NEWS SCAN: H5N1 in Egypt, Lassa virus contract, hospital pandemic planning gaps

Feb 10, 2010

Egypt confirms man's H5N1 infection
Egypt's health ministry today confirmed an H5N1 avian influenza infection in a 37-year-old man who is in critical condition, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported. The man is from Helwan governorate, located in the Cairo suburbs. He got sick on Jan 31 and was hospitalized Feb 6 and treated with oseltamivir (Tamiflu). The report did not list a suspected source of his infection, though Egyptian media reports on Feb 8, translated and posted on flu blog sources, said the man had contact with sick birds. He is listed as Egypt's 97th H5N1 case, of which 27 have been fatal. The man's illness raises the global H5N1 count to 474 cases, including 282 fatalities. Egypt recently reported six other H5N1 cases, four adults and two children. None of the patients were related and all reportedly had contact with infected poultry.
Feb 10 WHO statement

Tulane group gets $15 million to study Lassa virus countermeasures
Tulane University announced yesterday that it has received a 5-year $15-million grant from the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to develop ways to treat and prevent Lassa fever, an often deadly viral hemorrhagic disease that is found in West Africa. Lassa virus, a member of the arenavirus family, is considered a "class A" bioterrorism agent by the US government. The contract will fund work by a collaboration that consists of Tulane, Scripps Research Institute, The Broad Institute, University of California at San Diego, Boston University, as well as partners in industry and West African governments. In a press release from Tulane, Dr James Robinson, principal investigator for the program, said researchers will evaluate how antibodies from patients who recovered from Lassa virus infections may play a role in vaccine or treatment development. Dr Robert Garry, who manages the research contract, said that, over the past 5 years, the group has already developed diagnostic products that are being used in clinical settings in Africa.
Feb 9 Tulane press release

Study finds pandemic planning gaps at Ontario hospitals
Only a quarter of Ontario's hospitals have flu pandemic plans, and few of the ones that have plans have tested them, researchers reported in the February issue of American Journal of Infection Control. Dr Dick Zoutman, an epidemiology professor at Queen's University, based in Kingston, Ontario, and lead researcher of the study, said in a press release today that he was surprised that all Ontario hospitals didn't have pandemic plans, given threats from SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and H5N1 avian influenza. The survey found that key players at hospitals were often not involved in pandemic planning and that funding for pandemic preparedness was inadequate, especially for smaller rural hospitals that often lack expertise and have staff members who must perform multiple duties. "You have to look at staffing levels, supply chain—everything from the basement to the ceiling," Zoutman said. "It's like planning a wedding, except you don't know the date, who the bride and groom are, what is to be served at dinner, and you have to keep the flowers fresh for when the big day happens."
Feb 10 Queens University press release
Feb Am J Infect Control abstract

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