NEWS SCAN: H7 in Mexican poultry, Indonesian H5N1 vaccine, Hong Kong eases flu alert, flu vaccine seizures

Jun 25, 2012

Large H7 outbreaks strike Mexican poultry
Animal health officials in Mexico are investigating three low-pathogenic H7 avian influenza outbreaks at commercial layer farms in the country's central Jalisco state, according to a Jun 22 report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). More lab tests are under way to more fully characterize the virus's subtype and pathogenicity. The birds showed clinical signs, including gasping, lethargy, drooping wings, and fever. The outbreaks began Jun 13, sickening 587,160 birds and killing 211,242 of more than 1 million susceptible poultry. In one of the outbreaks 60,000 birds were culled as a control measure. Investigators are working to determine the extent of the problem, the source of the outbreak, and if any other pathogens are involved. The outbreaks are the first known occurrence of the strain in Mexico, according to the report.
Jun 22 OIE report

Indonesia begins H5N1 vaccine production
Indonesia's health minister said the country has started producing its own supply of vaccine against the H5N1 virus, Bernama, Malaysia's national news agency, reported today. Nafsiah Mboi told Xinhua, China's national news agency, that so far several thousand vaccine doses have been produced, with more than 50,000 needed for stockpiling in the event of an H5N1 pandemic in Indonesia or to assist other countries where outbreaks are occurring. She said the vaccine is being produced in Bandung, the capital of West Java province. Indonesia leads the world with the highest number of confirmed human H5N1 infections and deaths—189 cases, of which 157 were fatal. In a 2007 protest against developing countries' poor access to drugs and vaccines against H5N1, it temporarily stopped sharing virus samples. Since then, global health officials and the countries themselves have developed plans for the countries to start producing their own vaccine, and in 2011 the World Health Assembly approved a working group's final virus-sharing agreement that improved the flow of the countermeasures to poorer countries.
Jun 25 Bernama story

Hong Kong steps down flu response level
Hong Kong health authorities have lowered the region's influenza response level from "serious" to "alert," 21 days after a boy from China who was hospitalized in the area was diagnosed as having an H5N1 infection, according to a Jun 22 press release from the Hong Kong government. On Jun 1, Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection (CHP) raised the flu response level, boosting surveillance and investigating the source of the boy's infection. Officials placed the boy's close contacts under quarantine, and no more cases were detected. The CHP has classified the case as an imported sporadic infection. The boy is still hospitalized in serious condition. Earlier reports said he was in a pediatric intensive care unit at Princess Margaret Hospital undergoing treatment for obstructive hydrocephalus.
Jun 22 Hong Kong government press release

New Zealand study: Febrile seizures more common after Fluvax
A New Zealand study in Vaccine of the 2010 and 2011 flu seasons found that fever was more common after children received Fluvax, the vaccine linked to febrile convulsions in Australian children, compared with other vaccines. The researchers conducted telephone surveys of parents of children who received 4,088 doses of flu vaccine, and the response rate was 99%. Vaccines offered in New Zealand varied between 2010 and 2011. Fluvax, made by CSL, was not offered in 2011, based on febrile seizures identified in 2010 among young Australian children. The New Zealand team found a risk for febrile convulsions of 35 per 10,000 doses in children ages 6 months to 8 years within 24 hours of receiving Fluvax. No convulsions were reported following 3,223 doses of the other vaccines. Investigators noted that febrile events within 24 hours of vaccination were more common following Fluvax, and to a lesser extent, Influvac, the vaccine made by Solvay. The findings are in line with other smaller studies investigating fevers following Fluvax administration, though rates in Australian studies were higher. The study also found that the rate of febrile reactions in Pacific Islanders to be one third that of children of European origin.
July Vaccine abstract

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