Flu Scan for Mar 27, 2015

News brief

H5N2 strikes second turkey farm in Minnesota

The highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus H5N2 has struck a turkey farm in southwestern Minnesota, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today, marking the second H5N2 outbreak reported in the state this month.

The virus was found on a farm housing 66,000 turkeys in Lac Qui Parle County, which is about two counties to the southwest of the previous outbreak in Pope County.

Samples from the flock were tested after increased deaths were noted, the USDA said. Testing was done by the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, and the results were confirmed by the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa.

State officials quarantined the farm and will destroy the turkeys to prevent further spread of the virus, the USDA said, adding that none of the turkeys will enter the food system. Federal and state officials are working on additional surveillance and testing in the nearby area, the agency said.

The Minnesota Department of Health is working with poultry workers at the affected farm to ensure that they are taking the proper precautions, the statement said. No human infections with this H5N2 strain have been reported.

Earlier this month, the H5N2 virus struck not only the other Minnesota farm but also two turkey farms in Missouri and one in Arkansas, as well as a backyard poultry flock in northeastern Kansas. The virus is a relative of the HPAI H5N8 virus that originated in Asia and reached the United States late last year. Minnesota, Missouri, and Arkansas all lie within the Mississippi migratory bird flyway.

The USDA said it would inform the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) as well as international trading partners of the outbreak.
Mar 27 USDA statement
Mar 6
CIDRAP News story on earlier Minnesota outbreak


Dutch study supports common origin for H5N8 viruses on 3 continents

An analysis of H5N8 avian flu viruses recovered from two wild ducks in the Netherlands, coupled with a review of other genetic and bird-migration data, supports the view that recent H5N8 viruses found in Europe, Asia, and North America have a common origin and have spread via wild birds, according to a report by Dutch researchers in yesterday's Eurosurveillance.

Highly pathogenic H5N8 viruses were first detected in live-bird markets in China in 2010, and the strain cropped up in South Korea and Japan early in 2014, the report says. In November it sparked outbreaks in Europe, and in December it reached the United States, where it has been detected in a number of wild birds and backyard poultry flocks.

After H5N8 was found on a Dutch chicken farm on Nov 14, 2014, researchers tested samples from 4,018 wild birds of 25 species. The team found the H5N8 virus in two Eurasian wigeons, a species that migrates long distances. They note that H5N8 infections last only a short time, which means that many wild birds must be sampled to detect the virus.

The authors sequenced the virus's complete genome and compared some sequences with those of other highly pathogenic H5 viruses found in 2014 and those of Chinese H5N8 viruses found before 2014.

"The H5N8 viruses isolated from wild birds in the Netherlands were genetically closely related to and had the same gene constellation as H5N8 viruses detected elsewhere in Europe, in Asia and in North America, suggesting a common origin," the researchers state.

Further, they write that recoveries of bird bands (rings) from "migratory duck species from which H5N8 viruses have been isolated provide evidence for indirect migratory connections between East Asia and western Europe and between East Asia and North America."

"To understand the role of wild birds in the epidemiology of H5N8 virus, sampling activities need to aim at detection of both the virus and specific antibodies with an emphasis on migrating birds in north-east Europe, Russia, and north China," they conclude.
Mar 26 Eurosurveillance report


US flu elevated for 18th straight week

The extended US flu season continues, with last week marking the 18th consecutive week of elevated influenza activity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported today, adding that 9 new pediatric flu-related deaths occurred, bringing the season total to 116.

In addition, flu-related hospitalizations in the elderly again reached an all-time high.

Flu activity overall, however, showed more signs of declining, consistent with recent weeks. Last week the proportion of people seeing a healthcare provider for influenza-like illness (ILI) dropped from 2.3% to 2.2% but remains above the national baseline of 2.0% for the 18th consecutive week. In the past 13 flu seasons ILI has remained at or above baseline levels for 1 to 19 weeks, with an average of 13 weeks.

Six of 10 US regions reported ILI activity at or above region-specific baselines, compared with 8 during the previous week. Only Puerto Rico and Oklahoma had high ILI activity, down from four states and Puerto Rico the week before. Widespread flu was reported in seven states, mostly in the Northeast, the same as during the previous week.

The percent of specimens positive for influenza was 10.6%, the CDC noted, down from 11.2%. About 75% of viruses subtyped were influenza B, up from 67% the week before. A late-season flu B surge is typical. Almost all the influenza A viruses subtyped were the H3N2 strain.

Of the 9 new pediatric deaths, 4 were attributed to influenza B, 3 to H3N2, and 2 to an unspecified influenza A.

The rate of flu-related hospitalizations again climbed, from 57.1 to 58.4 per 100,000 population. And the rate in those 65 and over again hit a record high since the CDC began tracking that figure in 2005, rising to 289.7 per 100,000, up from 284.3 per 100,000.
Mar 27 CDC weekly FluView report
Mar 27 CDC flu situation update

News Scan for Mar 27, 2015

News brief

WHO pleads for funds to address Syrian health crisis

As the public health crisis in Syria continues to deteriorate, the World Health Organization (WHO) is asking for $124 million to continue its support of health services in the war-torn country, the agency said in a news release today.

The WHO estimates that more than 1.3 million people in Aleppo governorate are in need of health assistance. Aleppo is Syria's largest governorate with about 4 million people, or about a quarter of the nation's population. Last year, the WHO delivered almost 3 million medical treatments to Aleppo, 1.2 million of which reached opposition-controlled and -besieged areas. Only 4 of 11 public hospitals remain operational in the governorate.

With 57% of public hospitals across Syria shuttered or only partially functioning, health facilities remain crowded and are experiencing critical shortages of medical supplies. The number of available health professionals has fallen to about 45% of 2011 levels, and the country's water infrastructure is in shambles.

"As weather temperatures become warmer, there is an increased risk of waterborne diseases. Therefore, improving hygiene conditions and practices is essential to protecting the population," said Elizabeth Hoff, WHO representative in Syria.

In 2014, the WHO supported the delivery of 13.8 million treatments to the area, compared with 6.1 million in 2013. So far in 2015, it has provided health assistance to almost 4.7 million people, the agency said, but it has received virtually no new funds for its humanitarian operations in Syria and neighboring countries.
Mar 27 WHO news release


Florida reports measles case in international travel

The Florida Department of Health (FDH) has confirmed measles in an adult international traveler who attended a conference in Kissimmee at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center Mar 16 and 17, the agency said in a news release yesterday.

The traveler visited several central and southern Florida counties but not any theme parks. He or she spent the majority of time in Osceola County, but also Miami-Dade, Orange, and Sarasota counties while infectious, from Mar 14 through 20. The traveler was hospitalized Mar 20 through 24 and flew home on Mar 25 after recovering.

The FDH provided no other information on the case but urged full immunization in those who haven't had complete vaccination. The agency said it is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and organizers of the international conference to notify attendees and other places the traveler visited while contagious. The FDH is also monitoring emergency departments to rapidly identify other possible cases, it said.

In related news, Brunei, Cambodia, and Japan have officially achieved measles elimination, the WHO's Western Pacific Regional Office (WPRO) said today in a news release. The three countries join Australia, Macao, Mongolia, and South Korea as countries and areas in the WPRO that have successfully eliminated the disease.
Mar 26 FDH news release
Mar 27 WPRO
news release

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