NEWS SCAN: Avian flu case in Egypt, H5N1 inhibitor, H7N7 in Germany, unvaccinated kids, London's pan-flu plan

Apr 15, 2009

Egyptian woman sick with H5N1 infection
A 33-year-old Egyptian woman from the northern province of Kafr el-Sheikh is sick with an H5N1 avian influenza infection, Reuters reported today. Health Ministry spokesman Abdel Rahman Shahine said the woman had fallen ill on Apr 7 after coming into contact with dead birds, said the report, which cited the Egyptian news agency MENA. The woman's illness is Egypt's fourth H5N1 case this month, and she is the first adult infected after a string of cases in children in recent weeks. As of last week, Egypt had had 12 H5N1 cases with no deaths so far this year, as compared with 4 deaths out of 8 cases last year, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data. The WHO recently sent a team of experts to Egypt to assess whether the virus is changing in some way.
[Apr 15 Reuters report]

Researchers identify new H5N1 inhibitor candidate
Against a backdrop of concern about influenza resistance to oseltamivir (Tamiflu), researchers from Canada and Hong Kong yesterday at a press conference in Hong Kong described a new compound that inhibits the H5N1 avian influenza virus, according to a report from Xinhua, China's state news agency. The researchers' findings appear in today's issue of the Journal of Medical Chemistry. Using computational molecular docking, the researchers screened 230,000 compounds and found 20 potential H5N1 inhibitors. One of the compounds, referred to as "compound 1," showed an ability to inhibit neuraminidase at levels similar to oseltamivir. The compound was also effective in a variety of cell-line assays and with both H1N1 and H5N1 viruses, according to the journal article abstract.
[Apr 15 Xinhua story]
[Apr 15 J Med Chem abstract]

Tests reveal H7N7 at German turkey farm
Animal health officials in Germany yesterday said a low-pathogenic H7 avian flu outbreak at a commercial turkey farm near Kleve in early April involved an H7N7 virus, according to a report yesterday from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The outbreak killed 454 birds, and authorities culled the remaining 16,246 turkeys to control it. Investigators haven't determined the source of the virus.
[Apr 14 OIE report]

Despite free access, most Ontario children not vaccinated against flu
Most Ontario children for whom influenza vaccination is recommended are not getting vaccinated, even though flu immunization is free to all in the province, according to a report from the Toronto-based Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES). In a telephone survey during the 2006-07 flu season, the researchers found that only 30.8% of children with high-risk medical conditions had received flu vaccine and that only 10% of 6- to 23-month-old children had received the recommended two doses of vaccine. The survey targeted the caregivers of 4,854 children between 6 months and 11 years old. "This study shows that just making flu shots freely and easily available to the entire population may not be enough for reaching certain high risk groups," said Dr. Jeff Kwong, one of the authors, in an ICES news release.
[Apr 14 ICES news release]

London's revised pandemic flu plan envisions up to 94,000 deaths
The latest edition of the city of London's pandemic influenza surveillance plan, released recently, says health agencies should prepare for disease attack rates ranging anywhere from 25% to 50% and for case-fatality rates ranging from 0.4% to 2.5%. At the high end of those scales, London could have up to 94,000 deaths, the report says. Titled "The London Regional Resilience Flu Pandemic Response Plan," the report is the fourth version of a document that was first published in May 2006. The 126-page plan is intended to provide the agencies that compose the London Resilience Partnership with a strategic framework to support their preparedness and response efforts.
[London's pandemic flu plan]

Larry Brilliant heads Skoll Foundation project to battle global threats
Dr. Larry Brilliant, the founder of Google Inc.'s philanthropic arm, has been named president of a new organization being set up by the Skoll Foundation to combat urgent global threats such as climate change, water scarcity, pandemic disease, and nuclear proliferation, the foundation announced yesterday. The aim of the organization, called the Skoll Urgent Threats Fund, is to identify and support "innovative, high-impact initiatives" to confront these major threats, said Jeff Skoll, founder and chairman of the Skoll Foundation, in a news release. Brilliant played a key role in the World Health Organization's campaign to eradicate smallpox in Asia, and he was the founding executive director of Google.org. The new organization will have an initial budget of $100 million, the foundation said.
[Apr 14 Skoll Foundation news release]

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