Friday, September 28, 2007

Free of H5N1, Ghana reports

Full story:

The Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) yesterday announced that the nation is officially free of H5N1 in birds. After detecting H5N1 on small poultry farms in three separate districts between early April and late May of this year, the MOFA set up a quaratine and surveillance area around the farms, where more than 13,000 birds died from the virus. Nearly 30,000 more birds were culled to prevent spread of the disease.

Three weeks is the typical period between disinfection and a declaration of this nature, however the government extended this period by a couple of weeks to allow for greater surveillance.

The government recently began an education campaign for farmers on biosecurity to prevent future outbreaks and encourage the reporting of sick and dead birds. Ghana has also set up a compensation system to incentivize farmers to promptly report possible outbreaks of H5N1.

Bird flu in Canada is NOT H5N1

A large Saskatchewan poultry farm is under avian flu quarantine, but Canadian health and animal control officials report that the avian flu subtype, infecting these birds is H7N3, a strain not typically harmful to humans. There is no evidence of H5N1, the strain health authorities fear may mutate into a pandemic form, in Canada at this time.

Though H7N3 is not harmful to humans, it is quite deadly in poultry. All 50,00 birds at the farm will be culled to prevent further spread to poultry in the region.

Full story available from the Star Pheonix, via the H5N1 blog:

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Outbreaks of H5N1 in Russia & Bangladesh

From Ria Novosti:

"About 250,000 birds are to be culled at a poultry farm in south Russia's Krasnodar Territory following an outbreak of bird flu earlier this month, Russia's agriculture watchdog said Wednesday.
A total of 170,600 birds have been slaughtered at the Lebyazh-Chepiginskoye farm and the remaining 77,500 are due to be culled in the near future, Alexander Skorikov, the head of the animal health department at Russia's agriculture watchdog said.
September 5 about 22,000 birds were culled at the farm after a regional laboratory identified the lethal H5N1 virus in dead birds at the farm."

From Xinhua:

"Some 6,000 chickens were culled at Sahapur village in Sadar sub-district in Bangladesh's northwestern Bogra district, 170 km of capital Dhaka Tuesday night following the detection of avian influenza virus in a poultry farm.
The private news agency UNB on Wednesday reported that Nakul Saha, owner of the poultry farm, took several dead chickens for laboratory test on suspicion that they might have died of bird flu. "

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Rapid diagnostics for H5N1 in humans - at a lower price

From Medical News Today:

"Scientists in Singapore say they have invented a quick and cheap bird flu test in a hand held kit that can detect the deadly H5N1 virus in under 30 minutes."

Scientists from Singapore's Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology have been developing an easily deployed, rapid diagnostic test for H5N1 for the past year. Health experts believe that a diagnostic tool such as this may be the key to identifying clusters of H5N1 in humans if it begins to mutate into a pandemic form - particularly in countries with less developed health infrastructures where time is wasted while cultures are shipped to and tested in central labs.

Using the droplets from a throat swab, this CD-like device can "isolate, purify, and amplify" the culture and scan it for the virus in under 30 minutes. Not only is the device easily portable but trials have shown it to be as effective at identifying the virus as equipment in central labs. The kit would also be about "5,000 percent cheaper" than currently available tools. It is not clear when the device will be available.

The study was published in the journal Nature Medicine: "Catching bird flu in a droplet."Juergen Pipper, Masafumi Inoue, Lisa F-P Ng, Pavel Neuzil, Yi Zhang, and Lukas Novak. Nature Medicine Published online: 23 September 2007.

Monday, September 24, 2007

H5N1 outbreak in Nasarawa State, Nigeria


"Over 1,052 birds have so far been culled in Panda Development Area of Nasarawa State in the wake of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) that affected the area just as the people of the area were commended for reporting early signs of the flu.

UNICEF field officer for Avian Influenza, Alhaji Bala Hassan who visited the affected area from their headquarters in Bauchi said the efforts of the people of the area in reporting cases of sick or dead birds as well as their contributions towards the depopulation exercise was commendable.

Bala who was in Nasarawa weekend and visited Kondoro and panda district areas where the incident occurred cautioned the people against taking sick or dead birds for granted and should ensure that poultry meat and eggs are properly cooked before consumption."

Good news - Chlorine kills H5N1

From Emerging Infectious Diseases (

With waterfowl being significant carriers of H5N1, there are definite concerns about H5N1 being transmitted to other poultry and humans through water.

A recent study published in EID demonstrated that Chlorination, the most common form of water treatment, does indeed kill H5N1

"The results of this study confirm that avian influenza (H5N1) is readily inactivated by
chlorination... For drinking water disinfection at conditions similar to those used in this study, the US Environmental Protection Agency specifies free chlorine Ct values of 6 and 8 mg-min/L to achieve enteric virus inactivation of 3 and 4 orders of magnitude, respectively (14). According to our results, these Ct values would be more than sufficient to inactivate HPAI (H5N1) in the
water environment. The information on chlorine disinfection presented here should be helpful for developing risk management procedures regarding the role of water in the transmission of the virus to humans and poultry."

Friday, September 21, 2007

Low Dose H5N1 Vaccine: Improving Ability to Stockpile?

Sanofi Pasteur, which developed the first FDA-approved pre-pandemic vaccine in April, recently released results of a clinical trial of a new antigen-sparing, low-dose H5N1 vaccine, which they said produced an immune responses in a significant (70-80%) number of the adults in the trial.

The guidelines for the first vaccine from Sanofi would have recommended a dose of 90ug of antigen to produce an immune response to the virus, whereas annual flu vaccine contains about 45ug of antigen.

This new low-dose vaccine could contain only 1.9 to 3.75ug of anitgen, significantly increasing the number of doses manufacturers could deliver in a shorter time period, which would be particularly important in the event of a pandemic.

The vaccine is still in Phase 1 trials in the United States and Sanofi has not commented on how long they believe it will take before the vaccine is ready for licensure or manufacturing.

Full story available online:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Good stuff from AED - advocacy guidelines and participatory research on AI

New tools from AED...

Advocating for Change: Raising Awareness for Avian Influenza

"The objective of this guide is to reach individuals, communities, and organisations working to advocate for public health awareness of avian influenza. The guide provides an overview of the advocacy process and its components - from planning and information gathering, to evaluating success - and suggests strategic activities and messages that can be used to reach different audiences. It can be used by organisations of any size."

Participatory Action Research on Avian Flu Communication

"This summary report and recommendations reflects the findings of participatory action research conducted by UNICEF and the Academy for Educational Development on avian flu in six communities - one urban/periurban community and one rural community in three locations: Burkina Faso, Lagos State Nigeria, and Kano State Nigeria. Five key findings emerged from the research:

* Chickens are more important for food security than they are for food. For example, in Burkina Faso families use income from selling chickens to purchase foodstuffs, especially grain, and to purchase seed and agricultural implements at the beginning of the planting season.
* Chickens play a critical role in rituals and social ceremonies. People do not identify possible alternatives to poultry in religious and other cultural practices. Reminding people that avian flu can threaten their ceremonies may motivate them to engage in preventive behaviours.
* Community knowledge about how avian flu is transmitted is low. Community members have many different ideas about the source of avian flu infection.
* Some of the recommended behavioural interventions - "Report, Separate, Wash, and Cook" - are not feasible in communities where enabling factors are absent. This research confirmed the difficulty of changing practices to prevent and control avian flu in poultry. Reducing human exposure to infection will also be challenging, especially if people are unaware of the risks.
* Strategic use of a mix of mass media and interpersonal channels will be most successful in reaching people and persuading them to change behaviours. Mass media messages can quickly reach large numbers of people but must be realistic and practicable in the local context. They also need to be complemented by interpersonal communication from trusted sources in the community.

Several key recommendations, based on the above findings, are noted in the report."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Massive culling underway in Guangdong province

Following China's first poultry outbreak of H5N1 since May, officials in Guangdong province announced that more than 100,000 ducks will be culled in the next few days, following the culling of more than 36,000 ducks surrounding five farms in the Panyu district of Guangdong.

Officals also tried to allay fears that this H5N1 outbreak was the result of a resistant strain, given that the ducks in the area had been vaccinated for the virus.

Guangdong Animal Epidemic Prevention Center Director Yu Yedong said the outbreak occured, "because there wasn't enough time for the vaccinations to produce sufficient antibodies before the ducks caught the virus, and most of the birds were baby ducks." He also noted that it typically takes up to 21 days for the vaccine to take hold.

As a precautionary measure, all public hospitals in the area have been placed on alert to report any abnormalities in patients that could be related to the outbreak.

Full stories from The Standard and The Washington Post, via H5N1 blog:

Monday, September 17, 2007

A mutated form of H5N1 found in ducks in China???

Since September 5, an outbreak of H5N1 among ducks on five farms in the southern Chinese province of Guandong has led directly to the deaths of 9,800 ducks and the culling last week of more than 32,000. Hong Kong authorities will suspend importation of chilled and frozen ducks and geese from the area for a week and shipment of live poultry for three weeks, while it begins more inspections of local farms further from the outbreak.

Full story from The International Herald Tribune:

In a related story, Hong Kong officials fear that H5N1 in these ducks could be a mutated virus, or evidence of a faulty or ineffective vaccine. All 9,800 ducks infected with H5N1 in this outbreak had been vaccinated against the virus.

"According to Guangdong Animal Epidemic Prevention Center director Yu Yedong, the 9,800 ducks that died at Sixian village had been vaccinated. But he added the first vaccination could only be 65 percent effective, while a second shot would have made it 90 percent. He believed the birds were infected after the first shot."

In addition to traditional containment measures, quarantine and disinfection of all nearby farms, officials are broadening their focus and stepping up inspection and testing at all farms within a 15-mile radius of the initial outbreak.

Poultry sales from the area have fallen 20 to 30 percent since the outbreak began.

Full story from The Standard, via H5N1 blog:

Friday, September 14, 2007

Canada cuts deal to ensure it receives anti-pandemic vaccine

Canadian Health Minister, Tony Clement, announced yesterday that Canada has signed a 10-year agreement with Glaxo-Smith Kline (GSK) to ensure Canada receives anti-pandemic vaccine in the event of an influenza pandemic. This agreement is contingent on a $199 million Canadian investment to double the capacity of GSK vaccine plants in Quebec City, allowing GSK to produce up to 225 million doses of an anti-pandemic vaccine.

Full story available online via the National Post:

WHO Says H5N1 Fatality Rate: 61%

World Health Organization authorities announced September 12 that the current official case fatality rate (CFR) for H5N1 in humans is 61 percent.

"A total of 328 human cases and 200 deaths from avian influenza had been reported in 12 countries worldwide since 2003, with a case fatality rate of 61 per cent," Shigeru Omi, WHO's regional director for the Western Pacific, said at the 58th WHO Western Pacific Regional Committee meeting held on Jeju Island, South Korea's southernmost island.

Full story available at Asia Pulse Yahoo News, via H5N1 blog:

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A New 3-Year Strategy for Indonesia?

After a two-day summit attended by 150 participants from 11 countries, UN and Indonesian authorities met to discuss the UN's drafted three-year plan for ramping up efforts to prevent spread of H5N1 in Indonesia. This plan revolves around six previously recommended strategies to contain H5N1.

Indonesian Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Aburizal Bakrie said that Indonesia has already begun implementing the six recommended strategies, but that the rollout will take time. These steps emphasize better communications to the public about the dangers of becoming infected and preventing transmission to humans handling domestic poultry.

"One-point-five billion poultry, which seem to be suffering from quite large numbers of outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza: that is clearly the big issue ... because it is ... bird flu in the birds that (is) then leading to humans getting H5N1 infection, and that is giving us the risk of the emergence of a pandemic virus. And we need a pretty intensive new drive in order to get it fully under control, and it will take probably a two- to three-year period," said David Nabarro, the senior United Nations coordinator for avian and human influenza.

Full story can be found below, via VOA and H5N1 blog:*http%3A//

In a related story, Indonesia announced at the summit with international health authorities that it will now begin manufacturing oseltamivir (tamiflu) domestically at a rate that will dramatically (or completely) reduce the amount of Tamiflu they must import. The Minister of Health has yet to designate a company that will produce the medicine.

Full story:*http%3A//

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

UN Authorities Assessing Indonesia's Preparedness

A two-day meeting convened in Bali with Indonesian authorities and representatives of the United Nations' Avian and Human Influenza program will assess the progress and gaps in Indonesia's preparedness and surveillance programs for H5N1.

A new set of guidelines for Indonesian programs to combat H5N1, updated based on these discussions, is expected to be released Wednesday evening.

Full story from VOA news, via H5N1 blog:

Vietnam Battles Chicken Smugglers

Chickens, being smuggled into Vietnam from China, have created a dire situation in Vietnam. Surveillance and disinfection efforts are having difficulty adequately screening chickens throughout the nation, especially given the massive number of unscreened chickens entering Vietnam illegally. Local residents along the borders have been drawn into work as porters, making more transporting smuggled chickens into Vietnam than in farming.

In two provinces this year alone, authorities have confiscated and destroyed more than 110 tons of chickens from smugglers . Unvaccinated birds smuggled through these routes have been blamed by Vietnamese authorities for rapidly spreading the disease.

Full story link from the China Post, via H5N1 blog:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Frozen duck meat with H5N1 suspected to have been sold to consumers in Germany

Scandal in Bavaria? German consumers may have been sold duck meat contaminated with H5N1, according to the statement of a Bavarian government official yesterday. A sample of poultry taken from a slaughterhouse in a Bavarian town that recently witnessed an outbreak of H5N1 found 18 frozen birds with the virus.

Bavaria took quick action to cull over 120,000 suspected birds after the August 1 outbreak in Wachenroth; another 200,000+ were culled after the recent discovery at the plant, as a precaution. It’s unlikely that the meat will pose a threat even if consumed, since cooking meat properly generally renders the virus inactive; a greater risk comes from the handling of uncooked contaminated meat.

Full story link below from CIDRAP, via H5N1 blog.

Malaysia declared free of H5N1

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) gave Malaysia the green-light to declare the nation once again free of H5N1 after an outbreak among domestic poultry in early June 2007. Malaysia was also declared free from H5N1 in June 2006. This outbreak, the first in nearly a year, resulted in the culling of more than 4,200 chickens near the country's commercial capital, Kuala Lumpur.

The OIE requires that a country experience no new outbreaks of H5N1 for three consecutive months after the last culling and disinfection campaigns before it can be considered free of the disease.

"Almost 80,000 birds were culled since the first bird flu case was detected in 2004. The government has so far spent almost RM10 million in compensation to the affected poultry rearers."

Malaysia has already begun to reap the benefits of this new declaration as poultry exports have started to resume, albeit slowly.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Even if it's not the birds....

... a pandemic flu is going to hit sooner or later. So, no, preparedness is not a waste of time and money, says Margaret Chan:

"I am often asked if the effort invested in pandemic preparedness is a waste of resources," director general Margaret Chan told a regional meeting of the [World Health Organisation].

"Has public health cried wolf too often and too loudly?" she said in a speech.

"Not at all. Pandemics are recurring events. We do not know whether the H5N1 (avian influenza) virus will cause the next pandemic. But we do know this: the world will experience another influenza pandemic sooner or later."

From a talk today, via YahooNews. Full link below:;_ylt=AkBpWCI0c2uGPgc.ziEq49KTvyIi

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Another death in Indonesia

Death number 85 in Indonesia, confirmed less than an hour ago. From Yahoo News:

JAKARTA (AFP) - A 33-year-old Indonesian man from Sumatra island died of bird flu on Thursday, bringing the death toll in the world's worst-affected nation to 85 and the global toll to 200, health officials said.

The plantation worker died at 2:00 pm (0700 GMT), the doctor treating him at the state general hospital in the city of Pekanbaru, Azizman Daad, told AFP.

A health ministry official earlier confirmed that the man was infected with the deadly H5N1 virus, after two tests came back positive.

H5N1 is endemic in birds across nearly all of Indonesia.

The archipelago nation has now reported 106 cases overall, including the 85 deaths.
Daad said it was not clear whether the man had come into contact with infected poultry, but he had bought two live chickens at a local market.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Russia confirms third outbreak this year

Via H5N1 blog, a Reuters report:

MOSCOW, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Russia on Tuesday reported its third outbreak this year of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu after 410 birds died on a poultry farm in the country's south, but the growing poultry sector is set to withstand the scare.

Another 414 birds were culled and strict quarantine measures were in place at the farm in the Krasnodar region after local laboratory tests confirmed the presence of the virus in dead birds, Russia's animal and plant health watchdog said.

"It's serious enough to bring in strict measures, including quarantine, to make sure it doesn't spread," Alexei Alexeyenko, spokesman for the Rosselkhoznadzor agency, said.

"An investigation is being carried out to determine the source of the infection."

Wild birds and AI transmission

Via crofsblogs' H5N1 blog, a link to an article from Hong Kong's The Standard that reports 350,000 wild birds tested worldwide have tested negative for the H5N1 virus:

During global wildlife surveillance, 300,000 to 350,000 "healthy, wild birds have been sampled looking for this virus," said Scott Newman, the international wildlife coordinator for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

The same article mentions that researchers presenting at the Avian Influenza and Wildlife Surveillance conference in Bangkok this week report that the information on wild bird transmission of H5N1 is inconclusive. From

Experts meeting in [Bangkok] say they have been dealing with data that might be unreliable because there is no uniform system of checking H5N1 infection among wild birds. The Food and Agriculture Organization brought together more than 70 experts from 12 countries.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Vaccine trials to start for bird flu


The vaccine centre of the University of Tampere is seeking 200 volunteers to take part in trials of a vaccine for humans against the H5N1 bird flu virus.

The vaccine to be tested is a "model" vaccine which the National Public Health Institute signed an agreement on purchasing for the entire population from the Dutch company Solvay Pharmaceuticals.

Full text of the article here: