WHO adds H7N9 updates amid case lull
For the fourth day in a row, no new lab-confirmed H7N9 influenza infections were reported from China, but the World Health Organization (WHO) in two separate updates today provided more details about four case reports it received from China on Mar 7 and Mar 8.
The patients include a 27-year-old man from Fujian province who is in stable condition, and three people from Guangdong province who are all hospitalized in critical condition: an 88-year-old man, a 70-year-old man, and a 76-year-old woman.
Investigations revealed that all four had been exposed to poultry. Patients' illness onsets range from Feb 20 to Mar 1. The number of infections remains at 389, according to a human case list kept by the FluTrackers infectious disease message board. The unofficial number of deaths is 120.
Mar 11 WHO statement on Mar 8 cases
Mar 11 WHO statement on Mar 7 case
In other news, experts at the WHO today assessed the latest H7N9 developments and said that the public health risk remains the same as it did at the time of their Feb 28 assessment.
In that report, the WHO said that although much is unknown abut animal reservoirs and transmission routes, about 80% of humans infected with the virus had been exposed to live poultry or their environments and that H7N9 does not transmit easily among people. The agency also said there remains no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission.
Mar 11 WHO risk assessment
Three new H5N1 outbreaks affect 23,000 Vietnamese poultry
Three new outbreaks of H5N1 avian flu in domestic birds in Vietnam have killed 7,070 poultry and led to the culling of 16,300 more, for a total of 23,370 dead birds, according to reports posted yesterday and today by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
The largest outbreak, in Dong Nai province in southern Vietnam, was reported yesterday. It involved a village flock of 19,200 poultry that had 10,000 sick birds, 5,000 of whom died. The surviving 14,200 birds were culled to contain the outbreak.
One of the outbreaks reported today involved 2,970 cases and 2,000 deaths in a village flock of 4,056 birds in Quam Nam province in central Vietnam. In the other outbreak, in Ha Giang province in far northern Vietnam, an entire village flock of 114 poultry was sickened by the virus, and 70 of them died. All surviving poultry in both flocks were destroyed to prevent disease spread.
WHO sees seasonal flu declines in North America, China
Flu activity in the Northern Hemisphere showed some signs of decline, especially in North America, but patterns varied in the European region, with some northern and eastern countries showing increasing trends, the WHO said yesterday in a global seasonal flu update.
Reports from influenza labs suggest that influenza B detections in North America have slightly increased, while both influenza A strains are circulating in Europe, with the 2009 H1N1 virus somewhat more common.
Seasonal flu also varied in other parts of the world, such as eastern Asia. China saw an overall decline in seasonal flu activity, at a time when H7N9 influenza cases have noticeably dropped off. Hong Kong. Mongolia, and South Korea, however, continued to report elevated flu activity.
Another flu hot spot is Egypt, where the number of 2009 H1N1 illnesses was high, the WHO said.
In tropical countries, overall flu activity was low except for Madagascar, which reported increasing H3N2 detections, and Thailand, where levels of 2009 H1N1 illnesses rose. The Southern Hemisphere temperate countries saw sporadic seasonal flu detections of all three strains.
At the global level, nearly 85% of viruses were influenza A and about 15% were influenza B, and of the subtyped influenza A detections, 71% were the 2009 H1N1 virus and 29% were H3N2.
Mar 10 WHO global flu update
Funds aid switch to polio shot for 17 Western Pacific nations
Global partners are supporting the move from oral polio vaccine (OPV) to inactivated, injected polio vaccine (IPV) in 17 countries in the World Health Organization's (WHO's) Western Pacific Region, the WHO announced today.
The Global Alliance for Vaccine Immunization (GAVI) will provide support for IPV introduction in Cambodia, Kiribati, Laos, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vietnam. And China, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Nauru, the Philippines, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu may consider other options for vaccine purchase either directly from manufacturers or through the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the WHO said in a news release.
"More than 21 million children in the Region will benefit from the introduction of the inactivated vaccine," said Dr. Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific.
Currently, 125 countries use only OPV, and the plan is for all of them to introduce at least a dose of inactivated polio vaccine in their immunization schedule by the end of 2015, the WHO said.
Mar 11 WHO news release
In other polio news, two police escorts of a polio vaccination team in Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province were killed by gunmen, BBC News reported today. The policemen were attacked by unknown assailants in the Dera Ismail Khan district.
The attack is just the latest round of violence against polio immunization teams or their security personnel, including a bombing earlier this month that killed at least 11, the BBC said. More than 40 vaccination workers have been killed in Pakistan since 2012.
Militants in the country have decried polio vaccination campaigns as a Western plot of espionage or an attempt to sterilize Muslim children.
Mar 11 BBC News report