NEWS SCAN: H5N1 in Egypt, immune response to H5N1, pan flu ethics, Indonesian airport screening

Apr 21, 2009

WHO confirms two Egyptian H5N1 cases
The World Health Organization (WHO) today confirmed Egypt's two recently reported H5N1 avian influenza cases, involving a 25-year-old pregnant woman and an 18-month-old girl. The woman, from Cairo governorate, got sick on Apr 6, was hospitalized on Apr 11, and remains in critical condition. An investigation found the woman had close contact with sick poultry before she became ill. In the other case, the WHO reported that the 18-month-old girl from Kafr el-Sheikh governorate became sick on Apr 15 and was hospitalized and started on oseltamivir (Tamiflu) 3 days later. She is in stable condition. An investigation revealed she had close contact with sick and dead poultry before she became ill. The two latest case confirmations raise Egypt's H5N1 total to 66 cases, of which 23 have been fatal. The global H5N1 case count now stands at 420, which includes 257 deaths.
[Apr 21 WHO statement]

Egypt finds H5N1 in backyard birds
Animal health officials in Egypt reported a new H5N1 avian influenza outbreak in backyard birds at a village in Menofia governorate, according to a report today from Egypt-based Strengthening Avian Influenza Detection and Response (SAIDR). The outbreak, which involved 17 mixed poultry, was detected during active surveillance. The vaccination status of the birds was not available.

New findings reported on human immune response to H5N1
An international team of researchers used serum samples from Vietnamese patients who survived H5N1 avian influenza infection to generate new information about the immune response to the H5N1 virus, according to a report in PLoS Medicine. The researchers used bacterial viruses (phages) to make numerous fragments of the genome of a 2004 strain of H5N1 from Vietnam and then studied which fragments were recognized by antibodies in the samples from the five Vietnamese patients. The antibodies recognized sites (epitopes) in several viral proteins: hemagglutinin, neuraminidase, M2, and PB1-F2. Further, the researchers identified certain sites, called "noncontinuous conformation-dependent epitopes," that were recognized by two broadly neutralizing monoclonal antibodies generated from the Vietnamese patients. Several of the epitopes were not recognized by antibodies from people who had been infected with other influenza subtypes (H1N1 and H3N2) but not H5N1. The findings "show that people recovering from H5N1 infection make a diverse range of antibodies against several viral proteins," and they also identify parts of the H5N1 virus that may be most likely to stimulate an immune response, according to the editors' summary of the report. The findings can be used to help develop H5N1 vaccines and diagnostic tools, the report says.
[PLoS Medicine report]

South Carolina launches pandemic flu ethics forums
South Carolina's Pandemic Influenza Ethics Task Force hosted the first of four forums last night in Myrtle Beach to encourage public dialogue on the group's proposed ethical response plan, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC). Additional sessions will be held tomorrow in Greenville, Apr 27 in Charleston, and Apr 29 in Columbia. The state's pandemic ethics task force includes members of state agencies, healthcare providers, and legal professionals.

Indonesian airport installs illness-screening tools
In an effort to curb the spread of communicable diseases such as avian influenza, hand-foot-and-mouth disease, and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), authorities at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bandung, Indonesia, yesterday installed two thermal scanners and "body cleaners" at international arrival gates, the Jakarta Post reported today. The airport had used the thermal scanners during the 2003 SARS outbreak, but repairs were needed before yesterday's installation. The airport obtained the body cleaners, which apply a 70% alcohol solution spray, from Indonesia's health ministry. The airport also has an x-ray machine in its quarantine room.
[Apr 21 Jakarta Post story]

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