NEWS SCAN: Pandemic planning and law, vaccine and narcolepsy, H5N1 spread, plant-based H5N1 vaccine, egg outbreak

Sep 3, 2010

Study finds dissonance with EU nations' pandemic plans, public health laws
Researchers investigating pandemic preparedness planning and public health laws in 32 European nations found "significant differences in legislation and in the legitimacy of strategic plans." They found that countries "differ in the range and the nature of intervention measures authorized by law, the extent to which borders could be closed to movement of persons and goods during a pandemic, and access to healthcare of non-resident persons," according to the study published today in BMC Public Health. In addition, they found that some nations employ emergency powers that may trump human rights protections. The authors conclude, "These differences could create problems for European strategies if an evolving influenza pandemic results in more serious public health challenges." They say their findings suggest that member states would welcome further guidance from the European Union on pandemic planning and on standardizing legal approaches across nations.
Sep 3 BMC Public Health abstract

GSK says no clear link between narcolepsy, H1N1 vaccine
In a press release yesterday, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) said current data are insufficient to confirm that Pandemrix, its adjuvanted H1N1 pandemic vaccine, has caused the small number of cases of narcolepsy reported. The company has begun its own investigation of the cases, which "have been primarily, but not exclusively, in Finland and Sweden, with a small number of additional cases reported in France," GSK said in the release, citing adverse-event reports submitted to health officials. "Having reviewed the currently available data and information regarding the reported cases of narcolepsy, which continues to remain limited, as well as GSK's own safety database, the Company has concluded that the currently available information is insufficient to assess the likelihood of a causal relationship between Pandemrix and narcolepsy," the release stated. GSK said more than 30 million doses of the vaccine have been administered throughout Europe.
Sep 2 GSK news release

Long-distance spread of H5N1 by wild birds called possible but unlikely
A study using satellite telemetry to follow the migrations of wild birds suggests that it is theoretically possible but not very likely for them to spread H5N1 avian influenza over long distances. A Euro-American team of researchers traced the migrations of 228 wild birds of 19 species in H5N1-affected regions of Asia, Europe, and Africa from 2006 to 2009, according to their report in the October issue of Journal of Applied Ecology. They note that experimental studies have shown that wild ducks, geese, and swans can be infected with H5N1 asymptomatically and thus have the potential to spread it when they migrate. The researchers found that individual birds can travel up to 2,900 kilometers (about 1,800 miles) in time periods similar to the duration of asymptomatic infection, indicating the potential to spread the virus long distances. But for this to happen, asymptomatic infection would have to coincide precisely with the time of migration, which is unlikely, they report: "For an individual bird there are on average, only 5-15 days per year when infection could result in the dispersal of . . . H5N1 over 500 km." They add that migrating birds typically stay at stopover sites longer than the period of infection and viral shedding, so they are unlikely to spread the virus beyond one stage of a migration. "Intercontinental virus dispersion would therefore probably require relay transmission between a series of successively infected wild birds," the researchers write.
Full text of J Appl Ecol report
Sep 3 press release about the study

Plant-based H5N1 vaccine shows promise in chickens
Researchers found that a plant-expressed H5N1 vaccine not only protected chickens against highly pathogenic strains of the virus, it allowed differentiation of vaccinated chickens from those infected with the virus. The results were accomplished by using plant-expressed hemagglutinin (HA) in different vaccine formulations with an adjuvant to boost immune response. The plant-expressed HA vaccine led to only marginally increased virus replication, which enabled vaccinated chickens to be differentiated by polymerase chain reaction and serologic testing from those infected with wild-type H5N1. This ability, as reported in the Journal of Virology study, may help researchers who track the prevalence of H5N1 infection in birds.
Sep 1 J Virol abstract

CDC estimate of cases in egg-related Salmonella outbreak drops slightly
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) latest estimate of cases in the nationwide egg-related Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) outbreak is down by one, to 1,469, from its previous estimate on Aug 27. In an update issued late yesterday, the agency said 2,508 illnesses with the SE DNA pattern involved in the outbreak were reported between May 1 and Aug 31. Based on the record of the past 5 years, the CDC normally would expect about 1,039 cases with this pattern during the 4 months, suggesting that about 1,469 cases are actually associated with the outbreak. At the same time, the agency said investigations in 10 states have identified 29 restaurant-related and event clusters involving more than one illness featuring the outbreak strain, compared with 26 clusters noted in the Aug 27 update. Wright County Egg in Galt, Iowa, was a supplier in 15 of the clusters, the same number reported previously. As reported earlier, Hillandale Farms of Iowa Inc. has been identified as another potential contributor of contaminated eggs in the outbreak. Results from Food and Drug Administration (FDA) testing of eggs from the two operations are still pending. The FDA previously reported finding the outbreak strain of Salmonella in manure and environmental samples from the poultry farms. The CDC noted that illnesses that occurred after Jul 29 might not have been reported yet.
Sep 2 CDC update on Salmonella outbreak
Aug 27 CDC update on outbreak

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