NEWS SCAN: Avian flu in Egypt, low-path H7 outbreaks, H5N1 and raccoons, Malaysia's pandemic exercise

Apr 6, 2009

H5N1 strikes another Egyptian child
Egypt's health ministry said yesterday that a 6-year-old boy from Qalyubiya governorate, just north of Cairo, is hospitalized in critical condition and on a ventilator with an H5N1 avian influenza infection, Egypt-based Strengthening Avian Influenza Detection and Response (SAIDR) reported yesterday. He got sick on Mar 22, was hospitalized on Mar 28, and received oseltamivir (Tamiflu) on Apr 3. The report did not say if the boy had been exposed to sick or dead poultry. If the World Health Organization (WHO) confirms the boy's case, he will be listed as Egypt's 63rd H5N1 case-patient, of which 23 have died of their infections.
[Apr 5 SAIDR report]

Kentucky and Germany report H7 at poultry farms
Agriculture officials in Kentucky announced on Apr 3 that they were investigating a suspected low-pathogenic avian influenza outbreak at a broiler/breeder farm in the western part of the state. The farm processes hatching eggs for Perdue Farms, Inc., which in mid March noted a drop in egg production and found that the birds had antibodies for avian influenza. Testing by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa, found evidence suggesting exposure to an H7 virus, and further tests confirmed the finding. Perdue plans to cull 20,000 chickens from two of the farms' barns, and state agriculture officials are conducting surveillance within a 2-mile radius of the farm. Elsewhere, animal health officials in Germany will cull 17,000 turkeys at a commercial farm in Kleve district in the western part of the country near the border with Holland after a low-pathogenic H7 virus was detected in preliminary tests, according to a translation of a German media report that appeared on ProMed mail, the Internet-based reporting system of the International Society for Infectious Diseases. The samples are undergoing further testing at the Friedrich Loeffler Institute on the Isle of Riems.
[Apr 3 Kentucky Department of Agriculture press release]
[Apr 3 ProMed mail post]

Japanese researchers find raccoons had H5N1 exposure
Japanese researchers said today that they have detected H5N1 avian influenza antibodies in 10 wild raccoons, the first such finding in the country's mammals, the Daily Yomiuri reported today. They presented their findings at a conference of the Japanese Society of Veterinary Science and warned that infected raccoons could spread the virus to chicken farms. They based their findings on blood from 998 raccoons that were collected since 2005 from three locations in western Japan and one site in the eastern part of the country. They said that the 10 raccoons that showed H5N1 antibodies were probably infected by eating the carcasses of sick birds or inheriting the antibody from a parent. In December 2008, US researchers reported in Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) that they found antibodies to a variety of influenza subtypes in raccoons. When they experimentally infected the raccoons, they found that the animals can become infected with avian and human influenza A viruses, shed and transmit the virus to other animals, and seroconvert. Raccoons have avian- and human-type cellular receptors, which could make the animals a mixing vessel for creating novel flu strains.
[Dec 2008 EID report]

Malaysia conducts pandemic containment exercise
Malaysia's health ministry today began a 2-day exercise to test the country's ability to respond quickly to the early signs of an influenza pandemic, according a report from Bernama, the national news agency. Today officials from the health ministry and the WHO primarily were testing decision-making processes, said Dr. Mohd Ismail. Tomorrow's plans call for a table-top exercise to test the government's operational capacity to implement rapid containment measures.
[Apr 6 Bernama report]

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