Tuesday, March 14, 2006

March 14 Flu Update

Things appear to be serious in Azerbaijan. Three women are dead and WHO is saying that their tests are apparently reliable. They are 17-21. Two other deaths have pending results, including a family member of one of the dead girls. (These push death toll over 100).

Helen Branswell on the case. She notes there are 12 other suspect cases...also, despite family "clusters," there appear to be no cases among health care workers.

Newsweek on the Azerbaijani cases.

Finally, CIDRAP on Azerbaijan.

Bird flu is back in India.

ProMed on India, and more suspected bird cases in Romania.

H5 is confimed in Afghanistan. N1 is still being considered.

Effect Measure on the continued spread of the virus, and his view of where the US government's priorities are.

Losses to the poultry industry in India continue to mount.

US AgSec Mike Johans says US treats bird flu as "inevitable."

The Dutch are starting their long-delayed bird vaccination program, which is voluntary.

Novavax stock is benefitting from kinds words for its vaccine from an analyst. Clearly, many people are looking for the right investment angle on the pandemic.

More on the flu in North America by Spring.

Last summer, researchers collected samples from about 6,000 birds that travel between Asia and Alaska to test for H5N1 infection. About 10 percent of the birds had a low-level strain of the virus that usually doesn't kill, but could mutate into the lethal version at any time.

Government and university scientists plan to check at least 75,000 more migrant birds this year. They also will do what they call "sentinel sampling" of Alaskan chickens, ducks and geese to see if they've been infected.

All the recent avian flu cases occurred along wild bird migratory routes.

"I can't think of any outbreak that was not on a migratory flyway," Ip said. "Birds have most of the globe covered. They don't leave any niches unexplored."

Hungary continues to work on its own human vaccine.

An additional factor is the FDA requesting $30M for 2007 for development of vaccine and tests.

OPEC donated $1 million to the global fight against the pandemic.

Ghana is gearing up a committee to fight the bird flu.

An awareness program began today in New Zealand....

while today a health commissioner in North Carolina discussed his county's plans as well.

Vietnam says it will vaccinate all duck flocks (!!)

Recombinomics on the Azeri cases. Notes similarities to Turkey, and high level of WHO involvement.

Recombinomics on the similarities between the Italian and the Iranian flu samples.

Generex Biotech will announce its vaccine program at an upcoming conference.

One of the major challenges facing immunization with many of the currently available vaccines is the need for refrigeration, often referred to as maintenance of the cold chain. This is a particularly difficult problem in developing countries with limited medical resources. One of the advantages of a vaccine utilizing peptides and DNA is that both of these components can be lyophilized, stored at ambient temperatures and reconstituted "on-site" with saline. "We have promising data in an animal model suggesting that we will be able to achieve levels of immunity consistent with protection from H5N1," said Dr. Powell. The company has recently completed a pre-IND meeting with the FDA and hopes to enter human clinical trials of its peptide vaccine against H5N1 later this year.

We conclude today on a quote a reader sent me, from Dr. Robert Webster on ABC News. Dr. Webster is a titan of influenza research. You can mock the blogosphere, but his words carry weight.

"Society just can't accept the idea that 50 percent of the population could die. And I think we have to face that possibility," Webster said. "I'm sorry if I'm making people a little frightened, but I feel it's my role."


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