Working group calls for better research for maternal influenza
The results of a World Health Organization (WHO) working group investigation into pregnancy and influenza research from 2014 to 2017 showed mixed results when it came to the extent that maternal vaccine protected pregnant women and infants up the age of 6 months from influenza.
Despite several associations between maternal influenza and poor fetal outcome, the working group said robust evidence for detailing the effects of maternal influenza was lacking.
"Available data are currently insufficient to estimate the potential impact of maternal immunization programs on severe influenza illness," the authors write. But the lack of evidence should not stop countries from implementing maternal vaccination programs, because the economic burden of influenza on pregnant women is substantial, and programs are relatively easy to implement given the frequency of prenatal healthcare visits.
The working group's conclusions were published Sep 1 in Vaccine. The group said that, outside the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, there were few studies that measured fetal outcomes and maternal influenza vaccination status.
Sep 1 Vaccine study
Flu still rising in Australia; levels high in parts of Asia
Though flu in some Southern Hemisphere countries has plateaued or is declining, activity in Australia and New Caledonia is still rising, with parts of South and Southeast Asia also reporting increased activity, according to an update yesterday from the WHO.
Globally, H3N2 is the dominant strain, but Southern Hemisphere countries such as Australia are seeing influenza B activity, as well.
Meanwhile, India and Nepal are reporting high flu activity, mainly from the 2009 H1N1 virus. In Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Myanmar, flu levels have been on the rise in recent weeks, with both 2009 H1N1 and H3N2 detected. The Philippines and Vietnam are reporting illnesses from all of the seasonal flu strains.
In Southern China and Hong Kong, which saw big flu spikes this summer mainly caused by H3N2 are now reporting decreases in illness levels. In Western Africa, flu activity continues in many countries, but little activity was reported from Eastern Africa.
Low or no activity was reported in other parts of the world, and in North America, activity from flu and other respiratory viruses stayed low, with cocirculation of H3N2 and influenza B strains.
Sep 4 WHO global flu update
H5N8 avian flu strikes more poultry and other species in South Africa
South Africa reported more highly pathogenic H5N8 avian flu outbreaks in both poultry and other types of birds, including one at a zoo in Johannesburg, according to notifications today from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
The new poultry outbreaks began from Aug 21 to Aug 30, affecting three commercial farms in Western Cape province in the southwest, including two that house ostriches, and a backyard holding in Mpumalanga province in the east. Between the four locations, the virus killed 99 of 51,327 susceptible birds, and the remaining ones were slated for culling.
Both of the two outbreaks in wild birds occurred in Johannesburg, the country's largest city, and began on Aug 28. One killed 34 sacred ibises and the other killed a blue crane at a zoo.
Sep 5 OIE report on H5N8 in South African poultry
Sep 5 OIE report on H5N8 in South African wild birds