NEWS SCAN: H5N1 worries Japan, cholera cases in US, polio funds

Jan 28, 2011

Latest H5N1 outbreaks in Japan create sense of vulnerability
The recent string of H5N1 avian influenza outbreaks on Japanese poultry farms has experts worried that the virus may have found a new route into the country and could crop up anywhere, according to a report today by The story said the Aichi prefectural government reported yesterday that an H5 virus killed birds at a farm in Toyohashi, marking the fifth confirmed outbreak in 2 months. Experts say avian flu viruses have generally been thought to reach Japan via wild birds arriving in spring from Southeast Asia, but now there is concern that the virus may be riding on birds coming from Russia and other points to the north. That suspicion arose after an H5N1 virus closely related to a Mongolian strain was found in wild-duck droppings in Hokkaido last October. "There is a possibility that migratory birds infected in Russia and elsewhere are flying south [to Japan]," said Koichi Otsuki, an avian flu expert at Kyoto Sangyo University, according to the story. "The current situation is such that bird flu could break out anywhere, anytime, across Japan," said Hiroshi Kida, a professor of veterinary medicine at Hokkaido University.

US travelers from Dominican Republic contract cholera
In the first indication that Haiti's cholera outbreak has reached US shores, Massachusetts health officials have confirmed that six state residents contracted cholera after attending a wedding in the Dominican Republic, according to the Boston Herald today. Doctors say there is no evidence of spread of the disease to others locally. The first patient, a 30-year-old man from Boston, attended the wedding with his wife, who was unaffected, and is recovering, according to a Boston Globe story today. The second patient was described only as a "young woman" in a Globe blog entry, which said she was treated in the emergency department at Brigham and Women's Hospital earlier this week. The other four cases are in a man and his three children. All attended a wedding with more than 400 guests last week in the Dominican Republic, where cholera has spread from Haiti. Dozens of wedding guests have fallen ill, including some who traveled home to Venezuela, with the same strain of cholera that has killed more than 3,000 Haitians. A Canadian Press (CP) article today said the number of Venezuelan cases has climbed to 111.
Jan 28 Boston Globe article on 30-year-old man
Jan 28 Boston Globe blog entry on second case
In related news, tests have ruled out polio in four cholera patients in Haiti who had developed acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) after treatment, according to a Miami Herald story today. Referring to the patients' lab results, Dr. Roc Magloire of Haiti's Ministry of Health said, "They are negative." The patients, whose cases were first reported Jan 10, had all been treated at the same center in northwestern Haiti and developed AFP 1 to 3 days afterward. Three of the patients died. Magloire said the cause of the AFP may have been environmental and more tests are needed.

Rotary raises $160 million to eradicate polio
Rotary International has raised about $160 million of its goal of $200 million to help eradicate polio, according to a news release yesterday. The funds, which its members raised through Dec 31, will be matched with $355 million in challenge grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and will support vaccination campaigns in developing countries. And in a related development, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that Lagos state in Nigeria has been polio-free since April 2009, according to an AllAfrica Global Media story yesterday. The state, along the country's southwest coast and home to Nigeria's capital city of Lagos, has had 262 AFP cases in that period, but WHO representative Charles Korrir said those patients have all tested negative for poliovirus. The state is in the midst of an extensive polio vaccination campaign.
Jan 27 AllAfrica story

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