News Scan for Jan 08, 2016

New avian flu vaccine
H3N2v case noted as US flu rises
Boosting cholera vaccine supply

Another H5 poultry vaccine developed, but industry still wary of vaccine use

Kansas researchers have developed a vaccine that they say can protect poultry against multiple H5 avian flu strains, but chicken producers remain reluctant to use such vaccines because of possible foreign bans on US poultry products, according to reports yesterday.

Researchers at Kansas State University (KSU) said their new vaccine protects poultry against H5N1, H5N8, and H5N2 avian flu, the latter being the subtype that devastated Midwestern turkey and chickens farms last spring and summer, according to a KSU press release. Called NDV-H5Nx, the vaccine "has the potential" to be given in water, making it easier to vaccinate large flocks.

Jurgen Richt, DVM, professor of veterinary medicine and director of the US Department of Homeland Security's Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases at KSU, said the vaccine uses a live virus. "Because it's live, we believe that the vaccine could be sprayed into the air or put in the water supply" for poultry, he said in the release.

It also may be possible to give the vaccine to chicken embryos in eggs, which would automatically vaccinate them against the targeted flu strains, the researchers said.

The new vaccine also makes it possible to distinguish infected from vaccinated animals, officials said. Richt said this ability is critical for the US poultry industry because it shows trade partners that poultry have been vaccinated and are free of H5.

Besides avian flu, the vaccine protects against Newcastle disease virus, another pathogen that's lethal in poultry, officials said. The vaccine was made by inserting part of the H5 (hemagglutinin) protein into a Newcastle virus vaccine strain.

But US chicken producers remain wary of using any avian flu vaccine in their flocks, fearing the loss of export business, Bloomberg News reported yesterday. "As soon as you vaccinate any bird, you are telling the world bird flu is endemic, and countries are going to stop buying from us, some of them for years," Ashley Peterson, science and technology vice president for the National Chicken Council, told Bloomberg.

In contrast, turkey producers want a vaccine, and trade worries may be exaggerated, said Joel Brandenberger, president of the National Turkey Federation in Washington, DC, according to the story. "The world recognizes that the science has changed and that vaccines can be used effectively," he said.

Last October the US Department of Agriculture awarded separate $6 million contracts to two companies for avian flu vaccines, and in December the agency called for more proposals for such vaccines.
Jan7 KSU press release
Jan 7 Bloomberg story

Oct 14 CIDRAP News item
about USDA vaccine contracts
Dec 1 CIDRAP News story
noting call for more vaccine proposals


CDC reports H3N2v case as US flu activity rises slightly

As federal officials reported a case of variant H3N2 (H3N2v) in New Jersey, they noted that US flu activity continues to inch upward, with the 2009 H1N1 strain continuing to surge and two new pediatric deaths reported, according to an update today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The H3N2v patient in New Jersey had no recent contact with swine, which is a risk factor, but had visited a swine holding before becoming ill, the CDC said. The person was not hospitalized and has fully recovered. The agency did not specify any dates for the illness, but it likely was in 2015. That would make it the third case of 2015, after earlier cases in Minnesota and Michigan.

H3N2v was first detected in people in 2011 and spiked to 306 US cases the following summer, many of them linked to exposure to swine exhibits. Cases have declined rapidly since then.

Regarding US flu activity, the share of medical visits for influenza-like illness (ILI) rose to 2.8% for the week ending Jan 2, which is above the national baseline of 2.1% and up from 2.6% the week before. Also, 7 of the 10 CDC regions said they were above region-specific baseline levels, up from 6 the previous week.

Puerto Rico, New Jersey, and South Carolina reported high ILI activity for the week, with Maryland and Texas experiencing moderate ILI levels. Maryland, North Carolina, and Guam reported widespread influenza activity last week, one more state than the week before. Six states reported regional activity, and 13 noted local flu activity, an increase of 1 in each category.

A pediatric death tied to 2009 H1N1 flu was reported last week, while one attributed to H3N2 was noted the week before. Deaths from pneumonia and flu were up slightly week to week, from 6.0% to 6.1%, but still well below the epidemic threshold of 7.3% for the week.

Of the 74 influenza A viruses tested during the week, 47 (64%) were 2009 H1N1 and 19 (26%) were H3N2. Overall, 81% of positive respiratory samples for the week were influenza A and 19% were influenza B. H1N1 has now outpaced H3N2 for 4 straight weeks. For the season, however, H3N2 viruses continue to predominate, constituting 57% of "A" viruses.
Jan 8 CDC FluView report
Jan 8 CDC
summary of FluView findings


WHO approves 3rd cholera vaccine supplier, doubling stockpile

The World Health Organization (WHO) today approved a third supplier of oral cholera vaccine, which is expected to double the global supply, according to a WHO press release and a Reuters report.

The agency named South Korean company EuBiologics as a pre-qualified supplier, Reuters reported. It joins Shantha Biotechnics of Sanofi Pasteur as a supplier to the global stockpile of cholera vaccines. The third producer, which currently does not have vaccine doses in the stockpile, is Sweden-based Crucell.

The addition of EuBiologics is expected to double global supply this year, to 6 million doses, enough to vaccinate 3 million people, the WHO said in the release. "This additional capacity will contribute to reversing a vicious cycle of low demand, low production, high price and inequitable distribution, to a virtuous cycle of increased demand, increased production, reduced price and greater equity of access," the agency added.

Last year Sudan and Haiti requested vaccines from the WHO to combat cholera, but their orders could not be filled because of a global shortage.

The WHO created the global oral cholera vaccine stockpile in 2013 with the aim of supplying 2 million doses a year. From 1.4 million to 4.3 million cholera cases occur worldwide each year, killing as many as 142,000, the agency said.
Jan 8 WHO news release
Jan 8 Reuters

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