Saturday, September 16, 2006

September 15 Flu Update

It seems to be the time for retrospective flu analysis. Indonesia went back and found some cases, and now South Korea says it has found five cases from 2003-2004. None were seriously ill. They were poultry cullers.

Recombinomics is calling for more retrospective work like this to search for family clusters.

In my view, the single most important thing we can do for a flu pandemic is develop an effective flu vaccine before a pandemic starts. Then, we need the political will to vaccinate people before the pandemic hits in full force. Here, the New Scientist talks about progress on the first issue.

Most flu vaccines are injected, and contain killed virus. But H5N1 vaccine has been stubbornly ineffective prepared this way – two shots containing large amounts of virus or novel, still-unlicensed additives have been needed for recipients to develop immunity, and even then not in all people tested. H5N1 vaccine virus also grows very slowly in production plants, for reasons as yet unknown.

Worse still, what little information is available suggests that these killed vaccines do not induce immunity that cross-reacts with other strains of H5N1. This is crucial if we are to stockpile vaccine ahead of any H5N1 pandemic, as it is impossible to predict the precise strain (see Today's bird flu vaccines will have to do here).

Swift protection

So the new trials, led by Kanta Subbarao at the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, US, represent good news. The researchers used a live, weakened flu virus carrying surface proteins from H5N1. Squirted up the noses of test animals, the spray protected mice and ferrets completely after just two doses, and kept mice from dying from later H5N1 infection after only one dose.

On yesterday's new Indonesian case in which h-h transmission could not be ruled out, a ProMed mod notes that the circumstantial evidence is strong.

Michigan State University has a team working on a bird flu plan.

The US has pledged $47 million to Indonesia to fight the bird flu.

However, Nabarro also says the aid is too slow.

There is a meeting in West Africa on bird flu control. (In the US, we don't appreciate the role of NGO's overseas. This meeting is sponsored by the The Network for Smallholder Poultry Development, a Denmark NGO)

ASEAN nations are sharing experience on the bird flu.

Malawi says that it has taken "control" of some donated veterinary equipment and is ready for a flu outbreak.

From the UK, a fictional flu scenario.

San Bernardino, CA, is preparing for the bird flu.

Businesses in Kalamazoo, Michigan, heard the flu preparation message.

Gina Kolata, author of the book that got me fascinated in the flu, "Flu: The story of the great influenza pandemic, spoke at Princeton on the bird flu.

Her discussion was part of a evening program on the flu that also featured a discussion by a public health expert

"I would worry when scientists say it's been spreading from person to person rapidly anywhere in the world," she said.


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