Dongyoung Shin, and Walter J. Tabachnick. Evidence of Zika Virus RNA Fragments in Aedes albopictus (Diptera: Culicidae) Field-Collected Eggs From Camacari, Bahia, Brazil. Journal of Medical Entomology, 2017 DOI: 10.1093/jme/tjx058

Entomological Society of America. "Traces of Zika Found in Asian tiger mosquito in Brazil: Virus fragments detected in species other than Zika's known primary vector." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 April 2017.


There’s another mosquito carrying Zika virus [New York Post, 14 Apr 2017]

By Natalie O'Neill

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Traces of the Zika virus have been found in a second mosquito species, a bloodsucker quite at home in New York, according to a troubling new study.

Scientists discovered genetic material linked to the virus in the eggs of Asian tiger mosquitoes, which migrated to New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania in 1985, according to the study from the Medical Entomology Laboratory at the University of Florida, in Vero Beach, UPI reported.

“Our results mean that [Asian tigers] may have a role in Zika virus transmission and should be of concern to public health,” warned study author Chelsea Smartt.

It’s unclear yet whether Asian tigers can transmit the devastating disease to humans, but the finding proves more research is needed into other possible carriers of Zika , she added.

For the study, Smartt and her colleagues collected mosquitoes in Brazil, hatched the insects eggs and found Asian tiger males tested positive for Zika genetic makeup, but not the live virus.

The main carrier of Zika is the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, prefers tropical and subtropical climates, but has been found in 23 states, including New York, and as far north as Maine, entomologists note.

“Extensive research still needs to be done,” Smartt said.


Zika Found in Common Backyard Asian Tiger Mosquito [NBCNews.com, 14 Apr 2017]

by MAGGIE FOX

A common backyard mosquito can be infected with the Zika virus and it may pass the virus along in its eggs, researchers reported Friday.

The findings add to worries that the Asian tiger mosquito, scientifically known as Aedes albopictus, could help spread the virus as mosquito season hits temperate regions of the world.

Image: Estimated range of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus in the United States, 2016

Estimated range of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus in the United States, 2016. CDC
The study, published in the Journal of Medical Entomology, doesn't prove that tiger mosquitoes can spread Zika, which causes severe birth defects. But it adds to evidence that they might.

Chelsea Smartt of the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory and the University of Florida and colleagues hatched eggs from Aedes albopictus mosquitoes gathered during a 2015 outbreak of Zika in Brazil. When they ground up the mosquitoes that grew from those eggs, male and female, they found genetic pieces of Zika.

"Our results mean that Aedes albopictus may have a role in Zika virus transmission and should be of concern to public health," Smartt said in a statement.

"This mosquito is found worldwide, has a wide range of hosts and has adapted to colder climates."

The main carrier of Zika is Aedes aegypti, or the yellow fever mosquito. It needs warm, tropical climates to thrive.

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Estimated range of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus in the United States, 2016

Aedes albopictus, easily identified by its stripey white legs and daytime biting habits, arrived in Texas in 1985. It's much more tolerant of cold temperatures, thrives more in the suburbs than in the cities and now lives in 40 U.S. states.

So far, home-grown Zika has only been found in the U.S. in two places - south Florida and south Texas. But travelers infected with Zika have been diagnosed all across the country.


It takes people plus mosquitoes to spread a virus like Zika. The mosquitoes bite actively infected people, incubate the virus for a while, and then bite other people to spread it.

This mosquito is found worldwide, has a wide range of hosts and has adapted to colder climates.


Mosquitoes don't go far, so outbreaks die out unless many people become infected and keep spreading it back to mosquitoes. Sometimes an animal can act as a reservoir, birds can keep West Nile Virus spreading, for instance.

Now the question is how well the virus lives in the bodies of the Asian tiger mosquito. Simply finding a virus in a mosquito does not necessarily mean the mosquito spreads the virus. The virus must replicate in the insect's salivary glands to be transmitted in a bite.

"The fact that you find it in Aedes albopictus is not surprising," said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

"The question is how important it is for transmission."

More study is needed, the University of Florida team said.

"The detection of Zika virus RNA from five adult Ae. albopictus reared from eggs collected during the 2015 outbreak in Camacari, Bahia, Brazil, is consistent with the potential for vertical or sexual transmission of Zika virus by Ae. albopictus; however, evidence supporting this was not conclusive," they wrote.

But related viruses, including dengue, yellow fever, West Nile, Japanese encephalitis, and St. Louis encephalitis viruses, have been spread from parents to eggs in several species of mosquitoes.


Zika poses even greater risk for birth defects than was previously known, CDC reports [Chicago Tribune, 4 Apr 2017]

by Lena H. Sun

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About 1 in 10 pregnant women infected with Zika in the United States last year had a baby or fetus with serious birth defects, according to a study released Tuesday that represents the largest and most comprehensive study of Zika's consequences for pregnant women

Women infected during the first trimester of pregnancy had an even higher risk of birth defects, about 15 percent, according to the analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These estimates are higher than what U.S. health officials have previously reported and underscore the serious risk for birth defects posed by Zika virus infection during pregnancy. With warm weather, a new mosquito season and summer travel approaching, prevention is crucial to protecting the health of mothers and babies, said Anne Schuchat, the CDC's acting director.

It may seem like Zika is last year's problem, she said, but that is not true, and pregnant women, their male partners, and clinicians can't be complacent.


One in 10 pregnant women with Zika had fetus or baby with birth defects, CDC says [Miami Herald, 4 Apr 2017]

BY DANIEL CHANG

Pre-Zika.jpg


A pregnant woman who works in Wynwood speaks with reporters about the moment she was diagnosed with Zika. Matias J. Ocner Miami Herald

Underscoring the serious risk of birth defects from Zika, federal health officials on Tuesday reported that about one in 10 pregnant women with a confirmed infection in 2016 had a fetus or baby with a brain abnormality or other neurological disorder associated with the virus.

The risk for birth defects from Zika was even higher, about 15 percent, among mothers infected during the first trimester of pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest “Vital Signs” report.

“Zika continues to be a threat to pregnant women in the United States,” said CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. “With warm weather, a new mosquito season and summer travel rapidly approaching, prevention is crucial to protect the health of mothers and babies.”

The CDC report confirms earlier findings that Zika during pregnancy can cause babies and fetuses to develop brain abnormalities such as microcephaly, eye disorders, central nervous system dysfunction and other neurological problems.

The report is based on outcomes for the largest number of pregnancies with confirmed Zika infection to date in the continental United States, as reported to the U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry from Jan. 15 to Dec. 27, 2016.

During that time, 1,297 pregnant women in 44 states were reported to the registry, but only 972 completed their pregnancies, live births and stillborn, in the time frame analyzed.

Among the 972 completed pregnancies, Zika-related birth defects were reported in 51, or 5 percent. But the proportion of birth defects was higher, about 10 percent, when limited to pregnancies with laboratory-confirmed infections.

10% Ratio of pregnant women with Zika who had baby or fetus with birth defect in 2016

The distinction shows the complexity of Zika testing. There is only a narrow time frame, about two weeks after symptoms begin, to obtain a positive lab result that detects virus molecules in the blood or urine.

After that time, Zika tests can only detect antibodies developed by the immune system to fight the virus, but those tests cannot clearly distinguish between antibodies for Zika and related pathogens, such as dengue and chikungunya, which requires further testing.

In addition, most people infected with Zika, about four out of five, do not have symptoms, which can include fever, muscle pain, rash and red eyes.

For that reason, the CDC is monitoring all pregnant women with any evidence of recent Zika infection. Schuchat said the Zika pregnancy registry is growing fast and currently counts more than 1,600 cases in the 50 states and Washington, D.C.

“We’re still seeing about 30 to 40 new Zika cases in pregnant women each week in the Untied States,” she said.

The report also emphasizes the need for better monitoring of babies born to mothers who had Zika during pregnancy, said Peggy Honein, co-leader for the CDC Zika Response Team’s Pregnancy and Birth Defects Task Force.

Only about one in four children born to mothers with Zika last year in the United States received brain imaging as recommended by the CDC. Without brain scans and other recommended follow-up care, she said, it’s possible that the rate of Zika-related birth defects is higher than reported.

“We know that some babies have underlying brain defects that are otherwise not evident at birth,” Honein said. “Because we do not have brain imaging reports for most infants whose mothers had Zika during pregnancy, our current report might significantly underestimate the impact of Zika.”

ZIKA IS SPREAD PRIMARILY THROUGH THE BITE OF AN INFECTED AEDES AEGYTPI AND AEDES ALBOPICTUS SPECIES MOSQUITO. THE VIRUS ALSO CAN SPREAD FROM MOTHER TO CHILD, THROUGH SEX AND THROUGH BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS.

She said some babies born to mothers who had Zika while pregnant develop microcephaly after they’re born, while others have vision loss or difficulty hearing. Some are unable to extend their limbs, she said, while others miss developmental milestones, such as sitting up independently by four to seven months of age.

The costs of caring for a baby born with microcephaly can be financially crippling for families and for public health resources. Schuchat said the cost of treating an infant with microcephaly is estimated at nearly $4 million. “For those who survive into adulthood,” she said, “the cost can be up to $10 million.”

Honein said the numbers show an undeniable increase in microcephaly and related neurological defects in the United States. The rate of 10 percent reported in 2016 is more than 30 times higher than the baseline prevalence in prior years, when the rate was about three of every 1,000 live births.

“Prevention is key,” Honein said. “There are basic steps people, and especially pregnant women and their male partners, can take to help protect themselves from Zika.”

In the 51 cases of birth defects documented by the CDC report, the mothers were exposed to
Zika in 16 countries or U.S. territories with active spread of the virus, including Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Cape Verde, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Republic of Marshall Islands and Venezuela.

However, the CDC analysis does not include data from pregnant women in Puerto Rico, where more than 37,000 cases have been reported since 2015, because the U.S. territorial island has its own Zika pregnancy registry.

CDC guidance advises pregnant women to stay away from any areas with risk of Zika, including Miami-Dade, where state health officials in 2016 identified four areas with active spread of the virus, including Miami’s Wynwood and Little River neighborhoods, and most of Miami Beach.

In addition, a number of cases were reported in Miami-Dade in 2016 with no identified area of exposure, leading the CDC to report in March that the threat of Zika was even greater for South Florida than previously understood, with a heightened risk since June 2016 for residents in Broward and Palm Beach counties because of local travel patterns and challenges in identifying all areas where the virus was spreading.

PREVENTION IS KEY.

Peggy Honein, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Schuchat said the CDC will not report individual state results from the national Zika pregnancy registry out of concern for patient privacy. In 2016, Florida health officials confirmed 1,440 Zika infections, including 292 pregnant women.

This year, the health department has reported 34 Zika infections statewide, including 18 pregnant women.

Zika has been nearly dormant in Miami-Dade so far in 2017, with two locally acquired cases confirmed and no zones of active transmission identified.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s budget proposal calls for new funding for the health department to hire more scientists and conduct more research to combat the spread of Zika, and Philip said in March that the state’s bureau of public labs has “increased capacity greatly” for testing.

She said by mid-April, the state will begin conducting a complex test for distinguishing Zika from related viruses, such as dengue and chikungunya, that previously only the CDC could perform.

Philip said having the state conduct the test, known as a plaque reduction neutralization test, will cut wait times from two to three months to several weeks.

Last year, a backlog of Zika test results led to hundreds of patients, most of them pregnant women, waiting months to receive their results.

The CDC had tested 2,107 specimens sent by Florida as of March 15, according to the agency. Philip said that as of March 27, the health department was waiting for the CDC to deliver Zika test results for about 26 cases, including 16 possible infections from 2016 and 10 this year.

In addition to funding more lab resources, Philip said the health department also will launch a program to coordinate care for infants born to mothers infected with Zika while pregnant. She said local hospitals, such as Jackson Health System, have established Zika-specific care plans, and that the state agency would help ensure that patients follow CDC guidelines for evaluating infants affected by the virus.


51 Babies Born With Zika-Related Birth Defects In The U.S. Last Year [NPR, 4 Apr 2017]

by MICHAELEEN DOUCLEFF

zika-us-1_custom-42b95726061187919332385f4316e6affbbd093b-s1500-c85.jpg
Puerto Rico resident Michelle Flandez caresses her two-month-old son Inti Perez, diagnosed with microcephaly linked to the mosquito-borne Zika virus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the Zika virus continues to impact a small number of pregnant women and their babies in the U.S.
Carlos Giusti/AP

Health officials have published the first comprehensive view of Zika-linked birth defects occurring in the U.S.

The study is the largest so far to estimate the risk of severe birth defects from Zika infections in pregnant women, researchers report Wednesday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report,

"Although Zika may seem like last year's problem, or an issue confined to Brazil, there have been more than 1,600 cases in pregnant women reported here in the U.S.," says the acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Anne Schuchat.

And the cases aren't slowing down.

"We're still seeing about 30 to 40 Zika cases in pregnant women each week in the U.S.," Schuchat says. "Zika is here to stay."

Here's how the epidemic has affected babies in the U.S. so far:

・Nearly 1,300 pregnant women, in 44 states, had laboratory evidence of a Zika virus infection in 2016. About 970 of those women have completed their pregnancies.

・Of those women with laboratory evidence of Zika virus, there were 77 reported pregnancy losses and 51 babies born with birth defects, including 43 babies with microcephaly or brain abnormalities. Other babies had eye abnormalities or neural tube defects.

・The women mostly caught the virus in 14 countries or territories across Latin America and the Caribbean. A few of them picked up the infection in the Republic of Marshall Islands in the South Pacific, or Cape Verde off the coast of West Africa.

・Overall, the risk of severe birth defects was about 5 percent among women who were infected with Zika during pregnancy. That risk is comparable to what's been found in other countries.

・That risked jumped to 10 percent for mothers who's Zika infections were unambiguously confirmed. It rose even higher, to 15 percent, for those infected in the first trimester.

It may be helpful to compare these Zika statistics to those for other viruses that cause birth defects. Each year about 8,000 babies are born in the U.S. with disabilities because of infection with cytomegalovirus, or CMV.

And in general, birth defects from all causes affect more than 100,000 babies in the U.S. each year, the CDC reports.

Still, there are big gaps in our knowledge about Zika, says epidemiologist Margaret Honein, who led the study. Some of those gaps may lead to an underestimation of the problem

For starters, doctors still aren't sure about the full range of problems caused by Zika infections in utero. A baby can be born healthy, with a normal head size, but then develop neurological problems later on. Some may have seizures or muscle spasms, or a baby may have problems that are only detectable by a brain scan.

For this reason, the CDC now recommends babies infected with Zika have ultrasounds or CT scans of their brains to evaluate any abnormalities not apparent at birth. So far, Honein says only about one in four babies have had these exams.

"I want to highlight the need for care and evaluation of these infants," she says. "This brain imaging, such as a head ultrasound, is really important. We know that there can be babies who don't have microcephaly but imaging of the brain can reveal serious brain defects."

Although cases of Zika have started to decline in many parts of Latin America, Honein says, the risk is still high for pregnant women.

"So we are trying to emphasize: Pregnant women should not travel to any areas where there's a risk of Zika," she says.

Right now, Zika has been reported in most countries in Latin America, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia as well as several counties in southern Florida and southern Texas.


Birth Defects Hit 10 Percent of Zika-Infected Women in U.S. [NBCNews.com, 4 Apr 2017]

by MAGGIE FOX

At least 10 percent of babies born to women infected with Zika virus have been diagnosed with visible birth defects, federal researchers reported Tuesday.

And 15 percent of women infected during the first trimester of pregnancy end up with affected babies, the team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

Zika-Preg.jpg
In Texas, Pregnant and Scared of Zika

That's just visible defects. Some of the babies may have subtler birth defects that will only be seen as they grow, the CDC team said.

It's the latest and most complete look at the risk that Zika poses to pregnant women and their babies, and it shows the risk is high.

"We are still seeing about 30 to 40 new Zika cases in pregnant women each week in the United States," CDC acting director Dr. Anne Schuchat told reporters. So far, 1,600 women infected with Zika are or have been pregnant in the 50 U.S. states and Washington D.C.

"We do know this devastating outbreak is far from over and the consequences of this outbreak are heartbreaking."

More than 1,000 pregnant women who tested positive for Zika virus or had suspected Zika infections either gave birth, had a miscarriage or an abortion in 2016. The CDC team and state health officials took a detailed look at the cases.

““We are still seeing about 30 to 40 new Zika cases in pregnant women each week in the United States.””

Of all the women, 51 of the women or 5 percent had a baby with some sort of Zika-related birth defect, ranging from microcephaly, the small head that's the hallmark of Zika and that's caused by brain damage, to other brain damage or neurological birth defect.

Among women whose Zika was confirmed by lab test, 10 percent had a baby or fetus with a Zika-related birth defect. "That proportion increased to 15 percent for women with confirmed Zika during their first trimester," Schuchat said.

The last estimate showed 6 percent of babies or fetuses were affected.

That's probably not the full range of damage, Schuchat added.

"Some seemingly healthy babies born following pregnancies complicated by Zika may have developmental problems that become evident months after birth," she said.

Zika is known to cause a range of birth defects. The first to be noticed was microcephaly, but now doctors have seen other profound defects, such as collapsed skulls and other deformities, as well as milder problems, such as eye defects.

"Some babies may have seizures while other babies may have problems controlling their arms and legs," Schuchat said.

"Some babies cry constantly and are inconsolable no matter what their caregiver does," she added. Others have trouble swallowing or controlling their arms and legs. It could cost $4 million or more to care for a Zika-affected child, the CDC estimates.

Zika is mostly carried by travelers to the United States, but the virus has been spread in Florida by local mosquitoes, and there have been a few home-grown cases in south Texas, as well. Any place that has the Aedes aegypti mosquito that carries Zika could see local outbreaks.

Before Zika, the birth defect rate in the U.S. was about 2.9 per 1,000 live births.

"The initial findings from the U.S. Zika virus pregnancy registry represent an approximate twentyfold increase in Zika virus-associated birth defects among pregnant women with laboratory evidence of possible recent Zika virus infection, with an approximate thirtyfold increase in brain abnormalities and/or microcephaly," the CDC and state researchers wrote in their report.

““Every mosquito bite carries a risk.””

Pregnant women or women who could become pregnant should stay away from any place where Zika is spreading, the CDC and World Health Organization says. If they cannot stay away, they should use insect repellent, clothing and other measures to prevent mosquito bites, and condoms to prevent sexual transmission of the virus.

And pregnant women with any chance of Zika infection need regular scans to see if their baby is affected, and any babies born need an ultrasound or CT scan to check for birth defects.

Only 25 percent of the women whose babies were affected got those scans, the CDC said. It's not clear why not, it could be a health insurance issue, Schuchat said the CDC also believes that all doctors still do not understand the need for such scans.

"These findings underscore the serious risk for birth defects posed by Zika virus infection during pregnancy and highlight why pregnant women should avoid Zika virus exposure and that all pregnant women should be screened for possible Zika virus exposure at every prenatal visit," the CDC team, led by Dr. Margaret Honein, wrote.

"Zika is still with us. We don't know how much transmission there will be this year," Schuchat said.

"Every mosquito bite carries a risk," she added.

"We cannot afford to be complacent when a single bite from a Zika-affected mosquito can lead to such a devastating condition."

Zoonotic Bird Flu News - from 11 till 13 Apr 2017



 Virulent bird flu strain threatens to spill out of China [SciDev.Net, 13 Apr 2017]

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[MANILA] A new strain of avian influenza that has high pathogenicity in poultry, and which can be deadly for humans, has resurfaced in China with pandemic potential -- prompting calls for a quick and thorough response to halt its advance and contain the changing H7N9 virus.

Until recently, H7N9 has shown low pathogenicity, meaning that it may cause mild or no illness in poultry. Evidence from China’s Guangdong province suggests that the new strain has shifted to high pathogenicity in poultry while retaining its capacity to cause severe problems in humans.

This is said to be a genetic change that could lead to high mortality for birds within 48 hours of infection and cause high economic losses for those engaged in poultry production and sales.

“China has embarked on intensified surveillance and results are awaited to better assess the epidemiology and potential spread of this new, highly pathogenic virus.” Sophie Von Dobschuetz, FAO

Meanwhile, human cases of the H7N9 virus, first detected in China four years ago, have been increasing since December 2016. An update in March reported 20 human cases in eight Chinese provinces: Hunan, Jiangsu, Guangxi, Fujian, Guizhou, Chongqing, Shandong and Zhejiang, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). In the latest update (12 April), the FAO reported an additional 16 human cases and two detected in birds.

As before, most patients mentioned visiting live bird markets or coming into contact with infected birds. There is, however, no indication that the news strain has spread to wild birds.

“China has embarked on intensified surveillance and results are awaited to better assess the epidemiology and potential spread of this new, highly pathogenic virus,” Sophie Von Dobschuetz, animal health officer at FAO, tells SciDev.Net. “FAO, through its office in Beijing, is in regular dialogue with the ministry of agriculture and providing recommendations for surveillance and control.”

The H7N9 strain currently circulating in China has not been noted in poultry populations in other countries, Matthew Stone, deputy director general of the World Organisation for Animal Health, tells SciDev.Net.

“However, these countries (with poultry farms) remain at risk and need to be vigilant for a potential incursion of the virus, in a low or highly pathogenic form,” Stone adds. “Constant surveillance of domestic poultry as well as wild birds by national veterinary services is essential to reduce the risks associated with virus spread and protect both animal and human health, as well as livelihoods.”

According to Stone, live bird markets remain the main source of virus spread among poultry and from poultry to humans and South-East Asian countries need to implement targeted and widespread monitoring to detect and respond to the virus.

Prevention measures should include laboratory testing, increased hygiene at live-bird markets and on-farm biosecurity to reduce exposure, he says.



 News Scan for Apr 12, 2017 [CIDRAP News 11 Apr 2017]

Hungary, Romania confirm more H5N8 avian flu outbreaks

Two European countries—Hungary and Romania—reported more highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza outbreaks in poultry and wild birds today, and Hong Kong officials confirmed H5N6 in a wild bird found dead in Kowloon, a major urban area.

Hungary reported two outbreaks on commercials farms, one housing geese and the other producing ducks. The events began on Apr 5 and Apr 8, respectively, and both occurred in the city of Bacs-Kiskun County in the south central part of the country, according to a report from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). More than 21,000 birds were affected.

In a separate report to the OIE, Romanian officials reported four more H5N8 outbreaks, three in backyard poultry and one involving a mute swan found dead. The outbreaks began from Mar 14 to Apr 4, affecting four locations in the south, including the capital city of Bucharest. Besides the swan, the virus killed 9 of 33 susceptible poultry among the three backyard holdings.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong's government today announced that a red-whiskered bulbul found dead on a playground in Kowloon tested positive for H5N6. A statement from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said cleaning and disinfection has been increased at the site where the bird was found. No poultry farms are within 3 kilometers of the finding, but AFCD is contacting poultry farmers to remind them to strengthen their biosecurity against avian flu.

Since early 2016, Hong Kong had detected H5N6 in a few wild birds found dead, chicken carcasses that have washed ashore, and environmental samples.



 Red-whiskered bulbul tests positive for H5N6 virus [7thSpace Interactive (press release), 12 Apr 2017]

Hong Kong (HKSAR) - The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said today (April 12) that a dead red-whiskered bulbul found in Argyle Street, Kowloon City, was confirmed to be H5N6 positive after laboratory testing.

The dead red-whiskered bulbul was found and collected near a planter in Argyle Street Playground last Friday (April 7), and was suspected to be H5 positive after initial laboratory testing this Monday (April 10). The red-whiskered bulbul is a common resident of Hong Kong.

The spokesman said cleaning and disinfection have been stepped up at the venue, adding that there are no poultry farms within 3 kilometres of where the dead bird was found.

In view of the case, the AFCD has phoned poultry farmers to remind them to strengthen precautionary and biosecurity measures against avian influenza. Letters have been issued to farmers, pet bird shop owners and licence holders of pet poultry and racing pigeons reminding them that proper precautions must be taken.

The spokesman said the department would conduct frequent inspections of poultry farms and the wholesale market to ensure that proper precautions against avian influenza have been implemented. The department will continue its wild bird monitoring and surveillance.

"People should avoid contact with wild birds and live poultry and their droppings.

They should clean their hands thoroughly after coming into contact with them. The public can call 1823 for follow-up if they come across suspicious, sick or dead birds, including the carcasses of wild birds and poultry," the spokesman said.

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) will continue to be vigilant over imported live poultry as well as live poultry stalls. It will also remind stall operators to maintain good hygiene.

The Department of Health will keep up with its health education to remind the public to maintain strict personal and environmental hygiene to prevent avian influenza.

The AFCD, the FEHD, the Customs and Excise Department and the Police will strive to deter the illegal import of poultry and birds into Hong Kong to minimise the risk of avian influenza outbreaks caused by imported poultry and birds that have not gone through inspection and quarantine.

All relevant government departments will continue to be highly vigilant and strictly enforce preventive measures against avian influenza.



 Neither Rain nor Sleet nor Snow Stops Wildlife Disease Biologists from Collecting Samples [USDA.gov (press release) (blog), 12 Apr 2017]

by Gail Keirn, USDA APHIS Public Affairs Specialist in Animals

hedelius-sample-blog-041217.jpg
USDA-WS wildlife disease biologist Jared Hedelius collects a sample from a wild mallard in Montana.

On a cold and blustery day, APHIS wildlife disease biologist Jared Hedelius sits in his truck by the Bighorn River in Montana and waits. Although the temperatures outside are well below freezing, the mallards on the river are busy searching for food, oblivious to Jared’s swim-in live trap just a few feet from the shoreline. Soon, enough ducks have entered the trap and Jared leaves his warm truck and heads to the water. He sets up his equipment and begins collecting samples.

Jared is one of 36 wildlife disease biologists in APHIS’ Wildlife Services (WS) program tasked with collecting samples from live and hunter-harvested wild birds for avian influenza testing.

Wild migratory waterfowl are a natural reservoir for avian influenza, and these viruses can travel in wild birds without them appearing sick. Highly pathogenic avian influenza was recently found in two commercial premises in Tennessee and, in 2017, low pathogenic avian influenza has also been confirmed in commercial and backyard premises in Wisconsin, Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky. Although the cause of these cases is not known, it’s a reminder of the need to be vigilant about biosecurity and to maintain a barrier between wild birds and domestic poultry.

“By monitoring the avian influenza strains circulating in wild birds, WS and its partners are able to provide an early warning system to America’s poultry producers,” states Dr. Tom DeLiberto, Assistant Director of WS’ National Wildlife Research Center. “Our experts focus their sampling on waterfowl species and locations where we are most likely to detect avian influenza. This ensures our efforts are as efficient and informative as possible.”

In early January, a sample Jared collected from a hunter-harvested mallard in Fergus County, Montana, tested positive for H5N2 highly pathogenic avian influenza, one of the strains which circulated in North America during the 2014-2015 avian influenza outbreak in domestic poultry. The outbreak affected over 49 million birds and cost approximately $1 billion in damages and control costs.

“Although it is possible for domestic poultry to become infected with avian influenza from direct contact with wild birds, it is more likely that the viruses are spread indirectly to poultry on contaminated feed, clothing and equipment,” notes DeLiberto.

Since 2006, WS has been a leader in a national, multiagency effort to monitor wild birds for highly pathogenic avian influenza. Between July 2015 and March 2016, WS and its partners tested more than 45,000 apparently healthy wild birds for avian influenza in targeted areas throughout the United States. Monitoring is ongoing, with peak sampling periods during fall and winter seasons.

For more information on avian influenza surveillance in wild birds and the latest findings, please visit: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/animal-disease-information/avian-influenza-disease/defend-the-flock/defend-the-flock-ai-wild-birds



 State Veterinarian Releases Avian Influenza Control Zone [The Chattanoogan, 12 Apr 2017]


The state veterinarian has released the control zone surrounding two Lincoln County poultry farms affected by highly pathogenic avian influenza.

The statewide poultry health advisory is also lifted, and poultry owners can now resume regular activity.

“We have determined through extensive testing that HPAI has not spread to other poultry flocks in our 10 kilometer control zone,” State Veterinarian Dr. Charles Hatcher said. “Poultry owners across Tennessee should continue to monitor their flocks and immediately report any spike in illness or death.”

The first confirmed detection of H7N9 HPAI occurred March 4 in a commercial chicken flock in Lincoln County. Samples from a commercial flock on a premises less than two miles away also tested positive for the same strain of avian influenza on March 14.

Once HPAI was detected, the flocks were depopulated and buried and animal health officials established a controlled zone in the 10 kilometer radius of the affected facilities. Poultry movement was restricted within the zone and birds from commercial and backyard flocks were tested weekly for three weeks. No additional samples have tested positive for avian influenza and testing is now complete. Cleaning and disinfection continues at the two affected premises.

“We greatly appreciate the hard work of all involved in this response,” Commissioner of Agriculture Jai Templeton said. “From our staff and partners on the local, state and federal level to the flock owners and all connected to the poultry industry—this was truly a team effort. I certainly hope Tennessee never has to deal with this situation again, but should we face another challenge, I am confident that our state is prepared.”

A commercial chicken flock in Giles County tested positive for H7N9 low pathogenic avian influenza on March 8. The flock was depopulated and buried and domesticated poultry within a 10 kilometer radius of that premises were also tested and monitored for illness. That surveillance zone was released on March 30.

Although the Tennessee Department of Agriculture did not prohibit poultry exhibitions, shows or sales during this avian influenza situation, the department issued a poultry health advisory and discouraged commingling of birds. Should avian influenza be detected again in the state, the department may take additional action.

Neither HPAI nor LPAI pose a risk to the food supply. No affected animals entered the food chain. Furthermore, the Tennessee Department of Health confirms that the risk of a human becoming ill with avian influenza during poultry illness incidents is very low. This virus is not the same as the China H7N9 virus affecting Asia and is genetically distinct.

The primary difference between LPAI and HPAI is mortality rate in domesticated poultry. A slight change to the viral structure can make a virus deadly for birds. Avian influenza virus strains often occur naturally in wild migratory waterfowl without causing illness in those birds.

With LPAI, domesticated chickens and turkeys may show little or no signs of illness. However, HPAI is often fatal for domesticated poultry.

The state veterinarian encourages poultry owners to remain vigilant in monitoring for flock health and offers the following tips:

Closely observe your poultry flock.

Report a sudden increase in the number of sick birds or bird deaths to the state veterinarian’s office at 615- 837-5120 and/or USDA at 1-866-536-7593.

Prevent contact with wild birds.

Practice good biosecurity with your poultry☞ Biosecurity Information for Commercial Poultry  .

Enroll in the National Poultry Improvement Plan ☞ Poultry Disease Information  .

Follow Tennessee’s avian influenza updates and access resources for producers and consumers ☞ Avian Influenza  .

The state veterinarian and staff are focused on animal health and disease prevention. Each year, the Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory tests approximately 22,000 samples from poultry for avian influenza. Since March 3, the lab has tested more than 2,700 samples.



 State vet: Bird flu in Lincoln County didn't spread [Knoxville News Sentinel, 12 Apr 2017]


None of the other flocks in the control zone around two Lincoln County poultry farms with bird flu were affected, the state has concluded after testing.

On Tuesday, state veterinarian Dr. Charles Hatcher announced he was lifting the 10-kilometer control zone around the two farms, in which birds were found with highly pathogenic avian influenza. He also lifted the statewide poultry health advisory; poultry owners can now resume regular activity.

"Poultry owners across Tennessee should continue to monitor their flocks and immediately report any spike in illness or death,” Hatcher said.

On March 4, the first confirmed detection of H7N9 high pathogenic avian influenza occurred in a commercial chicken farm in Lincoln County that supplied Tyson Foods. Ten days later, samples from a commercial flock less than two miles away tested positive for the same strain of avian influenza.

The state ordered the other flocks on the farms killed and buried and established the control zone around the affected farms, restricting other farms within the zone and testing birds from both commercial and backyard flocks weekly for three weeks.

"No additional samples have tested positive for avian influenza, and testing is now complete," the state said in a news release. "Cleaning and disinfection continues at the two affected premises."

State Agriculture Commissioner Jai Templeton said he's now "confident that our state is prepared" should another outbreak occur in the future. It is still too early to calculate the impact on Tennessee's poultry economy.

A commercial chicken flock in Giles County tested positive for the less serious H7N9 strain low pathogenic avian influenza on March 8. Those birds were killed and buried, and the state tested and monitored poultry within a 10-kilometer radius of that farm until March 30.

Neither the high or the low pathogenic avian influenza pose a risk to the food supply, and the state said no affected animals entered the food chain. This virus is genetically different from the China H7N9 virus affecting Asia, health officials said.

Avian influenza virus strains often occur naturally in wild migratory waterfowl without causing illness in those birds, but the wild birds can transmit the virus to domesticated poultry. High pathogenic avian influenza is usually fatal to the domesticated birds. Poultry owners are encouraged to prevent contact between their flocks and wild birds as much as possible.

Poultry owners who see a sudden increase in the number of sick birds or bird deaths should report it to the state veterinarian’s office at 615-837-5120 and/or the USDA at 1-866-536-7593.

Follow Tennessee’s avian influenza updates and access resources for producers and consumers at tn.gov/agriculture/article/ag-businesses-avianinfluenza.

The state veterinarian and staff are focused on animal health and disease prevention. Each year, the Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory tests approximately 22,000 samples fr



 China's H7N9 bird flu death toll at 47 in March: government data [Reuters, 12 Apr 2017]

China reported 47 human fatalities from H7N9 bird flu in March, the national health authority said on Wednesday, compared with 61 deaths in February.

It also reported 96 cases of human infection from H7N9 bird flu for last month, according to a statement posted on the website of the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

(Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Tom Hogue)



 Tibet Reports First H7N9 Case; Two Cases in Central China [ThePoultrySite.com, 11 Apr 2017]

CHINA - A human infection of H7N9 bird flu has been reported in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, the local health authority said Saturday.

The patient, a 41-year-old migrant worker from neighboring Sichuan Province, was diagnosed on April 3 and is in quarantine at Tibet's Third People's Hospital in Lhasa, the regional health and family planning commission said on its website.

The man had been involved in the trade of live poultry since arriving in Lhasa in February.

His symptoms were reported to the regional disease prevention and control center on April 2, and his condition was confirmed on 3 April. He is the first human infection of H7N9 bird flu in Tibet.

Following the diagnosis, live poultry trading has been suspended across the region. All those who had been in close contact with the patient are under medical observation.

H7N9 is a bird flu strain first reported to have infected humans in China in March 2013. Infections are most likely to strike in winter and spring.

Meanwhile, two new cases of H7N9 infection were also reported from 31 March to 6 April in central China's Hunan Province, health authorities said Saturday.

Live poultry trading has been suspended in the provincial capital Changsha since 17 March, which will last until the end of April.

Nationwide, 79 people died in January from the virus, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

H7N9 is a bird flu strain first reported to have infected humans in China in March 2013. Infections are most likely occur in winter and spring.

Disease control and prevention experts have said that the H7N9 virus is not transmitted from person to person.

Experts recommend that people avoid contact with dead and live poultry, and only buy poultry with quarantine certificates.



 CDC confirms first human infection with H7N9 in Tibet [Taipei Times, 11 Apr 2017]

By Lee I-chia

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday said the first human case of avian influenza A (H7N9) infection was confirmed in Tibet, while the number of H7N9 cases in people in China this season is the highest in five years.

The first human H7N9 case was confirmed by the Tibet Autonomous Region’s Health and Family Planning Commission on Friday, the CDC said, adding that it has raised the travel warning level for Tibet to “Alert.”

CDC Epidemic Intelligence Center Director Liu Ting-ping (劉定萍) said that according to data released by Chinese government, a 41-year-old man who works in the live poultry trade was being treated in an isolation room at a hospital after showing symptoms after arriving from Sichuan Province in February.

Liu said that 581 cases of human infection with H7N9 have been reported in China since October last year, the highest number in five years.

The cases were reported in 22 provinces or cities, which also set a record for the most areas with H7N9 reported in a flu season, Liu said, adding that 138 cases were reported in Jiangsu Province, 84 in Zhejiang Province, 61 in Guangdong Province, and 55 in Anhui Province.

“It seems like the bird flu outbreak is more active this season, causing increased risk of human infection, as the cases are not limited to specific provinces any more, but have spread to areas that had never reported cases before,” CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞) said.

Lo said that the new cases of human infection in China dropped significantly in February, but considering data from previous years, the centers estimates that there will still be newly reported cases through next month.

Lo said people in China or planning to visit China should remain vigilant and stay away from birds and poultry, avoid eating eggs or poultry that are not cooked thoroughly, frequently wash their hands with soap, refrain from going to crowded places and wear a facial mask and seek medical attention if flu-like symptoms occur.



 Scary Bird Flu Mutations Could Lead to Worst Pandemic in History [CBN News, 11 Apr 2017]

by Lorie Johnson

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Leading scientists in the field of deadly flu epidemics are worried about what could be the granddaddy of them all, and say it could be right around the corner.

They're talking about the bird flu, also known as H7N9. Experts say it could be as bad as, or even more severe, than the worst global pandemic in recorded history. That was the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918, which killed an estimated 40 million people. That flu also originated in birds.

Alarms began sounding in the medical research community when scientists observed the bird flu was rapidly mutating and killing chickens in China. That's scary because, until now, when chickens got the bird flu it was so mild, the chickens generally did not die from it. Now, however, the virus is far stronger and deadlier. Not only are chickens dying, they're dying fast, sometimes in just one day, and they're spreading it to other fowl.

The bird flu outbreak among chickens is ominous for humans.

"It makes us queasy," former global director of the World Health Organization's Influenza Program, Keiji Fukuda, told NPR, "Because it's a very visible way to see these viruses as restless.

Some of these changes are dead-end, but some are not. And this genetic mutation is not. It's becoming more lethal for poultry. For people? We're not sure."

Oftentimes flu viruses that circulate among animals are passed to people. That's already happening in China with the H7N9 bird flu strain. When people catch the bird flu from chickens, about a third of the humans die. It's already killed nearly 200 people this flu season (September to March). That's more deaths than in any single season since when it was first discovered in humans four years ago.

When it comes to containing flu outbreaks, the smartest virologists in the world are stumped by this one. Guan Yi who was instrumental in minimizing the Swine flu and SARS is pessimistic about this aggressive bird flu, mainly because it is changing so fast. "We're trying our best, but we still can't control this virus," He said, "It's too late for us to eradicate it."

This new virus presents a good-news, bad-news scenario.

The good news:

• The virus is easy to diagnose and vaccines for chickens can be manufactured and administered quickly.

• Big cities like Shanghai have quickly shut down their live poultry markets when human cases are on the rise, which can keep it from spreading.

The bad news:

New mutations of the bird flu virus are typically discovered in China, the site of many small poultry farms run by farmers who aren't well-educated about the threat of bird flu and who often hide evidence of infected birds because they are afraid of losing income.

Worldwide travel, particularly on airplanes, means outbreaks spread very rapidly.



 Why Chinese Scientists Are More Worried Than Ever About Bird Flu [NPR, 11 Apr 2017]

by ROB SCHMITZ

gettyimages-630667190_custom-b0a2c76cf48d6db72f97c5b1eefd1f498e629efb-s1200-c85.jpg
 A shop owner holds a live chicken for sale in a Hong Kong market.
Isaac Lawrence /AFP/Getty Images

At a research lab on top of a forested hill overlooking Hong Kong, scientists are growing viruses. They first drill tiny holes into an egg before inoculating it with avian influenza to observe how the virus behaves.

This lab at Hong Kong University is at the world's forefront of our understanding of H7N9, a deadly strain of the bird flu that has killed more people this season — 162 from September up to March 1 — than in any single season since when it was first discovered in humans four years ago. That worries lab director Guan Yi. But what disturbs him more is how fast this strain is evolving. "We're trying our best, but we still can't control this virus," says Guan. "It's too late for us to eradicate it."

Guan is one of the world's leading virologists. He has held some of the worst in his hands: H1N5, H1N1 and SARS. His work on Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, in 2003 led to the successful identification of its infectious source from live animal markets and helped China's government control the virus that had killed hundreds, avoiding a second outbreak.

He has now moved on to avian influenza.

Guan's office, which has a view of the lush hills and blue waters of Hong Kong Harbor, is decorated with ceramic figurines of ducks, geese and chickens. His adjacent lab is full of tissue samples of the birds — and of deceased humans — all of whom have perished from H7N9.

The fowl samples — along with live birds — arrive from a network of scientists who, each week, purchase birds at poultry markets throughout southern China. Back in December, Guan and his colleague Zhu Huachen began noticing something strange about them. "Some of the birds ... they will die within a day," says Zhu.

2-95fa6bddab6eb288471caadb38669456e9173fbd-s500-c85.jpg
 A lab assistant at the University of Hong Kong Center of Influenza Research will inoculate eggs with bird flu to track how the virus behaves.
Rob Schmitz/NPR

The birds that were quick to die of H7N9 were all chickens. This was a surprise, because chickens normally live with the virus in what's known as a low pathogenic state — they carry the virus but don't die from it and have a low capacity to spread it. Guan and his team discovered the H7N9 strain had mutated into a new form that kills chickens even more quickly.

"Ten years ago, H7N9 was less lethal," says Guan. "Now it's become deadlier in chickens. Before it barely affected chickens. Now many are dying. Our research shows it can kill all the chickens in our lab within 24 hours. If this latest mutation isn't stopped, more will die."

Guan says this is very bad news for a global poultry industry that's worth hundreds of billions of dollars, and he says China's government is already looking into vaccinating chickens. What worries Guan more, though, is that H7N9 has proved an ability to mutate quickly. There's no evidence that the virus has become more deadly in people. But already, in the rare cases when humans catch it from birds, more than a third of them die.

Currently, the virus hasn't been known to spread easily among humans, but Guan fears a future mutation could. "Based on my 20 years of studying H7N9 — the virus itself as well as how the government handles it — I'm pessimistic," says Guan, shaking his head. "I think this virus poses the greatest threat to humanity than any other in the past 100 years."

Guan's choice of 100 years is deliberate. Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of what was known as the Spanish flu, the most devastating epidemic in recorded history. As World War I drew to a close, the influenza of 1918 killed between 20 million and 50 million people, all dead from a flu that originated in birds. He says it's not a stretch to envision another global pandemic.

"Today, science is more advanced, we have vaccines and it's easy to diagnose," says Guan. "On the other hand, it now takes hours to spread new viruses all over the world."

1-7af3b531d21744ce470b2324fc02d88f20574f28-s500-c85.jpg
 Guan Yi is the director of the State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Center of Influenza Research at the University of Hong Kong. "We are trying our best," he says about efforts to fight avian flu. "But we still can't control this virus."
Rob Schmitz/NPR

Keiji Fukuda, former global director of the World Health Organization's Influenza Program, is also concerned. "We are now able to make vaccines and analyze things faster, but at the same time, the movement of people and animals is faster. There's a balance in those things. Some are helpful, some aren't. Everything's moving more quickly, and it's a shifting thing."

Fukuda, who now teaches at Hong Kong University's school of public health, says H7N9's ability to mutate from low pathogenic to highly pathogenic — deadly and infectious — in chickens disturbs him.

"It makes us queasy," Fukuda says. "Because it's a very visible way to see these viruses as restless. Some of these changes are dead-end, but some are not. And this genetic mutation is not. It's becoming more lethal for poultry. For people? We're not sure."

What's worse, says Guan, is that new mutations of the bird flu virus are typically discovered in China, a country with scores of small poultry farms run by farmers who aren't well-educated about the threat of bird flu and who often hide evidence of infected birds to protect their bottom line. "Farmers are scared of losing money. I know how they think — I'm from a rural part of China. And that's why I'm not optimistic about this."

Guan says there are a few encouraging signs.

Big cities like Shanghai have quickly shut down their live poultry markets when human cases are on the rise.

But that's just China.

Guan says preventing the next global pandemic will depend on how well the governments of individual countries collaborate. That, he says, is a different challenge altogether.



 NEWSFLASH: Bird Flu restrictions lifted for Melton poultry owners [Melton Times, 11 Apr 2017]

Poultry owners in Melton have been told they can allow their birds to roam free again from Thursday after the government announced it would be lifting restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of Bird Flu.

newsflash-bird-flu.jpg
Poultry on show during the Spring rare breeds show, held at Melton Cattle Market EMN-171104-170825001

Recent outbreaks in the UK and mainland Europe prompted the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to order UK flocks to be housed in December because of the risk of the H5N8 virus being circulated.

Then in February, Defra said poultry could be allowed out into netted runs but some owners lost the free range status of the eggs their birds produced.

But the government announced today (Tuesday) that poultry would be allowed to run free again from Thursday, although all owners will still have to comply with strict biosecurity measures, such as cleaning footwear, keeping bird residences clean and feeding birds indoors.

The ban on poultry gatherings remains in place, though which means that Melton Cattle Market can not re-start its popular Tuesday sales.

They have been banned since December, reducing football to the market on Tuesdays. Restrictions in the housing of birds have been lifted because of changes in the wild bird population.

The majority of over-wintering migratory birds have now left the UK and resident wild waterfowl are at their lowest levels and entering the breeding season when they become less likely to move long distances to forage for food.

The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Nigel Gibbens, said: “We continually review our disease control measures in light of new scientific evidence and veterinary advice.

“Based on the latest evidence on reduced numbers of migratory and resident aquatic wild birds we believe that kept birds in the areas we previously designated as Higher Risk are now at the same level of risk as the rest of England and may now be let outside.

“However, all keepers must still observe strict disease prevention measures to reduce the risk of contamination from the environment, where the virus can survive for several weeks in bird droppings.” He added: “This does not mean business as usual - the risk from avian flu has not gone away and a Prevention Zone remains in place, requiring keepers across England to take steps to prevent disease spreading. We continue to keep measures under review and keepers should check GOV.UK for regular updates.”



 Vietnam launches national bird flu control programme [VietNamNet Bridge, 11 Apr 2017]

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has recently launched a national avian influenza monitoring programme.

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Spraying chemicals at poultry trading place
The programme is to monitor for early detection of any case of avian flu and virus circulation in order to give people warnings on the possibility of unsafe food or the disease outbreaks, thus reducing the risk of the viruses being transmitted to human.

It also supports the building of zones for safe farming in Vietnam and promotes the sustainable development of the breeding industry.

The programme will keep a close watch on poultry farms with suspected infection of the bird flu and immediately report to the animal health agencies.

In addition, provinces where poultry farming is a key industry or poultry are raised for export will have their flocks of poultry tested while in border provinces, virus monitoring will be conducted at live bird markets or places.

All seven Regional Animal Health Offices and 63 sub-departments of animal health across the country will be provided with staff training in monitoring outbreaks on poultry and other professional skills.

VNA



 Avian flu restrictions in ‘higher-risk’ areas to be lifted [FarmersWeekly, 11 Apr 2017]

by Jake Davies

110417-chickens-c-Wayne-Hutchinson-FLPA-imageBROKER-REX-Shutterstock-rexfeatures_5306614a-615x346.jpg


All poultry in England is to be allowed outside from Thursday (13 February) as the risk of avian influenza spread from wild birds is downgraded by Defra.

The UK’s chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens said, while the H5N8 strain of bird flu that caused more than 1,000 outbreaks across Europe this winter may remain in the environment, the danger of cross contamination had subsided.

As a result, birds still subject to compulsory housing orders across England, usually because they were close to large bodies of water, will be allowed to range again.

The ban on gatherings of poultry, such as pure breed showings, remains in place until further notice.

It brings the housing requirements in line with Wales and Scotland, where all birds were allowed to range, subject to detailed risk assessment. That risk assessment and enhanced biosecurity measures will continue to apply to all poultry keepers in England.

The change in policy came as poultry industry leaders warned the warmer weather posed a threat to housed birds in systems designed to be free range.

See also: ‪☞ Map: Avian influenza incidence across the UK 2016-17 

Mark Williams, chief executive of the British Egg Industry Council, said last week producers were concerned about ventilation systems’ ability to cope and potential health issues, such as red mite. On Sunday (9 April) the hottest temperature this year was recorded at 25C in Cambridge.

Defra said the change was based on “the latest scientific and veterinary advice”. Wild birds have now left the UK, resident wildfowl are at their lowest levels and entering their breeding season, meaning they will not travel as widely, it said.

Avian flu risk ‘not gone away’

The last bird in the UK found to have avian influenza was in the south-west of England on 10 March.

Mr Gibbens said the new regime did not mean “business as usual” for poultry producers.
“The risk from avian flu has not gone away and a prevention zone remains in place, requiring keepers across England to take steps to prevent disease-spreading”.

“We continually review our disease control measures in light of new scientific evidence and veterinary advice.

“Based on the latest evidence on reduced numbers of migratory and resident aquatic wild birds we believe that kept birds in the areas we previously designated as higher risk are now at the same level of risk as the rest of England and may now be let outside.

Detailed guidance can be found on Defra’s avian influenza home page☞ Avian influenza (bird flu) 




 Export options grow as bird flu infects global poultry products trade [Queensland Country Life, 11 Apr 2017]

by Andrew Marshall

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Bird flu problems in the US, a leading egg exporter and the world’s second biggest poultry meat trader, are potentially helpful news for Australia’s fledgling chicken meat and egg export sectors.

A rapidly evolving strain of bird flu has killed a record number of people this year in China. Scientists are concerned about its potential to spur a global pandemic.

Bird flu outbreaks in parts of Asia, Europe, and now the US, are creating some optimistic sales prospects for Australian exports in the competitive poultry products market.

In the past two months big egg producers Pace Farms and Sunny Queen have moved swiftly to cash in on massive demand in South Korea, where avian influenza has claimed more than 26 million hens since late last year.

Others are trying to get a toehold in the Korean market, too, as a normally expensive 30 per cent egg import tariff has temporarily fallen to zero.

Brisbane-based Sunny Queen now sends 276,000 eggs (23,000 dozen) a week to Korea in refrigerated shipping containers, sourcing extra supplies from across eastern Australia to support its expanding market.

South Korea’s egg shortage intensified last month after outbreaks of bird flu in four states in the US, prompting Seoul to ban all uncooked US poultry and egg products.

Taiwan also banned poultry-related imports from Tennessee, where the highly pathogenic H7 avian influenza was discovered on a poultry farm in early March, and halted poultry meat sales from Wisconsin after an H5 avian flu outbreak.

The disease has also been detected in Alabama and Kentucky.

Japan and Hong Kong have also imposed restrictions.

Given the US is a major egg exporter and the world’s second biggest poultry meat trader its bird flu problems are potentially helpful news for Australia’s fledgling chicken meat and egg export sectors.

However, global markets are highly price sensitive and, as one industry spokesman noted, chicken meat opportunities have actually become more volatile in many parts of the world as more flu outbreaks emerged in recent years and jittery governments imposed fresh trade barriers.

Australia exports just 30,000 tonnes of the 1.15 million tonnes of (carcase weight) chicken meat produced here every year, mostly as offal and feet, to Asia, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific region.

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Some high-end fresh lines go to niche Asian markets and the United Arab Emirates, but the industry, led by big farmer-processors Inghams and Baiada, generally focuses on a domestic sales growing at 3pc annually.

Chicken’s share of Australia’s total meat consumption is set to reach 44pc within five years, compared to 25.4pc for beef.

Flu-free Brazil dominates the global chicken meat trade, followed by bird flu-troubled USA, and a host of European Union countries where disease issues have also triggered trade restrictions.

Bird flu is tipped to cut EU exports by 100,000t in 2017, down to 11.7m tonnes, following import restrictions by South Africa, the Philippines and other key buyers.

Thailand, the world's fourth-ranked exporter, has jumped at opportunities to sell more chicken meat globally, with its sales climbing near 800,000t last year.

Assuming it stays disease-free while neighbours such as Vietnam and Malaysia battle avian flu, Thailand expects exports to rise 4pc in 2017, largely thanks to fresh access to South Korea.

Inghams public affairs general manager, Dr Andreas Dubs, said Australian processors exported to about 70 countries, but demand varied and sales opportunities were mostly in their infancy.

However, companies such as Inghams may become more strategic about cashing in on Australia’s reputation as a clean food source if long-term markets could be pinned down.

Australian Chicken Meat Federation’s assistant executive director, Dr Kylie Hewson, said although NSW recorded a short avian influenza outbreak on a free-range farm in 2013, Australia had enjoyed a remarkably clean record, thanks partly to its distance from migrating bird routes crossing infected regions overseas and local biosecurity habits.

“Asia has become a bit of a boiling point lately, but different outbreaks have happened everywhere from Austria to Africa, France, and Italy,” she said.

“The World Health Organisation seems more worried, given the number of alerts being routinely published.”

After losing a third of its poultry flock and access to US imports, Korea’s supply squeeze may lead to an extension of the temporary tariff holiday for Australian eggs past June.
“I’d be surprised if their shortage doesn’t last some time,” said Sunny Queen’s managing director, John O’Hara.

The import tariff break had given his company a valued chance to establish its credentials in Korea.

“Maybe they’ll have a staged return to tariffs, which would help us further build relations with new customers.”

Meanwhile, the Australian Egg Corporation has launched a new Egg Standards of Australia (ESA) voluntary quality assurance program for farms to highlight the quality of production among egg producers complying with the new code.

Managing director, Rowan McMonnies, said it would help producers clearly show they met requirements of regulators and customers in hen welfare, egg quality, biosecurity, food safety, work health and safety and environmental management.

“After extensive consultation with egg farmers and their customers, we’ve been able to deliver a clearer and more objective set of compliance standards that reflect current customer and regulatory requirements.”

The story Export potential as bird flu infects global poultry products trade first appeared on Farm Online.
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