NEWS SCAN: H5N1 in Japan, February flu pattern, flu spread at work, Angola's polio battle, low malaria protection

Jan 26, 2011

H5N1 hits more Japanese poultry and wild birds
The H5N1 avian influenza virus has sparked another outbreak at a Japanese poultry farm, the fourth hit by the disease in recent months, Xinhua, China's state news agency, reported today. The latest outbreak occurred at a commercial farm in Kagoshima prefecture in the southwestern part of the country. Local agriculture officials said 8 of 10 tested birds were positive for the virus, and authorities have begun culling the farm's 8,600 chickens. Earlier this week Japan reported two other outbreaks at commercial farms, both in Miyazaki prefecture, which shares a border with Kagoshima prefecture. According to a Jan 23 report from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the farms were located about 5 miles apart. Outbreaks at those two farms led to the culling of more than 420,000 birds to control the spread of the virus. Tests on the first Miyazaki farm where H5N1 was found suggested that the virus was closely related to the one that caused an outbreak in late November in Shimane prefecture and the ones recently isolated in wild birds found dead in Toyama and Kagoshima prefectures. In a separate Jan 23 OIE report, Japanese veterinary officials said they also detected the H5N1 virus in three whooper swans and two wild ducks that were recently found dead near a swamp in Hokkaido prefecture, located in the north. Four poultry farms are located within 10 km of the swamp, but testing there found no signs of sick birds.
Jan 26 Xinhua story
Jan 23 OIE report on Miyazaki outbreaks
Jan 23 OIE report on wild bird outbreaks

Vaccine biz forecaster says February is bellwether flu month
Flu activity in February will likely define how healthcare officials, governments, and vaccine makers gauge the 2010-11 flu season, Kalorama Information, a New York City–based healthcare market research publisher, said yesterday. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said January and February are typically the peak flu months, and since the 1976-77 season, about 47% of flu cases occur in February, the group noted in a press release. Over the past few weeks some flu indicators have decreased, but the CDC has said that it's too early to tell if flu activity has peaked. Kalorama said the strength of a flu season is usually an indicator of demand for next season's flu vaccine. Bruce Carlson, the company's publisher, said, "February is the tell-tale month. You can be sure that vaccine makers will be watching." The vaccine market for 2009 was $22.1 billion, and Kalorama expects that number to rise when it totals the market for 2010 later this year. It said influenza vaccine is helping drive growth in the adult vaccine market. The company has more information about the vaccine market and projections in a report that is available for sale on its Web site.
Jan 25 Kalorama press release
Kalorama Web site

Survey shows working while sick with flu common
Two thirds of Americans say they have carried on with their daily activity at times when they were sick with flu symptoms, according to a survey conducted on behalf of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID). The poll also found that 68% aren't aware that flu viruses can travel 5 to 6 feet from a sneeze or cough. The NFID released the findings yesterday along with a new flu-awareness campaign called "Are You That Guy?" The centerpiece of the NFID's campaign is a broadcast public service announcement that highlights the risks of not staying home with flu symptoms. It illustrates people working and riding public transportation while sick, as well as dropping off sick children at school. The video reviews the symptoms of flu and flu-prevention tips, such as vaccination and staying home when sick. The NFID's flu awareness campaign also includes an iPhone application, a symptom checklist, a zip code flu tracker, and other background materials. The survey part of the campaign was conducted by the Infogroup/Opinion Research Corp from Nov 18 through Nov 21, 2010, in a national sample of 1,006 adults ages 18 and older. It has a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The survey and campaign were supported by Genentech, a member of the Roche Group.
Jan 25 NFID press release

Angola renews commitment to eliminating polio
The president of Angola this week reaffirmed his government's commitment to eliminating polio, a disease that struck 32 Angolans last year, the United Nations (UN) announced yesterday. Angola had been free of polio for 3 years in the early 2000s, but it reappeared in 2005 and later spread to Namibia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Republic of Congo, the UN said in a press release. Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos renewed his country's determination to fight polio when he met Jan 24 with Anthony Lake, director of the UN Children's Fund, Dr. Tachi Yamada of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Dr. Matshidiso Moeti of the World Health Organization (WHO). The UN said Angola is $24.5 million short of the $70 million needed for its national immunization plan, but private companies and "bilateral partners" have agreed to help fill the gap with more funds and other kinds of support.
Jan 25 UN press release

Study: Protection against malaria lags in pregnant African women
A study published yesterday by international researchers in The Lancet Infectious Diseases found that only 17% to 25% of pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa at risk for malaria received protection against the disease. The WHO recommends a combination of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) and drugs used as intermittent protective treatment (IPT) against malaria, which during pregnancy can be devastating to both mother and child, according to a press release on the study. The study found that 45 of 47 African nations had an ITN policy for pregnant women and that 39 of 47 had an IPT policy for this population. In spite of this, only 4.7 million (17%) of 27.7 million pregnant women at risk for malaria in the 32 countries with pertinent information received ITNs. And 25% of pregnant women (6.4 million of 25.6 million) had received some IPT in the 39 countries with such data, despite 77% having visited a prenatal clinic, the main resource for reaching pregnant women with ITNs and IPT. The researchers found that coverage was lowest "in areas of high-intensity transmission of malaria." The study was funded by the Malaria in Pregnancy Consortium and the Wellcome Trust.
Jan 25 Lancet Infect Dis abstract
Jan 25 press release on the study

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