Wednesday, April 05, 2006

LANL Looks at Bird Flu Possibilities
Apr 05, 10:43 AM, By JOHN ARNOLD Journal Staff Writer

Travel restrictions and school closures wouldn't stop an avian flu pandemic from sweeping across the country.

But they could buy crucial time for the production and distribution of a vaccine or antiviral drugs, according to a team of Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists who used supercomputers to simulate an outbreak in the United States.

The LANL researchers, along with a biostatistician from the University of Washington, published results of an outbreak simulation this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. ...

The study's computer models show a dangerous, unchecked influenza virus spreading across the United States at an alarming rate. The simulated pandemic peaks 85 days after reaching U.S. borders and infects 43 percent of the population, if it spread at the rate of other pandemics in the 20th century. [my emphasis]

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

China Isolates Henan Fever Students As Bird Flu Fears Spread

HONG KONG—Authorities in the central Chinese province of Henan are holding more than 400 university students in isolation after they contracted a mystery fever. Meanwhile, authorities in Shanghai have called for better preparedness as the highly pathogenic avian influenza spreads.

The students, from the Henan University of Science and Technology in the city of Luoyang, were being held at an undisclosed location other than the university hospital, a local employee said, confirming earlier official media reports.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Human H5N1 Bird Flu in China Raise Pandemic Concerns
Recombinomics Commentary, April 3, 2006

China has released three human H5N1 bird flu sequences. These sequences are similar to each other and most closely related to a duck isolate in Fujian Province. However, these isolates are quite distinct from other H5N1 sequences in China and elsewhere. Consequently, the pandemic vaccine in clinical trails around the world and the new vaccine target from Indonesia that was recently selected by the United States will not offer significant protection against these newly released sequences from China. Moreover, the vaccines under development will also offer little protection against the Qinghai strain which is linked to recent human outbreaks in Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, and Azaerbaijan.

Thus, at this time there are four distinct H5N1's causing fatal human infections which will likely require custom pandemic vaccines. Thus, as H5N1 evolves, the distance between vaccines under development and new versions of H5N1 cause human infections is increasing. In 2004 human cases in Vietnam and Thailand were linked to a similar H5N1. Last year Indonesia and China reported human cases and the recent release of sequence data clearly shows that the H5N1 in humans in Indonesia is quite distinct from H5N1 infecting humans in China and all three versions are distinct from the Qinghai strain of H5N1 causing human infections in the Middle East and Africa.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Egypt reports two more human bird flu infections
02 Apr 2006 11:10:06 GMT

CAIRO, April 2 (Reuters) - Two more Egyptians have been infected with the bird flu virus, Egyptian Health Minister Hatem el-Gabali said on Sunday, taking to eight the number of reported human cases in the country.

The two were sisters, one aged 18 months and the other six years, from Kafr el-Sheikh province north of Cairo. The pair, who had handled dead birds, were in a stable condition. Blood tests on their immediate family were negative for the virus.
H5N1 Bird Flu in Penguins in Antarctica?
Recombinomics Commentary, April 1, 2006

The discovery of two corpses of penguins at the beginning of the week on l’île of the Possession threw the disorder in the scientific community of the base Alfred-Faure. The first analyses carried out on the spot reveal a strong suspicion of aviary influenza. ...

The above comments suggest penguins in Antarctica are fatally infected with H5N1. Confirmation of these results would be cause for concern. Antarctica is relatively close to South America, Africa, and Australia, offering easy access for worldwide spread of H5N1 as the host range and geographical reach continue to expand.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Human bird flu victims face end in 'plague pits' , by
David Cracknell

FAMILIES may have to wait for four months to bury their dead in the event of an avian flu pandemic, stirring up folk memories of the burial pits of the great plague of 1665.

A confidential Home Office report says as many as 320,000 people could die from the H5N1 strain of the virus if it mutates into a form that can readily be passed between humans.

It says the emergency services may have to enforce mass burial. “Common [mass] burial stirs up images of the burial pits used in the great plague of 1665 — where in London 70,000 people died,” it adds.

The report, Managing Excess Deaths in an Influenza Pandemic, dated March 22, says vaccines against bird flu should not be seen as a “silver bullet” solution and “will not be available in the first wave of a pandemic [possibly longer]”.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Bird flu killed Indonesian baby girl
31 Mar 2006 16:08:33 GMT

JAKARTA, March 31 (Reuters) - A one-year-old baby girl, who died this month, has been confirmed as Indonesia's latest bird flu victim, the Health Ministry said on Friday, citing results from a World Health Organisation-affiliated laboratory.

The girl, from west Jakarta, is the country's 23rd victim of bird flu, senior ministry official I. Nyoman Kandun told Reuters after receiving results from the laboratory in Hong Kong.

He said it was unclear if the baby had had any contact with sick birds, the usual mode of transmission of the virus to people, but added there was a lot of fowl in her neighbourhood.
Jordan finds first human bird flu case
31 Mar 2006 17:02:43 GMT

AMMAN, March 31 (Reuters) - Jordan reported its first human case of bird flu on Friday in an Egyptian labourer who was believed to have become infected while on a holiday in his home town in Egypt, health officials said.

Health Minister Said Darwazeh said the man, a 31-year old labourer, who had lived in Jordan for three years, had been taken to hospital on Thursday after suffering severe breathing problems three days after arriving from his home town in Fayoum where people had been in close contact with infected poultry.

"His condition is good and (he is) getting treatment and we are coordinating with the Egyptian authorities," Darwazeh told Reuters, adding that preliminary tests showed there were no other cases.

"He was infected in his (home) country," he added.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

On the Front: A Pandemic Is Worrisome but 'Unlikely'
By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL, Published: March 28, 2006

OXFORD, England — The Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City, where Dr. Jeremy Farrar works, has treated about two dozen people with avian influenza in the last three years.

Dr. Jeremy Farrar. The Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City, where Dr. Farrar works, has treated about two dozen patients with avian flu.
AFRICA Migratory birds take off from a beach in Senegal, in February.

With that tiny number, Dr. Farrar and his Vietnamese colleagues probably have more clinical experience than any other doctors with the A(H5N1) virus — the dreaded germ that international health officials fear may ignite the next flu pandemic.

Yet, Dr. Farrar notes, this trickle of humans infected with bird flu — 186 in all since 2003 — has provoked a flood of scientific meetings on pandemics, accelerating in recent months.