NEWS SCAN: H5N1 in Cambodia, low-path avian flu in Spain, Tamiflu stockpile questions

May 21, 2013

H5N1 sickens Cambodian girl
Another H5N1 avian flu case has surfaced in Cambodia, that of a 5-year-old girl whose illness was detected retrospectively, according to a May 17 update from the World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific Region office. Her illness, which began on Jan 28, was found during a fever surveillance study conducted by the US Naval Medical Research Unit (NAMRU). Her respiratory samples tested positive for H5N1 on May 2. The girl is from a village in Kampong Speu province. She is alive, and health officials are investigating her exposure to poultry, the WHO said. The latest infection raises Cambodia's total number of H5N1 cases to 32, which includes 27 deaths. Her illness is the country's 11th H5N1 case reported this year.
May 17 WHO update

Low-path H7N1 avian flu outbreak in Spain prompts chicken cull
Spanish authorities have destroyed more than 12,000 breeder hens after a low-pathogenicity strain of H7N1 avian flu broke out in a flock, according to a report the officials filed with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The outbreak occurred in Catalonia in northeastern Spain, the report says. Starting on May 9, 133 hens were infected and died, which prompted the culling of another 12,225 hens, officials reported. The outbreak was over by May 17; the source of the virus remains unknown. Low-pathogenicity strains of H5 and H7 avian flu typically prompt culling and are reported to the OIE because they can evolve into highly pathogenic forms.
May 20 OIE report

UK watchdog takes issue with Tamiflu stockpile program
A government spending watchdog group in the United Kingdom has raised questions about the health department's oseltamivir (Tamiflu) stockpiling program, based on mixed reviews of its efficacy and parliament members' concerns about the program, The Independent, a newspaper based in London, reported today. The National Audit Office (NAO) said that although most regulators agree that the drug can reduce the duration of flu symptoms and assist with prevention, Tamiflu's role in preventing serious illness and death is less clear. Stockpiling the drug in line with WHO guidance is likely to be justified, even with more cautious efficacy estimates, the NAO said, but it took issue with 6.5 million courses that were discarded due to improper storage.
May 21 Independent story
May 21 NAO report

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