Stories tagged avian flu

Jan
18
2009

Bird flu rears its head again in China

Bird flu death in China
Bird flu death in ChinaCourtesy broterham
A two year old girl in northern China has tested positive for bird flu. Early this month, January 5, a 19-year-old Beijing woman died of bird flu after handling poultry. She had purchased ducks at a market in Hebei Province, which neighbors Beijing. Although she had close contact with 116 people, no one around her has fallen ill.

Pandemic possibilities worry officials

Human-to-human transmission of avian flu is rare, but officials worry the virus could mutate and become a deadly pandemic. H5N1 has led to 248 deaths worldwide since 2003, including 21 in China.

Source articles:
Click this link to read all CNN articles about bird flu

Mar
19
2007

Indonesia—with the world's highest death toll from H5N1 avian influenza—briefly stopped providing samples to the World Health Organization (WHO), saying only organizations that agreed not to use the samples for commercial purposes would have access. Now the Indonesian government has struck a new deal to share samples under a plan that would guarantee access to any resulting vaccines.

H5N1 avian influenza viruses: This is a colorized transmission electron micrograph of Avian influenza A H5N1 viruses (in gold). (Courtesy J. Katz Goldsmith and S. Zaki, CDC)
H5N1 avian influenza viruses: This is a colorized transmission electron micrograph of Avian influenza A H5N1 viruses (in gold). (Courtesy J. Katz Goldsmith and S. Zaki, CDC)

The Reuters article says,

"Indonesia has said it was unfair for foreign drug firms to use samples, design vaccines, patent them and sell the product back to the country. ...

Menno de Jong of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City said sharing viruses and clinical data was vital to improve diagnostics, clinical care and vaccine development, but sharing vaccines was vital too.

'I think the point is well taken from the Indonesia experience that there should be some guarantees for countries affected by H5N1 that they will also share in the vaccines produced,' he said."

Biotech and pharmaceutical companies spend BIG money to produce tests, treatments, and vaccines for a huge range of conditions, from the life-threatening to the merely inconvenient or uncomfortable. And they’re understandably concerned about protecting their investments.

But afflicted patients are usually not compensated for the samples that make these medical miracles possible. (For a good discussion of the problem, read this editorial from the New York Times).

Check out Bryan’s blog entry ((“Patenting human genes”), and then vote in our poll.

Tell us what you think: Does Indonesia’s insistence that compensation (in the form of access to resulting vaccines) for H5N1 avian influenza samples make you feel safer/better?

The study will enroll 45 volunteers between the ages of 18 and 60. Fifteen will receive placebo injections and 30 will receive three injections of the investigational vaccine over 2 months and will be followed for 1 year. Volunteers will not be exposed to influenza virus. ScienceDaily

Jul
28
2006

A University of Iowa researcher, Dr. James Gill, has just shown that people can catch a non-threatening kind of bird flu (NOT the H5N1 strain) from wild birds.


Duck hunter's dog: (Photo by Blaine Hansel)

Gill tested blood from 39 duck hunters for antibodies that would prove infection by any of a dozen kinds of bird-based influenza. Several hunters had antibodies to H1, H2, and H3 strains, which have adapted to humans and are now routinely seen in people. But one hunter tested positive for H11N9, which is not seen in humans.

The hunter was a healthy, 39-year-old man who'd been hunting since he was 8 and kills or handles hundreds of birds a year. He'd never shown any symptoms of illness.

Also, Gill found H11N9 antibodies in the blood of two Iowa Department of Natural Resources workers. Both had been banding ducks for years.

None of the infected men had any history of working with domesticated birds--an established source of bird flu transmission to humans. Instead, these cases appear to be the first documented of humans getting viruses from wild birds.

Feb
28
2006

A study back in 2004 found that the avian flu (H5N1 virus) can also infect cats, and that cats can spread the flu to other cats. A dead cat in Germany this past weekend has been found to have had been infected with the H5N1 virus. It is believed that the cat contracted the virus after eating an infected bird, which is in line with the pattern of disease transmission in Asia. This was the first case of the H5N1 virus being found in a mammal in Europe. If the virus can be transmitted to cats can it be transmitted to other mammals, like humans?

One mammal that scientists are particularly worried about becoming infected by the H5N1 virus is the pig. Since pigs can be infected with the human flu virus, there is concern that if a pig were to become infected with both viruses they could combine to create a new virus that would be transmittable to people.

Check out this interactive map to see how far and fast the virus is spreading. Learn more about the avian flu here at Science Buzz by visiting Liza's blog on the avian flu or our online avian flu exhibit.

Oct
10
2005

It's in the news. People are dying from a relative of the 1918 Influenza virus half a world away, and scientists fear it may be the next pandemic. Sounds like science fiction, or the latest box-office smash, right? Unfortunately, it's real, and is happening right now.

chickens: (Photo courtesy Laura Hadden)
chickens: (Photo courtesy Laura Hadden)

In Southeast Asia, a virus known as avian influenza or avian flu has the potential to spread and kill humans with terrifying speed. Avian flu is also known as H5N1 for the proteins that bind, infect, and destroy its host cell to thrive. Chickens can die within hours of exposure, swollen and hemorrhaging, but it is just as lethal to mammals from lab mice to tigers. The virus has decimated bird flocks in 11 countries mostly in Asia, and has killed 62 people (half the known cases) to date, with highest fatalities occurring in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. So far, nearly all people infected contracted the sickness directly from infected poultry and at this point there is no confirmed evidence of efficient human-to-human transmission. However, health authorities fear that the H5N1 strain will likely mutate into a pathogen easily passed between humans if it continues to persist in the environment. If that happens, and authorities believe it's only a matter of time, the world could face a catastrophic pandemic.

Many health organizations and governments are stockpiling a drug (Tamiflu) to protect against this potential pandemic, but scientists are reporting that a strain of H5N1 avian flu virus is showing resistance to the antiviral drug. Scientists are working to avoid this disaster by detecting changes in the evolving H5N1 virus. As a first step, scientists have rebuilt the 1918 flu-a disease that killed as many as 50 million people-from pieces of genetic material retrieved from the lungs of people who died 87 years ago. Gene-swapping experiments are starting to give scientists some clues in the lab. When small substitutions were made, the reconstructed virus could no longer replicate in the lungs of mice, kill animals, or attach itself to human lung cells.

So far H5N1 has not yet learned the trick of racing from person to person like the ordinary flu and maybe never will. Nevertheless, experts fear that the risk could materialize and are urging the world to prepare for the worst.

United Nations Food and Agriculture Program

NPR Health and Science Report

Jun
10
2005

The Avian Flu, or bird flu, is an infection caused by influenza viruses in birds. Wild birds worldwide carry influenza viruses but do not usually become sick from them. However, the same influenza virus that does not make wild birds sick can make some domesticated birds, such as chickens and turkeys, very sick and can kill them.

Scientists are closely monitoring an outbreak of avian flu in Asia. Avian flu has been found in birds in Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Pakistan, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. Human cases of avian influenza have been reported in Thailand and Vietnam, some of which have lead to deaths.

Organizations such as the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control are worried that the avian flu will become the next pandemic — an outbreak of an infectious disease that affects people over a large geographic area.

An influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges in people, causes serious illness, and then spreads easily from person to person worldwide. This is different from seasonal outbreaks of influenza. Seasonal outbreaks are caused by influenza viruses that are already in existence among people, where pandemic outbreaks are caused by new subtypes or by subtypes that have never circulated among people. Past influenza pandemics have been extremely costly. For example, from 1918 — 1919 the "Spanish flu" pandemic caused the deaths of more than 500,000 people in the U.S.

Many scientists and researchers believe it is just a matter of time until the next influenza pandemic. It is unlikely that a vaccine would be available in the early stages of the pandemic, and once a vaccine is developed it takes several months before it becomes widely available.

In order to be as prepared as possible for an influenza pandemic, the US Department of Health and Human Services has developed a Pandemic Influenza Response and Preparedness Plan. To view the plan, and to learn more about the avian flu, visit the US Department of Health and Human Service's web site.