FLU NEWS SCAN: Funds for avian flu, H5N1 in raccoons, flu in Japanese shelters, narcolepsy in H1N1 vaccinees, ARDS and H1N1

Mar 28, 2011

Indonesia, Vietnam get H5N1 prevention boost
New funds will bolster the fight against H5N1 avian influenza in Indonesia and Vietnam, two countries where the virus is endemic in poultry. In Indonesia, a $22 million, 4-year disease control project is being funded by Australia, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) reported today. Dr Andy Carroll, Australia's chief veterinary officer, said the goal is to increase the response capacity of Indonesia's veterinary services. He said Australian officials are also organizing a conference bringing medical and animal health experts together to discuss better ways to battle zoonotic diseases, including avian influenza.
Mar 28 ABC story
Meanwhile, Vietnam's government has approved a $25 million project to continue an H5N1 prevention project that has been in place since 2007, Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported on Mar 23. The project will be funded by the government and a loan from the World Bank. Vietnam's agriculture ministry said the new investments will help contain poultry outbreaks, detect the disease in animals and humans, and prepare response activities.
Mar 23 VNA story
In other H5N1 developments, South Korean agriculture officials today reported that the virus struck chickens at a commercial farm in Northern Gyeongsang province in the eastern part of the country, according to a report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The outbreak began Mar 22, killing 520 birds. About 17,480 poultry at the facility and within a 500-meter radius of the farm were culled to control the outbreak.
Mar 28 OIE report

Wild raccoons in Japan test positive for H5N1 antibodies
Researchers in Japan have found evidence of H5N1 infection in wild raccoons. They tested 1,088 blood samples from apparently healthy feral raccoons captured over three periods in western Japan and one period in eastern Japan from 2005 to 2009 for a serologic survey of H5N1 avian influenza after outbreaks in birds in 2004, 2007, and 2008. Antibodies to H5N1 were confirmed in 10 (0.9%) of the samples. The authors write that, because of their opportunistic eating habits, raccoons could eat diseased or dead wild birds and also spread the disease to domestic poultry. They also conclude that raccoon-human contact raises the chance of disease spread, "posing risks to public health and increasing the possibility of the emergence of mammalian-adapted mutant viruses with pandemic potential." This finding was reported 2 years ago by Japanese media, but this is the first peer-reviewed publication of the study.
Mar 25 Emerg Infect Dis report

Flu complicates operations at Japan's evacuation centers
Influenza is spreading in some of Japan's 383 local earthquake evacuation centers, Bloomberg News reported on Mar 26. Healthcare teams sent to deliver flu medication are having a difficult time reaching some of the centers in Iwate prefecture because of transportation problems. Naoto Wakuishi, a prefecture spokesman, told Bloomberg that evacuees who are sick with flu are being separated from others in the centers to limit the spread of the virus. He added that the centers are also experiencing shortages of sanitary goods, clothes, and bathing facilities.
Mar 26 Bloomberg News story

Ireland reports more narcolepsy cases in H1N1 vaccinees
Irish health officials have received reports of four more narcolepsy cases that may be related to the 2009 H1N1 vaccine, raising the number reported so far to eight, the Independent, a Dublin-based newspaper, reported yesterday. The Irish Medicines Board told the newspaper that most of the cases were reported recently and that officials are collecting more information on the cases. In early March the European Medicines Agency (EMA) notified Irish officials that four Irish cases are included in its investigation into a possible link between the 2009 H1N1 vaccine and narcolepsy. Until the possible Irish cases surfaced, reports of narcolepsy in vaccinees had come only from Scandinavian countries. The EMA's preliminary investigation found no link between narcolepsy and the vaccine, but a Finnish report that found more evidence of a connection prompted the agency to launch a more detailed investigation, with a report expected in July.
Mar 27 Independent story
Mar 7 CIDRAP News Scan

Study says ARDS is worse in pandemic H1N1 patients
In a retrospective cohort study at Ohio State University, researchers found that acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) associated with pandemic H1N1 influenza was more severe than ARDS due to other causes. The researchers analyzed the records of 60 patients who had ARDS within 24 hours admission to an intensive care unit over a 3-month period, according to their report in PLoS One. Of the 60 patients, 23 (38%) were diagnosed as having H1N1. Compared with the others, the H1N1 patients were younger, more likely to have a high body mass index, presented more rapidly, and had worse oxygenation, the report says. The H1N1 patients also were more apt to receive "rescue" therapy such as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. The authors conclude that the severity of illness was directly related to worse oxygenation. They say the study "demonstrates that hypoxemia and lung injury in patients with H1N1 is due specifically to the extent of respiratory injury from the infection itself and not to secondary injury related to the treatment of associated multi-organ failure. Whether this is particular to H1N1 or generalized influenza associated ARDS is unclear. This information may be of use in preparations for future pandemics."
Mar 25 PLoS One report

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