Rare birds smuggled into Europe from Indonesia

Dozens of rare birds smuggled into Europe from Indonesia had to be killed after one was discovered to have the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus.

The 60 birds – wild parrots, birds of paradise and other exotic species – had been trafficked from Bali to Qatar and then through Austria’s Vienna International Airport.

They were smuggled in a suitcase before being killed by vets after the smugglers were caught. More than 30 of the birds were already dead when customs officials opened the case.

The birds had to be killed after one was discovered to have the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus

The birds had to be killed after one was discovered to have the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus

Tests on the bodies revealed that at least one of the birds had been infected with the deadly H5N1 virus.

A customs spokesman said: ‘As a result of the discovery, all the surviving birds have been destroyed by the border veterinary service.

‘Anyone who came into contact with them has also been informed and is receiving treatment.’

Earlier this week the World Health Organisation urged health workers around the world to be on the alert for symptoms of the virus, which has the potential to circle the globe and cause a pandemic.

The United Nations agency, which issued new, long-awaited guidance to countries on influenza pandemics, gave the warnings for two human strains of bird flu – H5N1, which emerged a decade ago, and H7N9, which was first detected in China in March.

The 60 birds - wild parrots, birds of paradise and other exotic species - had been trafficked from Bali to Qatar

The 60 birds – wild parrots, birds of paradise and other exotic species – had been trafficked from Bali to Qatar

They were smuggled in a suitcase before being killed by vets after the smugglers were caught

They were smuggled in a suitcase before being killed by vets after the smugglers were caught

More than 30 of the birds were already dead when customs officials opened the case

More than 30 of the birds were already dead when customs officials opened the case

Tests on the bodies have revealed that at least one of the birds had been infected with the deadly virus

Tests on the bodies have revealed that at least one of the birds had been infected with the deadly virus

Source : dailymail.co.uk

14 sick, 5 dead as new bird flu moves beyond birds, threatens people

Staff from Taiwan's Center for Disease Control at Sungshan Airport in Taipei. Taiwan has raised its level of alert as new deaths from H7N9 bird flu have been reported. (Sam Yeh / AFP/Getty Images)

Staff from Taiwan’s Center for Disease Control at Sungshan Airport in Taipei. Taiwan has raised its level of alert as new deaths from H7N9 bird flu have been reported. (Sam Yeh / AFP/Getty Images)

The number of people sickened by the H7N9 bird flu virus climbed to 14 on Thursday — and the death count jumped to five — as the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture reported that it may have detected the virus in pigeon samples at a Shanghai poultry market.

Officials in Shanghai began slaughtering birds at the market to slow spread of the disease, which so far has infected only people who come in close contact with birds and does not appear to pass from person to person.

That a place like Shanghai appears to be a center for the spread of H7N9, which wasn’t known to sicken people before this outbreak, makes sense, said Trevon Fuller, a research fellow at UCLA’s Center for Tropical Research. Fuller and colleagues recently published a study (see related items at left for Los Angeles Times coverage) identifying potential hot spots for another bird flu strain that has killed people: H5N1.

They identified Shanghai among the key locations. The reason? Its high concentration of poultry production.

“It seems that whenever there’s this spillover of bird flu to humans, it’s associated with high numbers of poultry and intensive poultry production,” Fuller said.

The more birds present that catch different strains of a virus, the more opportunities exist for those strains to combine and reassort — creating new varieties like the novel H7N9 that could pose increased dangers to birds, animals and people.

Scientists will continue studying the outbreak to determine exactly how the virus gained the ability to sicken people, and how it spreads. According to the World Health Organization, lab experiments suggest that H7N9 does respond to antiviral medications like oseltamivir, but the drugs have not yet been used to treat any of the outbreak patients.

Reuters reported that Japan and Hong Kong had begun taking precautions, including monitoring airports and farms to combat the virus — although those efforts were called preliminary. Taiwan also has raised its level of alert, and Vietnam has banned poultry imports from China.

The World Health Organization is providing regular updates on H7N9 bird flu.

source : latimes.com

New bird flu strain creates fear and surveillance

French doctor Alix Greder-Belan shows a protective face mask to be used by hospital staff in case of a bird flu pandemic at the Mignot Hospital in Versailles October 10, 2005. REUTERS/Franck Prevel

French doctor Alix Greder-Belan shows a protective face mask to be used by hospital staff in case of a bird flu pandemic at the Mignot Hospital in Versailles October 10, 2005. REUTERS/Franck Prevel

An emerging bird flu that is mysterious and deadly is haunting China. With four fresh H7N9 cases reported in Jiangsu Province and no indication as to how three Chinese adults caught the little-noted avian flu virus that killed two of them in March, the global medical community is hoping the new flu will calm down until China’s health system can determine how it spread.

“I can tell you this thing is real and definitely has the markings of being a killer,” says Jason Tetro, coordinator of the Emerging Pathogens Research Centre in Ottawa, which on Monday examined gene sequences from three of China’s H7N9 cases.

“I don’t wish to cause panic,” Tetro said in an interview, noting that if the subtype were proven to have emerged from a small farm, he wouldn’t be much alarmed. Infecting a big poultry reservoir, on the other hand, might well enable H7N9 to access Asia’s wild bird population. The upstart subtype could then become as menacing as H5N1, which since 2005 has officially taken 371 lives in 622 cases, mostly in China, Southeast Asia and Egypt, according to the World Health Organization. The additional Chinese cases have convinced Tetro that “close contact with birds” has been involved. “And I think the CAFOs [industrial chicken farms] have definitely contributed to the evolution of this virus,” he says.

Already, “the internal genes of H7N9 are very close to those of H5N1,” says Mike Coston, a widely read American flu blogger, in an interview. (Coston’s Avian Flu Diary noted on March 14 that a paper in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s Emerging Infectious Disease Journal had identified the Shanghai area as one well suited to breed a new genetic subtype of influenza.)
In a development unwelcome to Chinese authorities, many Chinese microbloggers are associating the H7N9 deaths with the still-unexplained swine carcasses that last month floated down the Huangpu River, which provides Shanghai’s drinking water. (Local health officials announced on Monday that the dead pigs contained no bird flu virus.)

Memories of China’s repression of news during its tumultuous 2002-03 SARS outbreak could fuel panic and unrest at home and suspicion in the West. A Tuesday editorial in China Daily reminded readers that China’s minister of health and the mayor of Beijing were dismissed 10 years ago “for trying to cover up the disease.” And there are signs that authorities this time, too, have been less than forthcoming; the Jiangsu Province Health Department announced the four new H7N9 cases only after a microblogger whose Weibo profile says he is a hospital administrator posted a shot of what looked like a patient’s diagnosis on Tuesday.

This might explain why FluTrackers, a U.S. website that hosts a global volunteer disease-surveillance network, has been suffering renewed denial-of-service attacks that it says are originating in China. The Florida-based site first noted server overloads in April 2011 and was told by its server provider in mid-December 2012 that page views from China were running at an “astonishing” level that closed the month at almost 10 million, said Sharon Sanders, FluTrackers’ president and editor-in-chief, in a series of e-mail exchanges.

After FluTrackers banned Chinese IP addresses that were sending thousands of requests, traffic slowed by more than two-thirds, only to rebound in March to almost 6.7 million page views from China. “When the site goes down, it is extremely inconvenient,” wrote Sanders, but a backup site that uses “multiple social media venues” makes it “really impossible to take us down.”

Why would Chinese authorities care about FluTrackers? For one thing, the nonprofit website is watching China. An item Sanders posted on March 7 seems to have constituted the first overseas mention of the Shanghai H7N9 cases. While journalists in China and Hong Kong dig for stories there, FluTrackers has about 50 regular posters and several hundred intermittent volunteers tracking and documenting threats to public health — particularly emerging diseases — around the world. The site, which Sanders founded with some fellow H5N1 watchers in 2006, publishes daily in English, French, Dutch and Italian, biweekly in Spanish, and occasionally in German, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “No one is paid. Everyone is a volunteer,” she wrote. “We do not accept any advertisements and we do not sell anything.”

On Monday, for instance, Chinese authorities and the World Health Organization took heart that no signs of human-to-human H7N9 transmission had surfaced. That evening, FluTrackers posted a machine-translation of a bylined report that had just been posted at wenweipo.com, a Hong Kong newspaper’s website. The story tells of unusual pneumonia cases afflicting four men and a woman in a Shanghai hospital — all aged 60 to 70 and with no history of interpersonal contact. Speaking anonymously, a doctor is quoted as saying the hospital annually copes with about three cases of “unexplained severe pneumonia,” but that all five of the special cases are being labeled as such, though they have not been isolated. A second report indicated that three of them may have died.

So does H7N9 have pandemic potential? “I’d say that the majority of virus comes from H9N2, which many researchers have suspected could be the next pandemic. The makeup of this virus is similar to one that researchers have suspected could be the next pandemic. However it’s not quite there yet,” says Tetro. “We know that it is not spreading from human to human, but we know that in some cases, direct or close contact with poultry or birds is a route of infection.”

On the other hand, he finds the revelation of fresh cases in Jiangsu comforting: “This is actually an official statement. I’m more optimistic that we’re going to have a better epidemiological understanding of what is happening in China.”

“Many epidemics break out, spread and burn themselves out all the time in China. We just never hear about them,” says Coston. “But I think it’s already in the birds.”
We’ll all be watching.

source : blogs.reuters.com

Unknown strain of bird flu kills two people in China

Quick action has led to tens of millions of birds have been culled to stop the spread, which has been brought under control by animal vaccination programs.

Quick action has led to tens of millions of birds have been culled to stop the spread, which has been brought under control by animal vaccination programs.

A frightening new form of bird flu, heretofore undiagnosed and unidentified has killed two men in China. It doesn’t discriminate in age, as the two victims were aged 27 and 87. Both men fell ill in Shanghai, one of the country’s largest cities, in late February and died earlier this month.

LOS ANGELES, CA – Another woman in nearby Anhui province has contracted the virus and is listed in a critical condition.

According the Chinese National Health and Family Planning Commission, the strain of the bird flu virus found in all three people was identified as H7N9, which had not been transmitted to humans before.

The first birds were infected in 1996. Bird flu was then transmitted to human beings in Hong Kong the following year.

Experts warn that the highly contagious disease is the world’s biggest pandemic threat and could kill between five million and 150 million people. The disease is expected to mutate within birds. Doctors have been able to head off the infection in Asia due to vaccination programs.

Seventeen governments around the world are preparing vaccines to combat a pandemic. Symptoms of the new strain include fever and coughing that later develops into pneumonia. It’s not yet known how the three people became infected.

The World Health Organization says it is “closely monitoring the situation” in China, regional agency spokesman Timothy O’Leary said in Manila, Philippines. The WHO says that the latest strain isn’t contagious.

“There is apparently no evidence of human-to-human transmission, and transmission of the virus appears to be inefficient, therefore the risk to public health would appear to be low,” O’Leary said.

While WHO is confident the latest strain will not easily spread – no symptoms have been reported in any people who had been in contact with the victims, the deaths are sure to reignite fears over the disease.

The most common strain of bird flu, H5N1, found mainly in Southeast Asia, is highly contagious among birds and can spread to humans.

Quick action has led to tens of millions of birds have been culled to stop the spread, which has been brought under control by animal vaccination programs.

The WHO says there have been 566 confirmed human cases of H5N1 since 2003 and 322 deaths. Governments around the world are pumping millions of pounds into developing vaccines in the scenario of a pandemic. ( catholic.org )

Combination of bird, human flu can be dangerous, warns study

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), have confirmed that genes from bird flu and human flu combined together can create dangerous new flu strains, mainly in the bird flu prevalent countries including Bangladesh.

The flu season this year is expected to be lengthier and the disease could be pandemic if bird flu becomes highly contagious among humans, researchers predicted in a study, published on Friday.

In Bangladesh, so far eight people had died of bird flue until 2010. However, some 800 people were infected and later cured until 2012, according to the Ministry of Health.

The respiratory virus, which infects pigs and humans only sporadically, spreads mainly through coughs and sneezes.

Flu season occurs during the end of winter and rages for several months among birds, humans and animals. Often the viruses become deadly.

In 2009, H1N1 swine flu outbreak killed 280,000 people worldwide when viruses from humans and animals exchanged genes to create a new virus in a process called ‘reassortment’, the study revealed.

Earlier, the flu killed more than a million people each time when it broke out in 1957 and 1968, the study said.

The researchers have advised the relevant authorities in the bird flue prevalent countries to vaccinate people, poultry and livestock and monitor animals for evolution of new viruses, which could help predict and prevent a probable pandemic disease.

According to the World Health organisation (WHO), China, Egypt, India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Bangladesh have been the hosts to ongoing, widespread of bird flu infections in poultry since 2011.

A research study of the UCLA revealed that the researchers had to work with limited data as they had lacked adequate data for bird and human flu outbreaks in all these six bird flu host countries.

The research study was published by Texas-based Red Orbit Science, Space, Technology, Health News and Information on Friday.

The study said the scientists had to identify indicators of flu outbreaks, such as dense poultry populations, or rain and temperatures that encourage flu transmission.

“For each type of flu, we identified variables that were predictive of the various virus strains,” the study report quoted UCLA postdoctoral research fellow Trevon Fuller as saying.

“We wanted a map of predictions continuously across the whole country, including locations where we didn’t have data on flu outbreaks,” Fuller said.

Using surveillance of influenza cases in humans and birds, the researchers have come up with a technique to predict sites where these viruses could mix and generate a future pandemic, the study said.

The researchers’ models revealed that coastal and central China and Egypt’s Nile Delta are danger zones where bird flu could combine with human flu to create a virulent kind of ‘super-flu’.

Governments can prioritise these zones – and use the researchers’ models to identify other hotspots – for increased monitoring of flu in humans, livestock, poultry and wild birds.

“That could help detect a novel flu virus before it spreads worldwide,” the study said.

Researchers using mice confirms that genes from bird flu and human flu can combine to create dangerous new flu strains.

Swine, which is susceptible to both bird and human flu, could serve as a mixing vessel for ‘reassortment’ between the two viruses.

“The mixing of genetic material between the seasonal human flu virus and bird flu can create novel virus strains that are more lethal than either of the original viruses,” the study quoted another UCLA researcher Thomas Smith.

The research focused on two flu strains that, as studies in mice have shown, can combine with lethal results, that is the seasonal H3N2 human flu, and the H5N1 strain of bird flu that has occasionally crossed over into humans.

Currently, H5N1 has a 60 per cent mortality rate in humans but is not known to spread between humans frequently.

Bird flu has taken a big toll in Bangladesh since its fresh outbreak in 2007. The number of farms has come down to 70,000 from 150,000 over the last five years, according to the Bangladesh Poultry Industries’ Association.

sources: thefinancialexpress-bd.com

FAO animal flu reference center set up in N China

more than 400 million poultry died or were slaughtered after contracting avian influenza from 2003 to 2011

more than 400 million poultry died or were slaughtered after contracting avian influenza from 2003 to 2011

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations on Monday designated an animal influenza lab in northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province as a reference center for animal influenza.

The Animal Influenza Laboratory, which belongs to the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute (HVRI) of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, is located in the provincial capital of Harbin.

The center is the first FAO-recognized reference center in China and the second in the world after the Federal Research Institute for Animal Health, which is operated by the Friedrich Loeffer Institute of Germany.

The HVRI will share information and jointly carry out animal influenza supervision, prevention and control programs with the FAO, as well as provide data on epidemiology and influenza virus evolution in Asia and offer consultation on vaccines and immunity, Dr. Juan Luborth, chief veterinary officer of the FAO, said at a designation ceremony held on Monday.

“The world still faces new risks for avian influenza, as the H5N1 bird flu virus still plagues many Asian and Middle Eastern countries. If we fail to take action, the virus could cause a global pandemic worse than that seen in 2006,” Luborth said.

According to statistics released by the FAO, more than 400 million poultry died or were slaughtered after contracting avian influenza from 2003 to 2011, causing economic losses of 20 billion U.S. dollars.

More than 500 people contracted the H5N1 virus from 2003 to 2011 and 300 of them lost their lives due to the virus.

Luborth said he is concerned about cuts in funding for avian influenza prevention that occurred after the global financial crisis.

“If veterinary services are not sufficiently supported, we are more likely to face an outbreak,” he said.

He said more governments should boost funding for animal disease prevention, strengthen sanitation and guarantee safety in farms and markets.

“China has vast veterinary services and strong campaigns that can allow it to prevent avian influenza from spreading over from birds to humans. But some of its neighbors are unable to do so,” Luborth said.

In February, the Ministry of Health confirmed that two H5N1 patients had died in a hospital in southwest China’s Guizhou Province.

In the neighboring Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Nepal, avian influenza infections have also been reported recently.

China has paid attention to the prevention and control of avian influenza and an integrated bird flu control system has been created, said Yu Kangzheng, China’s chief veterinary officer.

“China and the FAO have cooperated a great deal in areas related to animal epidemics and laboratory biosecurity in recent years. The establishment of the center will boost that cooperation,” said Yu.

China and the FAO will also strengthen cooperative efforts to prevent and control the cross-border spread animal disease, as well as encourage exchanges of veterinary experience and information among different countries, Yu said.

“We will continue to accumulate experience and improve our capability to prevent and control avian influenza with the support of international organizations,” Yu said.

The FAO plans to designate 50 animal health reference centers around the world to research veterinary epidemiology, laboratory biosecurity, animal epidemic diseases and zoonosis.

sources:news.xinhuanet.com