Flu Scan for Feb 08, 2016

H7N9 cases in China
European flu update
Avian flu indemnity rules

Chinese surveillance reports reveal 17 more H7N9 cases

China has reported 17 more H7N9 avian influenza cases, at least three of them fatal, according to official reports from local, state, and federal government health departments.

In a surveillance report for the month of January, the country's National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) reported 13 cases with 3 deaths that hadn’t already been reported by city or provincial officials, according to a report in Chinese translated and posted by FluTrackers, an infectious disease news message board. No details were available about the patients, locations, or type of exposure, but most of China's H7N9 cases have been linked to contact with market poultry or their environments.

The four other cases, all involving men age 52 or older, were reported over the past few days from different parts of the mainland: one from Guangdong province, two from Hunan province, and one from Shanghai.

Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection (CHP) reported the Guangdong case yesterday. It said the patient, a 73-year-old man, had contact with poultry before he got sick on Feb 2, was hospitalized on Feb 5, and is in serious condition.

Also, a report from Hunan province described two more cases announced on Feb 3, involving a 52-year-old man from Yongzhou and a 76-year-old man from Chenzhou, according to FluTrackers. Finally, Shanghai officials on Feb 5 announced an infection in a 66-year-old man, according to a separate report.

The new cases boost the global total to 735, according to FluTrackers’ running case list. Nearly 50 cases have been reported in China's fourth wave of H7N9 infections since the virus first emerged in early 2013.
Feb 7 FluTrackers thread on NHFPC report from January
Feb 7 CHP statement
Feb 7 FluTrackers thread on two recent Hunan province cases
Feb 7 FluTrackers thread on Shanghai case
FluTrackers H7N9 case list


H1N1 and influenza B making marks on Europe's flu season

In a seasonal flu update, the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) said today that the 2009 H1N1 virus is predominant in many countries and has been linked to severe infections in risk groups as well as in previously health people ages 15 to 64 years, a pattern seen in other years when the strain was common. However, it added that Victoria lineage influenza B—the strain not included in Northern Hemisphere trivalent vaccines—has predominated in four countries, which might impair the performance of the seasonal flu vaccine.

The ECDC said an estimate from New Zealand's 2015 flu season suggested that its flu vaccine, which includes the same three strains, provided modest protection, showing an overall effectiveness of 50% against flu requiring hospitalization.

The agency also warned that it's not clear if the emergence of a new 2009 H1N1 subgroup will undercut vaccine effectiveness. It said an increasing proportion of H1N1 viruses fall into a subcluster within the 6B subgroup, which is antigenically similar to the vaccine virus despite S162N and I216T amino acid substitutions in the hemagglutinin gene.

World Health Organization (WHO) vaccine advisors will meet Feb 22 through 25 to discuss recommendations for the Northern Hemisphere's 2016-17 flu vaccine.
Feb 8 ECDC flu season risk assessment update


USDA expands regulations for compensating avian flu damages

The US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) on Feb 5 outlined an interim rule that clarifies qualifications for indemnity payments to poultry producers affected by highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

The most significant changes to indemnity qualifications include (1) providing a mechanism and formula for owners of poultry and egg facilities to divide financial compensation for losses with contractors; (2) clarifying that losses due to HPAI-related egg destruction will be eligible for indemnity; and (3) requiring facility owners and contractors to prove that they had a biosecurity plan in place when HPAI was detected in their flocks.

Part of the interim rule's intent is to strengthen biosecurity compliance across the 18,900 US facilities required to have a plan in place. Small egg-laying, poultry, and game farms are exempt from the biosecurity plan requirement.

APHIS noted that the outbreak of HPAI in US facilities in early 2015 caused major financial losses for poultry and egg producers. The interim rule will be posted to the Federal Register this week, and APHIS is requesting comments and ideas for using indemnity regulations to build stronger accountability and biosecurity surveillance across the agricultural sector.
 Feb 5 APHIS press release

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