Flu Scan for Sep 17, 2014

Next-generation ventilator
Avian flu reassortment in Mexico

HHS awards contract to develop portable, low-cost ventilator

A new federal contract awarded to a Pennsylvania company calls for the development of a "portable, low-cost, user-friendly" ventilator designed for use in public health emergencies, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced today.

The agency said the "next-generation" ventilator will be developed under a 3-year, $13.8 million contract with Philips Respironics of Murrysville, Pa., with oversight from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

The HHS announcement said that in a severe influenza pandemic and possibly other public health emergencies, the number of patients in need of mechanical ventilation could exceed the number of ventilators available and staff trained to operate them.

With the help of advanced technology, the ventilator will be smaller and less costly than existing models and will be designed so that health professionals can operate it without special training, HHS said. It also will be designed to be manufactured quickly in case the need for ventilators exceeds the number stockpiled.

Under the contract, the ventilator will be required to meet the needs of everyone from infants to the elderly, HHS said.

The contract includes an option to purchase 10,000 initial production ventilators for $32.8 million, or $3,280 apiece, HHS reported. It said existing ventilators with all the required features cost from $6,000 to $30,000 each.

"An affordable portable ventilator will help us meet the needs of critically ill patients during a public health emergency, whether due to a naturally occurring pandemic or an act of bioterrorism," BARDA Director Robin Robinson, PhD, said in the HHS release.
Sep 17 HHS press release


Study: H7N3 in Mexico came from reassortment involving 2 flyways

The highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (AIV) H7N3 strain responsible for major outbreaks on poultry farms in Jalisco, Mexico, during the summer of 2012 and elsewhere since then resulted from complex reassortment of low-pathogenic AIV brought there by birds migrating along two North American flyways, say results of a study published yesterday in PLoS One.

The authors, from Ireland and Scotland, conducted phylogenetic analysis of each segment of both the H7N3 outbreak sequences and a background dataset comprising all available North American H7 lineages.

They found that 5 of 8 segments on the H7N3 virus were introduced by birds migrating along the central North American flyway and the other 3 segments came from birds migrating along the western North American flyway.

They further found that the Mexico H7N3 virus was not related to any previous North American H7N3 outbreaks nor to other avian flu outbreaks in domestic birds in recent years. Rather, they say, it is a novel reassortant and Mexico may be a potential hotspot for AIV reassortment events.

"Our results are useful for identifying the threat of AIV in wild birds and indicate comprehensive surveillance in South and Central America is highly desirable," they conclude.
Sep 16 PLoS One abstract

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