NEWS SCAN: H5N1 efforts in Egypt, H5N1 vaccine in Indonesia, non-drug flu interventions, Gates' Global Fund donation

Jan 26, 2012

Egypt announces H5N1 control campaign
Egypt plans to launch a nationwide campaign to stop the spread of H5N1 avian flu in the next few weeks, officials told IRIN, the United Nations' humanitarian news service. Details are still sketchy, but the plan involves cooperation among the Health Ministry, the Agriculture Ministry, and poultry producers. It involves enhanced surveillance and biosafety steps. "These measures are just a small part of a more general plan to curb the spread of the virus in our country," said Saber Abdel Aziz, a senior official from the country's General Organization for Veterinary Services. "We will also offer incentives to poultry growers to look for signs of illness in their animals, report sick ones, and practice biosecurity." The country has confirmed 159 human H5N1 cases since 2006, 55 of them fatal. The two most recent cases were confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Jan 19.
Jan 26 IRIN report
Jan 19 WHO report

Indonesian firm plans to produce H5N1 vaccine in 2013
Indonesia hopes to start mass-producing H5N1 vaccine next year, provided funding is realized, the Jakarta Globe reported today. The state drug company Bio Farma will begin making the vaccine once it facilities are expanded. "At present Bio Farma is not yet producing because it needs to have its capacity expanded," Health Minister Endang Rahayu Sedyaningsih said yesterday, according to the story. "If the funds are disbursed this year, the facility will be completed by the end of 2012." She said that the University of Indonesia is providing the vaccine to Bio Farma and that the government will buy it. Indonesia has confirmed 184 H5N1 cases since 2005, including 152 deaths, according to the WHO.
Study finds non-drug flu-fighting benefits
A trial of face masks and hand hygiene steps in college dorms during flu season found that the measures reduced the rate of infections, though not at statistically significant levels. Researchers conducted the study of the two major interventions against flu at five University of Michigan dormitories during the 2007-08 flu season. They published their findings yesterday in Public Library of Science (PLoS) One. The study included 1,178 participants who were randomized to both interventions, face mask only, or a control group. Students were asked to report their health systems each week. Over the 6-week study period, investigators saw a significant drop in the rate of flu-like illnesses during weeks 3 through 6 in students using both interventions, when reductions ranged from 48% to 75%. When they looked at flu infections over the entire study period, they observed a 43% reduction in the mask-and-hygiene group, though the level wasn't statistically significant. They concluded that combining the two measures could be a useful tool for preventing flu and other respiratory infections, especially in crowded community settings at the start of a pandemic.
 Jan 25 PLoS One study

Gates Foundation pledges $750 million to fight AIDS, TB, malaria
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has promised to donate $750 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Microsoft chair Bill Gates said today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, according to a CNN report. The pledge is in addition to $650 million the foundation has already given to the Global Fund since its launch 10 years ago. Gates said the donation could be used to "save lives, whether it is bed nets [to protect against malaria-transmitting mosquitoes] or TB [tuberculosis] treatment, those are two diseases that don't get perhaps the visibility of the work done in HIV but they are every bit as important." Controversy over poor financial management has swirled around the Global Fund, and its executive director announced this week that he will step down in March. Gates, however, downplayed the controversy, saying that conducting health programs in Africa carries an inherent risk of some misuse of funds.
Jan 26 CNN story

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