News Scan for Apr 17, 2014

News brief

H5N1 kills 46,000 chickens in North Korea's capital

H5N1 avian flu has struck two chicken factory farms in North Korea's capital of Pyongyang, killing more than 46,000 birds, according to a report posted yesterday by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

In the first outbreak, all 46,217 birds died of the disease in three holding pens for layer hens on a farm at the Hadang chicken factory. The outbreak began Mar 21. Samples from the birds tested positive on Mar 26.

In the second outbreak, at the Sopo chicken factory, an unspecified number of chickens died in one holding area beginning on Mar 27, according to the OIE report.

It was unclear whether the outbreaks were the ones reported by the media last week.
Apr 16 OIE report
Related Apr 9
CIDRAP News scan

In related news, the highly pathogenic H5 virus that recently infected birds in Kumamoto prefecture in Japan has been confirmed as H5N8, the first time that strain has been detected there, according to a report today by the Kyodo news agency.

The OIE on Apr 13 had confirmed the outbreak and subsequent culling that led to the deaths of 112,000 poultry, but at that point the specific H5 strain was not known. Today the country's Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry said it confirmed H5N8 in samples from birds from a Kumamoto farm.

South Korea has experienced numerous H5N8 outbreaks this year, and Toshihiro Ito, head of poultry disease for the ministry, said the virus may have been transported from South Korea by migratory birds. "We now need to do further tests to examine the route of infection," he said.
Apr 17 Kyodo story


New members appointed to HHS biodefense advisory board

Six experts in science, medicine, and public health are joining the National Biodefense Science Board (NBSB), replacing members whose terms expire at the end of the month, according to a news release yesterday from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The NBSB was created under the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act of 2006 to advise and guide the assistant secretary for preparedness and response (ASPR), who is delegated the responsibility by the secretary of HHS for leading preparedness efforts and health and medical services to augment state and local capabilities during health emergencies and public health events. Included among these are bioterrorism attacks, flu outbreaks, and such natural disasters as hurricanes and earthquakes.

ASPR Nicole Lurie, MD, MSPH, called the NBSB members "vital to our operations here in HHS" and said she looks forward to their efforts to build "more resilient communities across the nation."

The NBSB has 13 voting members with a broad range of expertise in science, medicine, and public health, as well as voting and nonvoting ex-officio members from federal and state government agencies as deemed appropriate by the secretary.

The incoming members are Virginia Caine, MD, of Indianapolis; David Ecker, PhD, of California (beginning his second 3-year term); Noreen Hynes, MD, MPH, of Baltimore; Catherine Slemp, MD, MPH, of West Virginia; Tammy Spain, PhD, of Florida; and David Weinstock, MD, of Boston.
Apr 16 HHS release

Report notes valley fever outbreak among TV film crew

Coccidioidomycosis, or valley fever, typically occurs in those digging or working in the soil, such as construction crews or military personnel, but 10 people working on an outdoor set for a California television series last year contracted the disease, according to a report today in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

Local and federal public health officials reported that, of the 10 cases—5 confirmed and 5 suspected—only 8 patients were directly involved in digging or moving dirt, which can cause Coccidioides fungal spores to become airborne and infectious. The soil at the filming site, however, had been substantially disturbed recently, and the site manager reported that dust from an adjacent mining company blew onto the site daily.

The patients reported a median time to symptom onset of 11 days (range, 3-28), and symptom duration ranging from 1 to 26 weeks. Two patients were hospitalized, one for 2 days and one for 4 weeks.

The authors conclude, "Work-associated coccidioidomycosis can occur among patients who do not actively engage in soil-disruptive activities." They add that relevant information, such as a patient's worksite, should be reported to public health authorities.
Apr 18 MMWR report


Pakistani army will join country's fight against polio

The army of Pakistan, one of three countries in which polio is still endemic, has been directed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to assist civilian authorities in the country's polio vaccination campaign, says a story today from the Anadolu news agency.

The military's work, particularly providing security to health workers, will be focused in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KPK) province and Karachi, in the south, which is the country's most populous city.

Pakistan has seen 47 cases of polio so far this year, according to the story, and about 189 last year. A large portion have been in KPK, which borders the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, where pro-Taliban groups have banned vaccination.

Campaign workers in Pakistan have faced frequent attacks and scores of murders. Certain militants believe the campaigns are acts of Western espionage aimed at sterilizing Pakistani children.

The other countries still harboring endemic polio are Afghanistan and Nigeria.
Apr 17 Anadolu story

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