NEWS SCAN: H5N1 outbreaks, polio in Pakistan, new malaria tool, border health

Jul 7, 2011

H5N1 outbreaks reported in Bangladesh, Indonesia
Bangladesh has confirmed an H5N1 avian flu outbreak that killed 231 birds at a commercial poultry farm near Ilaipur, a town in Khulna division in the southwestern part of the country. In a report today to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), local health officials reported the deaths of 231 poultry of a flock of 1,000 starting Jun 22. The rest of the flock was culled to prevent disease spread, and reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction tests Jun 24 at the national lab in Dhaka confirmed H5N1.
Jul 7 OIE report
Meanwhile, the region of South Sulawesi, Indonesia, is experiencing an H5N1 avian flu outbreak that has killed at least 10,000 chickens on commercial farms, according to a post today from Bird Flu Information Corner blog, a collaborative venture of Kobe University in Japan and Airlangga University in Indonesia. The outbreak has affected nearly the "entire farming area" of Sidrap municipality, with possible spread to many villages, including Tanete, home of the largest layer-chicken farm in Sidrap. A local official said a team has been dispatched to monitor the outbreak.
Wild poliovirus type 3, rare in Asia, reported in Pakistan
Pakistan has reported the first case of wild poliovirus type 3 (WPV3) in Asia in more than 6 months, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported today. The case is in a 16-month-old child from Khyber agency who first experienced paralysis Jun 9. The previous confirmed Asian case was on Nov 18, also in Khyber Agency, which is in a difficult-to-access region of the country's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. "Confirmation of continuation of WPV3 transmission in tribal areas of Pakistan has significant implications for the global effort to eradicate WPV3, particularly as Asia is on the verge of eliminating circulation of this strain," the WHO said in today's update. "The detection of WPV3 in Pakistan represents the risk that it may spread from this transmission focus to other WPV3-free areas of Asia and beyond." The agency added that WPV3 transmission is at historically low levels this year, restricted to parts of West Africa (17 cases), Nigeria (5 cases), and Chad (3 cases). Although Pakistan has ramped up vaccination efforts, the WHO said that nearly half of children in Khyber agency have been regularly missed in the last 2 years.
Jul 7 WHO update

Group finds inexpensive weapon that kills malaria mosquitoes
Ivermectin, an inexpensive drug used to treat heartworm and other parasites, could be a useful tool for interrupting malaria transmission, according to researchers from Senegal and Colorado State University (CSU). The group, writing in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, noticed that malaria transmission fell among people in several Senegalese villages over 2 weeks when they were taking the drug to fight onchocerciasis (river blindness), according to a EurekAlert press release. The drug appeared to kill mosquitoes that fed on the villagers' blood. In locations where people were taking ivermectin, the population of mosquitoes carrying the Plasmodium falciparum parasite dropped 79% 2 weeks after the drug was administered. During the same period in areas were people weren't taking the drug, the population of malaria-carrying mosquitoes rose 246%. The researchers said larger, longer-term studies are needed to determine if more frequent, such as monthly, doses of the drug during malaria season have an impact on disease. They added that it might be possible to use the drug during epidemics or during well-defined transmission seasons. Brian Foy, PhD, a vector biologist at CSU, said in the press release that the drug is less likely to contribute to drug resistance in mosquitoes, because ivermectin would only target the small percentage that bites humans.
July Am J Trop Med Hyg abstract
Jul 6 EurekAlert press release

CDC official warns of US-Mexico border health issues
Citing budget cutbacks and increasing disease burdens, Rear Admiral Ali S. Khan of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned in a blog post yesterday that US-Mexico border regions face increased infectious disease threats. Khan, director of the CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, pointed out that pathogens don't stop at borders and focused on tuberculosis (TB) and coccidioidomycosis but cautioned that other diseases may also pose a problem. Writing on the Public Health Matters Blog after touring the El Paso Point of Entry, Khan said a 50% funding cut to the Early Warning Infectious Disease Program and a 12.5% reduction in critical federal preparedness and response funds have greatly weakened public health's ability in border regions to combat disease. He wrote that Texas has the second-most US TB cases, most of which are found near the border and many of which are drug resistant. He also said that 10,000 to 15,000 new cases of coccidioidomycosis, or valley fever, are diagnosed in Arizona each year, but very few of them in the border region. He also writes that the region's poverty and mobile population exacerbate the problem.
Jul 6 CDC blog post

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