FLU NEWS SCAN: WHO flu update, British flu vaccine tally, H5N1 in South Korea

Feb 11, 2011

WHO: More countries report increased 2009 H1N1 activity
Flu activity in the Northern Hemisphere is widespread, with some countries such as the United States and China reporting increased detection of the 2009 H1N1 virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today in an update. Influenza B circulation remained strong in many countries, with H3N2 keeping a foothold in North American countries. In Europe, flu activity is declining in western countries and increasing in the other regions. Some countries, such as the United Kingdom and France, are reporting severe 2009 H1N1 infections in people aged 15 to 64. The UK's Health Protection Agency (HPA) said yesterday in its weekly update that doctor visits for flu have dipped below baseline levels, with influenza B edging out the 2009 H1N1 virus as the dominant strain. Most of the viruses circulating in North America and Europe are closely related to the strains in seasonal flu vaccines. In North Africa and the Middle East, flu activity seems to have peaked, except in Pakistan, Iran, and Oman, which are still reporting high percentages of respiratory samples testing positive for 2009 H1N1 and influenza B. In the tropical zone, the most active flu area is Asia in jurisdictions such as Singapore, China, and Hong Kong, and Madagascar is reporting increasing flu levels, mainly H3N2 and B strains. Yesterday Hong Kong's Center for Health Protection (CHP) said in a statement that its flu season is more serious than last year's, comparable to other years with high flu activity. Dr. Thomas Tsang, the CHP's controller, said officials are seeing more flu hospitalizations in younger people. The WHO said Southern Hemisphere countries are reporting very little flu activity, except Australia, which is still reporting low-level summer H3N2 circulation.
Feb 11 WHO global flu update
Feb 10 HPA report
Feb 10 Hong Kong government press release

BBC wins request for Britain's pandemic vaccine total
Britain's health department spent nearly $383 million (239 million pounds) on monovalent vaccine as part of its response to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, according to information obtained by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as part of a freedom of information request. The health department had refused earlier BBC requests for the information, due to a possible breach in commercial confidentiality. However, the BBC won part of its appeal for the information. The BBC reported today that the government paid two drug companies for the vaccine, GlaxoSmithKline and Baxter. The government was left with surplus doses, some of which were used this flu season when supplies of seasonal flu vaccine ran low during a surge in UK flu activity, most of which was due to the 2009 H1N1 virus.
Feb 11 BBC report

South Korea confirms new H5N1 outbreak
South Korea has experienced another outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza in poultry, according to a report it filed today with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). An unspecified number of farms near Pyeongtaek city in Gyeonggi province reported that, beginning Feb 7, 150 chickens died of the disease and the remaining 34,850 chickens within a 500-meter radius were culled to prevent disease spread. Officials also decontaminated equipment and took other infection-control measures. It is the first H5N1 outbreak in South Korea since the end of January; 14 outbreaks were confirmed between Jan 17 and 25. Gyeonggi is the nation's most populous province.
Feb 11 OIE report

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