The highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been detected in at least 55 countries in Asia, Europe, and Africa. This often fatal disease is of pressing concern because it can be transmitted from birds to humans, although such transmissions have been rare so far. Unfortunately, according to a Roundtable article in the November 2006 BioScience, the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), critical information about incidence of the disease in wild birds–even the species of the infected bird–is often recorded inaccurately or not recorded at all. The deficiencies in data collection, the authors write, “can lead to unwarranted assumptions and conclusions that in turn affect public perceptions, practical control and management measures, and the disposition of resources.”
Scientists have detected a new strain of H5N1 bird flu virus in China and warned it might have started another wave of outbreaks in poultry in Southeast Asia and move deeper into Eurasia. The development of highly pathogenic avian H5N1 influenza viruses in poultry in Eurasia accompanied with the increase in human infection in 2006 suggests that the virus has not been effectively contained and that the pandemic threat persists.
In the case of an outbreak of pandemic flu, large majority of Americans willing to make major changes in their lives. Survey also finds many people would face critical work-related problems. The latest national survey conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) Project on the Public and Biological Security finds that when faced with a serious outbreak of pandemic flu, a large majority of Americans are willing to make major changes in their lives and cooperate with public health officials’ recommendations.
GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK.L: Quote, Profile, Research) is in talks with the British government about a nationwide bird flu vaccination after signing a similar deal with Singapore, the Times newspaper reported.
The Ministry of Health in Indonesia has confirmed an additional three cases of human infection with the H5N1 avian influenza virus. All three cases were fatal.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has taken a significant step forward in the global effort to prepare for an influenza pandemic by publishing the Global Pandemic Influenza Action Plan to Increase Vaccine Supply. In developing this plan through a consensus of the world?s experts in influenza, immunization, vaccine research, and manufacturing, the WHO has set the world?s sights on the decisive path forward to increase the global capacity to produce pandemic influenza vaccine.
GlaxoSmithKline (plc) today announced that a supply contract has been signed by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health and GlaxoSmithKline for 8 million doses of GSK?s H5N1 antigen influenza vaccine and its proprietary adjuvant for pre-pandemic use. The order provides enough doses, one per head of the entire Swiss population, to help prepare the immune system against the threat of a human influenza pandemic and is the first national programme to do so. Supply and stockpiling of the pre-pandemic vaccine is expected in early 2007 once the Swiss regulatory agency, Swissmedic, has reviewed and approved GSK?s regulatory file.
Influenza experts have urged nations not to lower their guard against the deadly H5N1 virus, saying it now survives longer in higher summer temperatures.
Experiments in mice show that an antiviral drug currently used against annual influenza strains also can suppress the deadly influenza virus that has spread from birds to humans, killing dozens of people in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand since early 2004. This study, the first published report conducted on oseltamivir against the H5N1 influenza strain circulating in Vietnam, found that the drug, sold commercially as Tamiflu, dramatically boosted the survival rate of infected mice.