NEWS SCAN: Indonesia's suspicious health minister, business pandemic planning, cowpox from rats

Mar 25, 2009

Indonesian health minister skeptical about immunizations, foreign research support
Indonesia's health minister Siti Fadilah Supari yesterday claimed that foreign pharmaceutical companies might be testing their products on the country's citizens and said she'd push for ending childhood vaccinations for pneumonia, chicken pox, seasonal influenza, rubella, and typhoid if she doesn't receive scientific proof that they are "beneficial," according to an Associated Press (AP) report. She added that she still supports immunizations against measles, polio, tetanus, hepatitis B, and tuberculosis. In a related development, Supari told Indonesia's research community to conduct their own virus and DNA research without assistance from foreign funding sources that she said might use the findings to develop a biological weapon to use against Indonesia, according to a report yesterday on the Futuregov.net Web site, a Singapore-based news source.
[Mar 24 Futuregov.net story]

Business trade group urges pandemic contingency planning
An international trade group for the insurance and financial industries today issued a report urging its members to consider the future impact of an influenza pandemic, which could, for example, prompt a range of issues, from liability issues related to event cancellations to civil unrest. The report, from the London-based Chartered Insurance Institute (CII), also urged companies to draw up their own pandemic plans, which should include gauging the impact of reduced service levels, ensuring staff safety, and providing cross-training and telecommuting opportunities.
[Mar 2009 CII Thinkpiece report]

Cowpox virus transmitted to humans from pet rats
Two separate studies appearing today in the early online version of Emerging Infectious Diseases report two separate clusters in Germany and France of people contracting cowpox from pet rats. In the German case, five people from two separate households near Munich became infected after handling pet rats from the same litter. In France, four people living in separate households who bought rats from the same pet store all tested positive for cowpox, a close relative of smallpox. All nine patients recovered. The studies' authors cite only one previous study linking cowpox in humans to a pet rat. They mention the rising popularity of keeping rodents as pets and emphasize caution to pet owners.
[EID report from Germany]
[EID report from France]

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