Updated guidance for pandemic flu includes new ways to track cases
For the first time since 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) updated its pandemic influenza guidance, emphasizing the need for better tracking during the human-to-human transmission phase. The new guidance was published yesterday.
The WHO defined and named phases of an influenza pandemic. In the alert phase, when human-to-human transmission begins, the agency said there is no need for case-counting.
"Case-based reporting (the counting of individual cases) should cease once there is broad community transmission in a country—at this point, syndromic data from sentinel sites, hospital-based data and systematic laboratory testing should be used instead," the WHO said.
Case definitions are also newly emphasized in this guidance. Included in the guidance is a sample for a clinical intake description used at the initial phase of a pandemic to rapidly collect and configure data related to the virus. This form is based on deficits in reporting during the 2009 pandemic.
Dec 4 WHO guidance
Taiwan detects new H5N6 avian flu reassortant in wild bird
Taiwan today reported its first detection of a reassortant highly pathogenic H5N6 avian flu strain that was recently found in South Korea and Japan, and two European countries—Italy and France—reported new outbreaks involving other strains.
Taiwan's detection involved a black-faced spoonbill found dead on Dec 1 in Taijiang National Park, according to a notification today from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Tests yesterday confirmed the H5N6 subtype, and a preliminary analysis suggest the H5N6 virus is different than the one last linked to an outbreak in Taiwan in February 2017.
The virus is closely linked to a strain found in Japan in November and is a reassortant of H5N8 that triggered outbreaks across Europe last season and an N6 strain similar to those widely distributed in Eurasian waterfowl.
Officials have completed sampling at four chicken farms within a 5-kilometer radius of the spot where the dead bird was found, and all flocks are clinically healthy. Officials ordered heightened surveillance for the next 3 months to monitor for possible spread of the virus.
Dec 5 OIE report on H5N6 in Taiwan
In Europe, Italy reported another highly pathogenic H5N8 outbreak, this time involving backyard poultry including broilers, geese, peacocks, layer hens, and ducks at a location in Veneto region, according to a Dec 1 OIE report. The outbreak began on Nov 22, killing 70 of 142 birds. Authorities culled the remaining poultry.
In a separate OIE report yesterday, French officials confirmed a low-pathogenic H5N3 outbreak involving a farm raising ducks for foie gras production in Lot-et-Garonne department in the country's southwest. The outbreak began on Dec 1, and the virus was found during routine sampling before the ducks were moved. The animals didn't show any clinical signs. The flock is slated for culling, and authorities have temporarily banned poultry movement in the country and have stepped up surveillance.
Dec 1 OIE report on H5N8 in Italy
Dec 4 OIE report on H5N3 in France