NEWS SCAN: Egyptian H5N1 cases, more H5N1 outbreaks, vaccine-narcolepsy probe, anthrax testing

Mar 7, 2011

Egypt reports two more H5N1 infections
Egypt's health ministry has announced two more H5N1 avian influenza cases, in a 32-year-old woman and a 2-year-old boy, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported today. The woman, from northern Egypt's Sharkia governorate, got sick Feb 10 and was hospitalized 4 days later; she is in critical condition. The boy is from Kafr el Sheikh governorate, located in northern Egypt along the western branch of the Nile River. He became ill with flulike symptoms on Feb 18, was hospitalized on Feb 20, and is reportedly in good condition. Investigations into the source of their illnesses revealed both patients had been exposed to sick poultry. The illnesses are listed as Egypt's 126th and 127th H5N1 cases, of which 41 were fatal. They raise the WHO's global H5N1 total to 528, including 311 deaths.
Mar 7 WHO statement

Japan, Bangladesh battle new H5N1 outbreaks
More H5N1 avian influenza outbreaks at farms in Japan and Bangladesh have triggered fresh rounds of culling to control the spread of the disease, according to media reports. The outbreak in Japan hit a broiler chicken farm in Miyazaki prefecture, and 33,000 birds were culled yesterday, Kyodo News reported today. The outbreak is Miyazaki's 13th H5N1 eruption and pushes Japan's count of recent H5N1 outbreaks at farms to 22. In Bangladesh, livestock officials detected the H5N1 virus on a farm in Chittagong division's Noakhali district in the southeastern part of the country, after about 600 chickens died suddenly on Mar 1 and 2,, a Dhaka-based news service, reported yesterday. The findings led to the culling of 6,500 birds on the farm on Mar 5. In other developments, Indian authorities are poised to begin culling birds at a government poultry farm in Tripura state after rapid tests detected an H5 virus, the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) reported yesterday. The tests were conducted after 400 of the farm's birds died suddenly. If further testing confirms the H5N1 virus, 7,000 birds will be destroyed, making it the second outbreak to hit Tripura state in recent weeks. The state, located in northeastern India, borders Bangladesh, which has reported several recent H5N1 outbreaks.
Mar 6 IANS story

Irish cases included in H1N1 vaccine-narcolepsy probe
The European Medicines Agency, which is investigating a possible link between the 2009 H1N1 vaccine and narcolepsy, has notified Irish drug regulators that four Irish cases are included in the probe, the Independent, a newspaper based in Dublin, reported on Mar 5. The EMA investigation includes a total of 162 narcolepsy cases across Europe, the story said. Two of the possible Irish cases were diagnosed by doctors as narcolepsy, and in a third case narcolepsy is one of several suspected conditions. Additional information was being awaited in the fourth case, which was reported by a member of the public, the report said. The EMA's initial evaluation found no link between the 2009 H1N1 vaccine and narcolepsy, but more evidence from Finnish officials led the agency to launch a more detailed investigation. The agency has said it expects to issue its final report in July.
Mar 5 Independent story

EPA reports improved environmental testing method for anthrax
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released a revised report on what it says is a faster method for detecting viable Bacillus anthracis (anthrax) spores in environmental samples, intended for use in ensuring successful decontamination after an anthrax attack. The report says current test methods typically permit the processing of only 30 to 40 samples per day and take days to yield confirmed results—a problem that delayed the reopening of facilities after the 2001 anthrax attacks. The new method, called rapid-viability polymerase chain reaction (RV-PCR), uses high-throughput sample processing via commercial automation in combination with 96-well real-time PCR to analyze hundreds of samples per day. The method includes the use of magnetic beads to extract DNA before PCR analysis. It can detect as few as 10 spores in water, air filter, and surface samples, the report says. The approach reduces the total analysis time for an initial batch of 24 samples from 24 hours to 15 hours, after which only 3 to 4 hours is needed for each additional batch. The new method was developed at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

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