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Avian flu 2006


Turkey reports two people have bird flu

By Gareth Jones ANKARA, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Turkey said on Wednesday two people had been diagnosed with bird flu in the east of the country, the first human cases outside Southeast Asia and China.

The news was announced by Health Minister Recep Akdag.

The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed more than 70 people in east Asia since 2003 and forced the slaughter of millions of birds.

Turkey, which lies on the path of migratory birds that are believed to spread the virus, has suffered two outbreaks of the highly contagious disease among poultry in the past three months.

Veterinary experts across Europe have been on alert, culling birds and taking other precautionary measures since October outbreaks in Turkey and Romania.

Most of Europe imposed a ban on imports of Turkish live birds at the time, but the measure was subsequently eased.

Experts say a bird flu pandemic among humans could kill millions around the globe and cause massive economic losses.

The virus remains hard for people to catch, but there are fears it could mutate into a form easily transmitted among humans. (Editing by Ralph Gowling) - alertnet.org

China confirms new bird flu outbreak in southwest

BEIJING, Jan 4 (Reuters) - China confirmed a bird flu outbreak in the southwestern province of Sichuan, a Food and Agriculture Organisation official said, adding cold weather and Chinese New Year holidays could mean more cases to come.

More than 1,800 poultry were found dead on Dec. 22 on a farm in Sichuan's Dazhu county and Agriculture Ministry officials sent to the area confirmed the birds had the H5N1 strain of the virus.

Since then, 12,900 poultry in the region had been culled to try to contain the virus, which is found mostly in birds but which scientists fear could mutate into a form that can pass easily between people, leading to a pandemic.

In response to the latest outbreak, Hong Kong's government said it had stopped processing requests to import live poultry and poultry meat from Sichuan.

Scientists are worried because the virus, although hard for humans to catch, has killed more than half the people reported to have been infected.

Since late 2003, more than 70 people have died in Asia from bird flu and the virus is endemic in poultry flocks in parts of the region, highlighting the urgency in trying to control the disease and prevent more human infections.

"In wintertime, we really are concerned because the risk is higher. The more the environment is ideal for the virus the more outbreaks we are expecting," said Noureddin Mona, China representative for the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

China has confirmed seven human cases of bird flu, including three deaths.

Last year, the country had more than 30 outbreaks of bird flu in poultry and culled and vaccinated millions of birds, but officials say the preponderance of small family farms, a lack of well-trained local officials and the world's biggest poultry population will make it hard to contain the disease.

"The problem in China is about 50-60 percent of the poultry is operated on small-scale farms in the backyard, which provides the ideal life for the virus to jump between different species of poultry," Mona said.

He also repeated warnings from the Agriculture Ministry that the risk of the virus spreading could be higher during the Chinese Lunar New Year, which falls at the end of January this year, as meat consumption and the transport of live poultry increases. (Additional reporting by Tan Ee Lyn in Hong Kong) - alertnet.org

Boy died of H5N1 strain of bird flu - doctor

ANKARA, Jan 4 (Reuters) - A 14-year-old Turkish boy has died of the H5N1 strain of bird flu, a doctor said on Wednesday, confirming the first human death from the disease outside China and southeast Asia.

Doctors had originally said Mehmet Ali Kocyigit died of pneumonia on Sunday in Van hospital in eastern Turkey.

"He died of the H5N1 strain of bird flu," Huseyin Avni Sahin, head doctor at Van hospital, told a televised news conference. The boy's sister, Fatma, has also been diagnosed as having the disease and remains seriously ill. - alertnet.org

Dead Turk boy probably had bird flu-WHO official

GENEVA, Jan 4 (Reuters) - A senior World Health Organisation (WHO) official said on Wednesday that a 14-year-old Turkish body had probably died of the H5N1 bird flu virus.

"We are pretty confident that unfortunately it is a human case of H5N1," Guenael Rodier, special adviser on communicable diseases at the WHO's European office, told Reuters. - alertnet.org

Second Turkish child dies from bird flu-TV

ISTANBUL, Jan 5 (Reuters) - A second Turkish child from the same family has died from bird flu at a hospital in eastern Turkey where she was being treated, the CNN Turk news channel said on Thursday.

Officials announced on Wednesday that 14-year-old Turkish boy Mehmet Ali Kocyigit had died of the H5N1 strain of bird flu, confirming the first human death from the disease outside China and southeast Asia. Newspapers said his dead sister, Fatma, was 15-years-old. - alertnet.org

Second Turkish child dies from bird flu

By Daren Butler ISTANBUL, Jan 5 (Reuters) - A second Turkish child from the same family died from bird flu on Thursday, officials and doctors said, in the first human cases of the disease outside China and Southeast Asia.

"We lost Fatma Kocyigit this morning," Niyazi Tanilir, governor in the eastern province of Van, said on the CNN Turk news channel. The 15-year-old girl died in hospital at around 6:30 a.m. (0430 GMT).

Her brother, 14-year-old Mehmet Ali Kocyigit, died at the weekend.

Turkish officials said on Wednesday that the cause of death was the H5N1 strain of bird flu.

A top World Health Organisation official said he could not yet confirm this but it was probably correct -- which would mark a dramatic shift westwards for the deadly disease to the threshold of Europe.

Tanilir said one further patient from the family was in a particularly critical condition.

Turkish Health Minister Recep Akdag gave no specific details on the boy's death, in comments before the second fatality, but said samples had been sent to the WHO and Britain for more tests.

If the deaths are officially confirmed as being the result of H5N1, they would be the first outside eastern Asia where more than 70 people have been killed by the disease since 2003.

The virus remains hard for people to catch, but there are fears it could mutate into a form easily transmitted among humans. Experts say a pandemic among humans could kill millions around the globe and cause massive economic losses.

SEVEN FURTHER PATIENTS

Ahmet Faik Oner, a doctor at the hospital in Van near the Iranian and Armenian borders, said that after the latest death seven other people were being treated with similar symptoms.

It was not known yet whether any have bird flu.

Fatma's sister, Hulya, was in a particularly bad condition, Oner told state-run Anatolian news agency.

Doctors had originally said Mehmet Ali died of pneumonia on Sunday in the Van hospital, about 800 km (500 miles) east of the capital Ankara.

In the wake of the bird flu announcement, the hospital tightened up its precautionary measures and closed its children's department to other patients.

All those receiving treatment in Van had come from the same district of Dogubayazit on the Armenian border, the health minister said. People in the remote, rural area live mainly from raising poultry and other livestock.

Turkey, on the path of migratory birds that are believed to spread the virus, has had two outbreaks of the highly contagious disease among poultry in the past three months.

Veterinary experts across Europe have been on alert, culling birds and taking other precautionary measures since October outbreaks in Turkey and Romania.

Most of Europe imposed a ban on imports of Turkish live birds at the time, but the measure was subsequently eased.

In Asia, measures against the disease have included the slaughter of millions of birds. - alertnet.org

Six more Turks in hospital with suspected bird flu

ANKARA, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Six people have been sent to hospital in a second province in eastern Turkey with suspected bird flu, NTV commercial television reported on Thursday.

The news follows the death of two teenagers, a brother and sister, in Van hospital in eastern Turkey overnight in the first human cases of bird flu outside China and Southeast Asia.

NTV said the six patients were from Igdir province on the Armenian border, just to the north of Agri province where the two dead children came from. Seven other people from Agri are also being treated in Van hospital for suspected bird flu. - alertnet.org

EU sends vet to Turkey to assess bird flu threat

BRUSSELS, Jan 5 (Reuters) - The European Union has sent a veterinary expert to Turkey to help it tackle bird flu after the disease was found to have killed two teenagers in a remote rural area, the European Commission said on Thursday. Two Turkish teenagers died from bird flu in recent days in a remote rural district near Turkey's border with Armenia, where people live in close proximity with livestock and poultry.

There was the possibility of more suspected cases of bird flu in humans in the area, the Commission said in a statement.

Although experts say more tests are needed to be certain of the virus, all evidence points to it being the H5N1 strain -- appearing to mark a major shift westwards to the edge of Europe of a disease that has killed 74 people in Asia since 2003.

Samples of the diseased poultry would now be sent to the EU's reference laboratory in Weybridge, near London, for tests to be carried out, the Commission statement said.

The Turkish authorities are also sending samples from the human cases to a separate World Health Organisation reference laboratory in Britain to confirm the identity of the virus. - alertnet.org

WHO team to help probe Turkey bird flu deaths

By Richard Waddington GENEVA, Jan 5 (Reuters) - The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday sent a team of experts to Turkey to help investigate the deaths of two teenagers from suspected bird flu, a senior official said.

The team, which had been requested by Ankara, included epidemiologists who would try to verify the source of the deadly virus which is believed to have killed a brother and sister in a remote rural district of Turkey near the Armenian border.

WHO officials say that there is little doubt that the deaths were due to the feared H5N1 avian virus, making them the first human cases to occur outside China and Southeast Asia.

On Thursday, a second test in Istanbul had supported the findings of an Ankara laboratory that H5N1 was responsible, said Guenael Rodier, special adviser on communicable diseases at the Geneva-based World Health Organisation (WHO).

While a final diagnosis would only come after samples were examined at a laboratory in Britain later this week, the Istanbul lab had used a genetic technique that was as good as a fingerprint of the virus, he added.

"I have no reason not to trust the result," he told Reuters by telephone from the WHO's European headquarters in Copenhagen.

But the WHO, which had been expecting human cases after the virus was detected amongst wild birds and poultry in Turkey and parts of south-east Europe late last year, said that this did not mean a worldwide flu pandemic had become more likely.

Scientists fear that the deadly virus, which still rarely escapes to humans from birds and poultry, could mutate and become more easily transmissable. In this case, it could trigger a global epidemic in which millions of people could die.

H5N1 has killed 74 people in China and southeast Asia since 2003, but virtually all the cases involved people, as in Turkey, who had been in close contact with infected poultry.

Turkish newspapers said officials suspected the 14-year-old boy and his 15-year-old sister were infected by chickens they kept at home.

Tracing the source of the infection would be the job of the epidemiologists, Rodier said, adding their conclusions could be expected within the next five days.

The official said that the United Nations' health agency had no reason yet to raise its global pandemic alert from the current three on a six-point scale.

For the WHO to move to level four, there would need to be evidence of human-to-human transmission, and there was none yet.

"From a distance it looks like we have no need to be concerned as it (the Turkish case) looks very like what happened in Asia, but let the investigators do their job," Rodier said. - alertnet.org

Ukraine suspects new bird flu outbreak in Crimea

KIEV, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Ukraine suspects a new outbreak of bird flu in the Crimean peninsula, a regional official was quoted as saying on Thursday.

Mykola Kolesnichenko, head of the emergency commission at the Crimean government, told the Fifth television channel, that poultry were found dead on a farm in Solnechnoe village in Crimea. He said officials suspected bird flu but would wait for laboratory tests for confirmation.

Ukraine reported its first outbreak of bird flu in a dozen villages in Crimea, a major stopover point for migratory birds, in late November. Tests from laboratories in Russia and Britain showed it was the deadly H5N1 strain.

Since then more than 62,000 birds have been destroyed in house-to-house checks in about 30 villages across the Crimean peninsula. Officials declared the bird flu outbreak over and lifted the state of emergency at the end of December.

The highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of bird flu is endemic in poultry in parts of Asia where it has killed more than 70 people. Though hard for people to catch, experts fear it could mutate into a form which passes easily from person to person. - alertnet.org

Third child dies in east Turkey of bird flu

By Mustafa Yukselbaba DOGUBAYAZIT, Turkey, Jan 6 (Reuters) - A third Turkish child from the same family died of bird flu on Friday as the virus which has killed 74 people in east Asia reached the threshold of Europe.

Hulya Kocyigit, 11, was the sister of Mehmet Ali, a 14-year-old boy who died last weekend, and of Fatma, 15, a girl who died on Thursday.

The children lived in a remote rural district of eastern Turkey near the Armenian border. Their six-year-old brother is also being treated for the same disease in the hospital.

Huseyin Avni Sahin, the head doctor at Van hospital where the children died, told CNN Turk 23 people were now being treated at his hospital for suspected bird flu.

The authorities said on Thursday that the victims being treated came from more than one province in eastern Turkey. "Fifteen of them are in bed, one in a critical condition. Eight are able to move about. Most of the patients are children," he said.

The deadly H5N1 bird flu virus remains hard for people to catch but there are fears it could mutate into a form easily transmitted among humans. Experts say a pandemic among humans could kill millions and cause massive economic losses.

The disease has killed 74 people in China and Southeast Asia since 2003. Like the east Asian victims, the Turkish children who died are known to have lived in close proximity with poultry.

In the dead children's home town of Dogubayazit, near the Iranian and Armenian borders, an anxious crowd gathered outside the state agricultural offices to dump sackfuls of dead poultry or to ask for their poultry to be culled.

"After the deaths everybody is scared. We are all getting rid of our chickens and nobody dares eat their meat," said local trader Devlet Kaya.

Agriculture officials wearing face masks and protective white suits carried the sacks away to be culled and dumped in the municipal rubbish tip outside the town, where they are buried in a deep pit and covered with lime.

CULLING CONTINUES

One official said 3,500 poultry had been culled in the district so far and this figure was expected to reach 5,000 by the time the operation was completed on Saturday. However, officials said some families were trying to conceal some of their poultry. Rauf Ulusoy, the state's representative in the town, said 14 people had been sent from the town for treatment in neighbouring Van since the outbreak first emerged at the end of December.

He said the authorities had prepared a leaflet for locals detailing the precautionary measures which they should take against the spread of bird flu and this was being distributed in the town.

Authorities have sent extra supplies of the Tamiflu medicine used against the disease to Van, which is about 800 km (500 miles) east of the capital Ankara.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has provisionally backed the diagnosis that the children died of the H5N1 strain of bird flu but has said that more tests need to be carried out.

The WHO sent a team of experts to Turkey to help investigate the deaths at Ankara's request and the European Commission said it had sent a veterinary expert to help tackle the outbreak. Samples from Turkish patients were being analysed in Britain.

The WHO, which had been expecting human cases after the virus was first detected among wild birds and poultry in Turkey and parts of southeast Europe late last year, said the latest cases did not mean a worldwide flu pandemic had become more likely. - alertnet.org

Jakarta says needs nearly $1 bln to fight bird flu

JAKARTA, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Indonesia needs nearly $1 billion over two years to fight bird flu, which has killed 11 people in the world's fourth most populous nation, chief social welfare minister Aburizal Bakrie said on Friday.

Officials also said the government planned to set up surveillance posts at every village across the sprawling archipelago to detect any signs of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus among humans and poultry.

"We estimate we will need around 9 trillion rupiah ($940 million) and the funds will not necessarily come from Indonesia, but from donor countries," Bakrie told reporters.

"Naturally we hope the support will not be in loans, but rather in grants."

Since July, Indonesia has had 11 confirmed deaths from bird flu and five cases where patients have survived.

The H5N1 virus cannot move easily between humans at the moment, but experts fear it could develop that ability and set off a global pandemic which might kill millions of people.

I Nyoman Kandun, director general of disease control at the Health Ministry, told reporters the government planned to have every village covered with surveillance.

He gave no timeframe.

Millions of chickens have died from the disease in Indonesia or been killed to prevent its spread.

Indonesia has many millions of chickens and ducks, with many raised in rural and urban backyards.

The virus has been found in poultry in two-thirds of Indonesia's 33 provinces.

The H5N1 virus has killed more than 70 people in Southeast Asia and China since 2003. It has recently killed three Turkish children, taking the virus in humans to the edge of Europe.

Most victims have died from contact with infected fowl. - alertnet.org

Turkey's neighbour Azerbaijan tests for bird flu

BAKU, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Turkey's eastern neighbour Azerbaijan is to conduct tests to establish if bird flu caused the deaths of poultry in the south of the country, officials said on Friday.

Dead birds were taken for laboratory tests in the capital Baku from the Massaly region after about 200 birds died in two villages, said a spokeswoman for the Ecology Ministry. She said the results should be known on Saturday.

The Massaly region is near Azerbaijan's border with Iran and about 500 km (300 miles) southeast of the remote Turkish district where a bird flu outbreak in humans has killed three children.

"We have received no reports from the relevant authorities about the discovery of bird flu, in the country as a whole or in the Massaly region," Ziyaddin Kazimov, a departmental chief at the State Sanitary Service, told Reuters.

"We are taking all necessary measures to prevent the appearance or spread of this disease in the country," he said.

Azerbaijan has banned poultry imports from Turkey and Iran on public health grounds. - alertnet.org

Tests confirms bird flu in two dead Turkish children

ANKARA, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Final tests have confirmed two Turkish children who died in recent days were suffering from bird flu, official said on Friday.

Three Turkish children from the same family have died this week. The three have been diagnosed with bird flu according to preliminary tests, but a second set of tests is carried out at a World Health Organisation (WHO) laboratory.

Turkey said earlier that the WHO tests had confirmed three cases of bird flu.

A Turkish health ministry official later told Reuters that one of the three victims tested as positive by the WHO was still alive and came from another family, clarifying the earlier statement.

"Two of the children whose samples tested positive are dead. The third, a girl, is still sick in hospital. She is from a different family but lives in the same area (as the three children who died)," the official said.

WHO spokeswoman Maria Cheng confirmed that was the case. Cheng said further test results from samples taken from other suspect cases in Turkey were expected next week. - alertnet.org

Worried about bird flu? Stock up, HHS advises

WASHINGTON, Jan 6 (Reuters) - There is no vaccine and drugs are in short supply but Americans may be able to ride out any bird flu pandemic if they stock up on supplies and keep their children clean, the U.S. government said on Friday.

The Health and Human Services Department's checklist illustrates just how little can be done to prevent widespread illness and disruption if H5N1 avian influenza causes a pandemic -- a global epidemic -- this year.

The virus still mostly affects birds, but the deaths of three children in Turkey, if confirmed to have been caused by H5N1, means the virus has now infected people in six countries. The World Health Organization has confirmed 142 cases and 74 deaths from bird flu since 2003.

Experts fear it could mutate into a form that passes easily from person to person, sparking a pandemic that could kill millions. It would cost billions and HHS says it could kill 2 million Americans, close schools for days or weeks on end and disrupt industry and commerce.

Experts say the best way to wait out a pandemic, which could last for months, is to stay away from other people and keep close to home.

"During a pandemic, if you cannot get to a store, or if stores are out of supplies, it will be important for you to have extra supplies on hand. This can be useful in other types of emergencies, such as power outages and disasters," the HHS guide says.

HHS's "Pandemic Flu Planning Checklist for Individuals and Families", available on the agency's Web site at www.pandemicflu.gov/planguide/checklist.html, advises:

-- Teaching children to wash hands frequently and appropriately, covering coughs and sneezes with tissues, and modeling the correct behavior

-- Having ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables, soups, bottled water and cleaning supplies on-hand for an extended stay at home.

-- Having any nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes and vitamins.

-- Talking with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick or what will be needed to care for them in another home. - alertnet.org

U.S. zoos to act as sentinels for bird flu

CHICAGO, Jan 6 (Reuters) - American zoos will act as sentinels to track the spread of avian flu if the lethal virus arrives on U.S. shores, zoo officials said on Friday.

Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo will bring together about 30 public health and zoo officials on Monday to organize the effort, zoo spokeswoman Kelly McGrath said.

"The reason zoos make good sentinels is because zoos are in every (U.S.) state," she said. "The idea is to be able to project its (avian flu's) path, to track the way the disease is moving."

Zoos played a similar role at the outset of the West Nile virus outbreak a few years ago, she said.

In 2002, West Nile virus killed three Lincoln Park Zoo birds -- two red-breasted geese and a turkey vulture -- and infected two bald eagles that survived.

While zoo animals are somewhat isolated, they are exposed to the public and just as susceptible to disease as any bird, McGrath said.

Officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the departments of Agriculture and Interior will attend the four-day meeting in Chicago, McGrath said.

Avian flu outbreaks have infected birds primarily in Asia and some in Europe, resulting in the extermination of flocks.

More than 70 people, including three recently in Turkey, have died from the illness. Health authorities fear the virus could mutate into a form that could pass from human to human and trigger a pandemic. - alertnet.org

RPT-Bird flu found in wild ducks in west Turkey-minister

ANKARA, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Turkey's farm minister said on Friday bird flu had been detected in two wild ducks near the capital, Ankara, nearly 1,000 km (700 miles) west of infected areas where three children died of the disease in recent days.

"The disease has been identified in two wild ducks near a dam at Nallihan (about 100 km west of Ankara)," Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker told a televised news conference called to brief reporters on the situation in eastern Turkey.

The discovery suggests migratory birds may be spreading the disease across the large country, as experts had warned.

Bird flu first surfaced in Turkey last October in a corner of western Turkey near the Sea of Marmara, further west than Nallihan, but authorities declared that infected area clear of the disease last month after imposing quarantine measures. - alertnet.org

Turkey PM promotes cull after bird flu kills three

By Umit Bektas DOGUBAYAZIT, Turkey, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan urged people not to hide poultry to escape bird flu culls while residents in the east where three children died of the disease pleaded on Saturday for more help.

A team of World Health Organisation (WHO) doctors who flew to Turkey to investigate the first human bird flu fatalities on the threshold of Europe were stuck in Ankara due to fog.

The European Commission said its laboratory at Weybridge, England, had confirmed that the strain of bird flu found in Turkey is the deadly H5N1 form of the virus.

The virus killed 74 people in east Asia before it claimed the lives of the three children from the same family in eastern Turkey this week. Some of the victims had played with the severed heads of infected birds, doctors said.

Experts plan to study the outbreak for signs the virus was passing from person to person, mutating into a form easily transmitted among humans. Experts say a pandemic among humans could kill millions and cause massive economic losses.

Erdogan urged people not to hide their poultry and promised compensation. He said the government was taking all necessary measures and allocating funds to combat the spread of the disease, CNN Turk reported.

"Peoples' losses will be compensated. Nobody will be allowed to suffer losses," he told reporters on Friday.

"We should not panic. Our people should not be making efforts to hide chickens, turkeys or geese," he said.

GOVERNMENT NOT DOING ENOUGH

The Ministry of Environment and Forests banned hunting of all wild birds throughout Turkey and asked hunters to avoid contact with them.

Despite government efforts, residents complain that even after they ask for assistance, chickens are not being taken away for days. Some say they do not have money to pay for trucks to bring poultry to the city centre for culling.

"We apply to the officials but they don't come to take our chickens. I cannot bring them myself. I have no money," a middle-aged man said in Dogubayazit, the town where the dead children lived, near the Armenian and Iranian borders.

A Reuters reporter saw chickens still walking on the streets, and some escaping just before they were carried in large bags to be buried alive in pits.

Turkish television reported that a prosecutor in the eastern town of Kars had begun an investigation into culling poultry by burning in holes because causing pain to animals is illegal.

Four members of a family from Sanliurfa, near the Syrian border, who fell ill after eating a sick chicken, were in hospital for observation, an official said.

A family of seven people, including five children, from the eastern town of Ardahan, was sent to hospital in Istanbul on Saturday, also on bird flu suspicions.

Elsewhere, people say hospitals are overcrowded and doctors do not examine and treat them adequately, sending them home after brief examinations.

SCEPTICAL

In some areas, trade in poultry continued as normal and people expressed doubts the disease even exists.

A Reuters stringer in southeastern Diyarbakir said people still slaughter chickens on the streets in front of children.

"We don't have bird flu in this city," a man who bought a turkey from a street seller said, showing the bird to cameramen.

A poultry seller complained the government pays 7-9 lira ($5.25-$6.75) compensation for a turkey, which is normally sold for 30 lira in the market, and that is why they do not want to give their poultry to officials for culling.

"These bird flu rumours are produced intentionally to raise lamb sales. There is no problem with our poultry," a street seller said.

(Additional reporting by Selcuk Gokoluk and Mustafa Yukselbaba) - alertnet.org

Two more Turkish children confirmed with bird flu

GENEVA, Jan 7 (Reuters) - The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Saturday it had confirmed that two children hospitalised in Turkey had contracted the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu.

A WHO spokeswoman said the children, a 5-year-old and an 8-year-old, were from the same region where three other children died from bird flu this week. She declined to give further details. "A 5-year-old and an 8-year-old have been confirmed with the H5N1 virus, these are children that are already hospitalised," said WHO spokeswoman Maria Cheng.

The virus killed 74 people in east Asia before it claimed the lives of the three children from the same family in eastern Turkey this week.

WHO had confirmed that the two elder children of the family died from bird flu. But, Cheng said, said there was "further testing going on" on blood samples from the third case, an 11-year-old girl who had died.

A team of WHO doctors are in Turkey to investigate the deaths -- the first human bird flu fatalities on the edge of Europe -- but were stuck in the Turkish capital due to fog.

Experts plan to study the outbreak for signs the virus was passing from person to person, mutating into a form easily transmitted among humans. Experts say a pandemic among humans could kill millions and cause massive economic losses. - alertnet.org

Three people found with bird flu in Turkish capital

ANKARA, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Turkey announced on Sunday that three people had tested positive for bird flu in the Turkish capital, Ankara, marking a further westward advance of the infection towards the frontiers of Europe.

Ankara Governor Kemal Onal told the state-run Anatolia news agency that two children and one adult had been diagnosed with the infection; but it was not clear if they were suffering from the deadly H5N1 strain that has killed three people in the remote east of the country.

The agency said a five-year old boy had been admitted to hospital with suspected bird flu in Corum in central Turkey. The virus had been spreading since October among flocks in Turkey, having advanced from Southeast Asia; but no people in Turkey had been reported infected until last week.

The emergence of human cases of the flu in the Van area, near the borders of Iran and Armenia, raised fears the disease might advance to major Turkish population centres and to Europe.

It seems highly likely that the children who died in Van region caught the virus directly from chickens. But world health authorities are concerned that human exposure to the bird flu could lead to emergence of a mutation allowing easier transmission between humans and raising the prospect of a pandemic. - alertnet.org

Human bird flu cases spread west in Turkey

By Selcuk Gokoluk ANKARA, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Three Turks were reported to be infected with a deadly strain of bird flu in the capital Ankara on Sunday, a new step in the westward march of the virus from its eastern Asian origins.

The first case of the virus jumping from birds to humans in western Asia emerged in Turkey last Wednesday. Three children in the remote eastern Van region died of the highly potent H5N1 strain that has killed 74 people in east Asia.

Ankara Governor Kemal Onal told the state-run Anatolian news agency that two children, aged 5 and 2, and a 60-year-old adult had been diagnosed with the infection in the capital, about 400 km (250 miles) east of Istanbul, Turkey's densely populated largest city, and the Mediterranean area.

The agency said a 5-year-old boy had also been admitted to hospital with suspected bird flu in Corum in central Turkey.

Two children have already tested positive for the H5N1 strain in Van, about 800 km (500 miles) east of Ankara.

The two infected children in hospital in Ankara were brought from nearby Beypazari after contact with dead wild birds.

Their parents tested negative for the disease, doctors said. A separate family sent to hospital in Istanbul on Friday displaying bird flu symptoms also tested negative.

It seems highly likely the children who died in Van region also caught the virus directly from chickens. But world health authorities worry that human exposure to the bird flu could lead to the emergence of a mutation allowing easier transmission between humans -- and raising the prospect of a global pandemic.

A team of World Health Organisation doctors is in Turkey to help investigate the deaths and look for any signs of transmission between humans. But harsh wintry weather in the Van region is hampering their movements, the WHO said.

Moscow raised the prospect of economic damage to Turkey's vital tourist industry, warning Russians against travelling to Turkey after the human infections.

IRAN SHUTS BORDER GATE

Iran, which borders the Turkish region worst affected by the outbreak, closed one of its border crossings, forcing many Turks travelling there for this week's major Muslim holiday marking the Feast of the Sacrifice to return home, Anatolian said.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has appealed to Turks to help in a mass cull aimed at stemming the advance of the virus and promised adequate compensation to farmers and families who rely on poultry for their living.

But in the Dogubayazit district hit by the virus, local people have accused the authorities of being slow to act.

A Reuters reporter saw chickens still walking on the streets and some escaping as they were about to be carried in large bags to be buried alive in pits.

The father of the three dead children in eastern Turkey, Zeki Kocyigit, 38, told Reuters they had not known bird flu was still a threat after authorities said they had successfully suppressed an outbreak among poultry in the west of the country.

"Nobody warned us... We thought the bird flu had passed," he said, adding that it was the custom in rural Turkey for families to kill and eat sick birds.

The virus spreads quickly among chickens, killing them in a day, and the best way to control it is immediately to slaughter all poultry in an affected area. This can be difficult in places where, as in eastern Turkey, people keep small backyard flocks.

Poverty also greatly hampers the fight against the disease.

"I did not have the two lira ($1.5) to get Mehmet Ali (their eldest boy) to hospital," his mother Marifet sobbed.

After finally reaching a hospital, the parents watched their eldest son, the first human victim of the disease outside China and southeast Asia, fade fast.

"He died looking at me. He gave me a final kiss just before his death," the father said at their tiny one-room cottage.

"I am the kind of man who says his prayers. Their death was the will of God."

(Additional reporting by Umit Bektas and Baris Atayman in Dogubayazit) - alertnet.org

Poverty and death plague Turkish bird flu family

Sun Jan 8, 2006 5:05 PM GMT By Umit Bektas and Baris Atayman

DOGUBAYAZIT, Turkey (Reuters) - Mehmet Ali helped support his family in this impoverished, bleak corner of eastern Turkey by making candyfloss and selling it to schoolmates. Now the 14-year-old boy is dead, along with his sisters Fatma, 15, and Hulya, 11, the first human victims of bird flu outside China and southeast Asia, and their grieving parents wonder how they can now make ends meet.

"When Mehmet Ali first fell sick, we did not even have the two lira ($1.30) to take him to hospital," his mother, Marifet, sobbed in her native Kurdish. Many women in this mainly ethnic Kurdish region speak little or no Turkish. She thought initially the boy had caught cold because he lacked suitable shoes and clothes for the severe wintry weather. After finally scraping together a few coins to get Mehmet Ali to hospital, doctors gave him syrup and sent him home again, not suspecting he had contracted the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu which has killed 74 people in east Asia since 2003. His condition worsened, and his siblings also fell sick.

The parents began to suspect that the sick chickens the children had killed and eaten might be to blame. Doctors say the children had also played with the heads of the dead poultry.

"It is our custom here to kill and eat sick birds... Nobody warned us (about the risks)," Zeki Kocyigit, the 38-year-old unemployed father, told Reuters in the small concrete mountain shack that is their home.

The house has no running water and they rely on a spring. A partitioned section of the backyard serves as a toilet.

Their eight chickens had lived in a small coop next to the house, in the Turkish tradition. Some experts speculate that the reason children account for many of those testing positive for the virus now in Turkey is because children traditionally tend the poultry and can squeeze into the coops, unlike the adults.

"We heard that bird flu problem had struck in Manyas (in western Turkey) but that it was over," said Kocyigit.

Authorities declared Turkey free of bird flu in December, two months after reporting the country's first outbreak in Manyas, more than 1,000 km (600 miles) west of Dogubayazit. They culled thousands of poultry, but no humans fell sick.

"WILL OF GOD"

Mehmet Ali died on New Year's Day. Fatma died on January 5, Hulya on January 6. Only their six-year-old brother, Ali Hasan, has survived.

"He died looking at me. He gave me a final kiss just before his death," Mehmet Ali's father said.

His wife Marifet said she especially mourns her eldest daughter Fatma. "I am left alone. She was my everything. She was my friend, she helped with all the housework," she said.

Although health workers have been culling poultry in the town of Dogubayazit since Mehmet Ali died a week ago, chickens can still be seen near the Kocyigit family home. Some local people are hiding their poultry, even though the government has promised full compensation for those culled. Other birds have simply escaped capture.

The locals stare in amazement at the veterinary experts and journalists from distant Ankara and Istanbul dressed in special white overalls, boots, gloves and face masks as a precaution. Zeki said he hoped the government would help find him a job so that he can provide properly for their surviving child. In his grief, he also sounded a stoical note.

"I am the kind of man who says his prayers. Their death was the will of God," he said. - reuters.co.uk

Bird flu confirmed in Turkey

Last Modified: 8 Jan 2006 Source: ITN

Three cases of the lethal strain of bird flu have been confirmed in the Turkish capital Ankara.

Scientists say this is a new stage in the westward sweep of the disease from its east Asian origins towards major economic centres in Turkey and Europe.

The first case of the virus jumping from birds to humans outside China and southeast Asia occurred last week in rural eastern Turkey, where three children from the same family died after contracting the highly potent H5N1 strain.

As doctors confirmed that two children and a 60-year-old man were being treated in Ankara for the virus, Russia raised fears of the disease impacting Turkey's economy by warning its citizens against visiting the popular holiday destination.

Doctors said the infected children, aged 5 and 2, came from Beypazari west of Ankara and had caught the virus after contact with dead wild birds. Their parents tested negative.

Ankara is about 250 miles east of Istanbul, Turkey's densely populated commercial and tourism hub, and from the continent of Europe.

Officials said the culling of birds had begun in the Ankara districts hit by bird flu. - channel4.com

NZ - Prison flu plan raises concern for civil liberty

09 January 2006 - A reported proposal that the most dangerous prisoners should remain locked away and left to take their chances if an Asian bird flu pandemic hit New Zealand has been attacked by civil libertarians.

The proposal is contained in Corrections Department contingency plans to deal with the country's 7500 prisoners in the event of a pandemic, it was reported yesterday. The plans included releasing low-security prisoners but leaving the most dangerous inmates at the mercy of the disease, which has killed 70 people worldwide since 2003. Also under consideration was sealing entire prisons for six weeks, with no one allowed in or out and the dead being buried in mass graves.

New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties chairman Michael Bott said he had not been aware of the proposals so could not comment in detail. But, as a matter of principle, the state had an obligation to look after those in its care.

"The state had a moral obligation to look after the people in its charge, and that includes prison inmates," he said. "It cannot just wash its hands because there's a natural disaster. The right to life is fundamental."

Mr Bott also said it made sense during a natural crisis to release inmates who were less of a threat to the community. That could pose a legal problem, however, because it was ordinarily the Parole Board that made the decision to free inmates.

Bevan Hanlon, president of the Corrections Association, the prison officers union, said a "brainstorming" document proposed that prisoners who might be freed included those nearing the end of their sentences. Others might be those convicted of relatively minor crimes such as drink-driving, he said.

Another option was to isolate entire prisons, with prison officers being locked in with inmates, and only medical staff allowed to come and go. Mr Hanlon said the Corrections Association wanted prison officers to be on the list of those guaranteed supplies of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu.

Because inmates were close together, disease spread quickly through prisons, he said.

The Health Ministry has estimated that, in the most severe scenario involving Asian bird flu, up to 40 per cent of New Zealanders could contract the disease, resulting in up to 33,000 deaths. - stuff.co.nz

Tips for addressing outbreak of influenza

[from this source]

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have developed a checklist for businesses to use when preparing a pandemic plan.

Here are a few points from that list.

* Identify a pandemic coordinator and a team with defined roles and responsibilities for preparedness and response planning. The planning process should include input from labor representatives.

* Identify essential employees and other critical inputs such as raw materials, suppliers, subcontractor services and products, and logistics that are required to maintain business operations by location and function during a pandemic.

* Determine potential impact of a pandemic on company business financials using multiple possible scenarios that affect different product lines and/or production sites.

* Determine potential impact (quarantines, border closures, etc.) of a pandemic on business-related domestic and international travel.

* Find up-to-date reliable pandemic information from community public health, emergency management and other sources and make sustainable links.

* Establish an emergency communications plan and revise periodically. This plan includes identification of key contacts (with back-ups), chain of communications (including suppliers and customers) and processes for tracking and communicating business and employee status.

* Implement an exercise or drill to test your plan, and revise the plan periodically.

* Forecast and allow for employee absences during a pandemic due to factors such as personal illness, family member illness, community containment measures and quarantines, school and/or business closures, and public transportation closures.

* Implement guidelines to modify the frequency and type of face-to-face contact (i.e. hand-shaking, seating in meetings, office layout, shared work stations) among employees and between workers and customers (refer to CDC recommendations).

* Encourage and track annual influenza vaccinations for employees.

* Establish policies for employee compensation and sick-leave absences unique to a pandemic (i.e. nonpunitive, liberal leave), including policies on when a previously ill person is no longer infectious and can return to work after illness.

* Establish policies for flexible work site (such as telecommuting) and flexible work hours (including staggered shifts).

* Anticipate employee fear and anxiety, rumors and misinformation, and plan communications accordingly.

* Provide information for the at-home care of ill employees and family members.

For the complete checklist, visit the Web site www.pandemicflu.gov/plan/pdf/businesschecklist.pdf

Turkey says five new human bird flu cases have deadly strain

Mon Jan 9, 7:08 AM ET ANKARA (AFP) - Five more people have tested positive for the lethal H5N1 strain of bird flu in Turkey, raising to 14 the number of people confirmed as infected with the disease.

A senior ministry official told AFP on the condition of anonymity that the tests at Turkish laboratories had identified the five as carriers of the H5N1 strain, which is potentially deadly to humans.

Two children have already died of the disease in eastern Turkey. Four of the new confirmed infections, all children or teenagers, come from the northern provinces of Samsun, Kastamonu and Corum. The fifth comes from the eastern province of Van, Turan Buzgan, the head of the ministry's basic health services department, told Anatolia news agency. The two cases from Kastamonu -- two siblings, aged four and five, currently hospitalized in Ankara -- have not yet shown any sign of illness, Buzgan told Anatolia. A five-year-old from Corum, initially treated for pneumonia, was brought to the same hospital in Ankara and is now improving. A 12-year-old, who had been in close contact with sick poultry, is currently undergoing treatment in Samsun, Buzgan said. The fifth patient, aged 18, was hospitalized in Van, where two children in the same family died from the H5N1 virus last week. A third child from the same family also died but the cause of her death is yet to be established. news.yahoo.com

Human-to-human spread not seen in Turkish bird flu: WHO

9th Jan 2006 - DOGUBAYAZIT, Turkey (Reuters) - There are no signs that the bird flu virus spreading in Turkey is being passed among humans, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

The WHO has confirmed four human bird flu cases in Turkey, including the deaths of two siblings last week from Dogubayazit in the poor eastern part of the country.

"At the moment there is no element in this village indicating human-to-human transmission. It's typically similar to what we have seen so far (in Asia)," Guenael Rodier, heading the WHO's mission to Turkey and a specialist on communicable diseases, told Reuters Television.

The WHO team is visiting eastern Turkey to investigate the situation and to advise on measures to combat the disease.

Turkey has reported a spike in suspected bird flu cases among people across the country, fanning fears the deadly disease is sweeping westward toward mainland Europe.

Health Minister Recep Akdag said 14 people had so far tested positive for the virus, including the three dead children. "The more humans are infected, the more chance the virus has to adapt itself to humans, that's why we need to minimize the human cases, and the best way to do that is to control the disease in animals," Rodier said.

He said villagers and children had been infected after close contact with chickens carrying the deadly virus, similar to how the H5N1 virus has jumped from birds to humans in Asia since late 2003. news.yahoo.com

Indonesian man dies of bird flu [or does he?]

Jan 9th 2006 - A 39-year-old man has died of bird flu in Indonesia, the government has said.

Local tests showed the man died of the H5N1 virus last week, after being in contact with dead chickens.

The World Health Organization has yet to confirm the result, but if it does, the country's bird flu human death toll would now stand at 12.

Bird flu has killed more than 70 people in Asia since its resurgence in late 2003 - and the disease has now spread outside the region. Turkey is the latest addition to a string of countries which have suffered human fatalities through bird flu. At least two children have recently died of the H5N1 strain in the east of the country.

Some experts fear bird flu could mutate into a form that is transmitted easily between humans, leading to a pandemic.

Indonesia's government said last week that the country needed nearly $1bn in the next two years in its fight against bird flu. BBC

Bird flu spreads to humans more easily than thought

Mon Jan 9, 2006 NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Although human bird flu infection is believed to be a rare, life-threatening disease, a study in Vietnam suggests that the infection rate may be higher than was previously thought, often causing relatively mild respiratory symptoms.

In a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Dr. Anna Thorson and her associates note that high death rates are derived from avian flu patients admitted to hospitals in major cities. The researchers believe that the true occurrence and mortality rates are unknown, since there have been no studies assessing exposure to the virus and disease in a population-based setting.

The authors conducted a survey in Bavi, a rural district in Vietnam in which there had been confirmed outbreaks of severe bird flu among poultry. Included in the study were 11,942 households with 45,478 inhabitants, interviewed between April 1 and June 30, 2000.

Subjects were asked about the occurrence of cough and fever during the previous six months as well as contact with poultry. A total of 8,149 reported having had a flu-like illness.

Having contact with sick or dead poultry was strongly associated with flu-like-illness. Among young and middle-aged adults direct contact with such poultry more than doubled the risk of a flu-like illness.

Thorson, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and her team estimate that between 650 and 750 cases could be attributed to direct contact with sick or dead poultry.

SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine, January 9, 2006. - reuters

Hard-up villagers hide birds as Turkey begins mass cull

From Suna Erdem in Istanbul

Attempts to halt the spread of the avian virus are being met with ignorance and hostility

CHICKENS splash in the mud among the rain-soaked shanties of the Kucukcekmece district of Istanbul. They face death in municipal gas chambers - if anyone can catch them.

A team of 20 men in special suits moves purposefully among the buildings, collecting domestic fowl to be culled, but many remain at large as night falls. Not all the owners are co-operative - one man tore off the head of his pigeon rather than hand it over, while another chased his hens away as the culling team approached.

"If they want my birds they can pay for them," mutters a burly man, part of the large crowd watching the operation, reluctant to surrender his livelihood so easily. "Do you want your children dead then?" a young woman reprimands him.

The cull is part of measures to rid Turkey's largest city of the bird flu virus which has been recorded as spreading rapidly across the country since three children in eastern Turkey died of the disease last week, becoming the first human victims of the deadly H5N1 avian flu virus outside East Asia.

Several children are among the 12 people being treated for confirmed avian flu across the country. There are another 78 suspected cases. The virus's appearance in Istanbul brings it to the easternmost point of the European landmass.

There are no human cases so far here, but the capital Ankara was hit at the weekend: a pensioner who kept chickens and two young boys are in hospital. The boys have proved positive for the virus, even though they show no symptoms. They appear to have contracted it after playing with gloves used by their father and uncle to handle two infected dead wild ducks. Dozens more are under observation in hospitals - from the eastern city of Van, where the children died, to northwestern Istanbul. Several hundred panicky people have been to hospital "just in case".

There was some good news for the Kocyigit family from eastern Dogubeyazit province, who lost three children to bird flu: their six-year-old son, Ali Hasan, has been declared free of the virus.

So far more than 100,000 birds have been killed in 11 eastern provinces, but yesterday it was the turn of Istanbul, where around a sixth of the population lives. Muammer Guler, the governor, has declared a quarantine zone and mass culls in three districts, including Kucukcekmece, while a further six districts around water reservoirs are under observation. "We urge you not to touch domestic fowl in the areas marked out for culling. Shut up their coops and wait for the culling teams to arrive," Mr Guler said.

Although health officials are nervously watching for any signs that the virus has mutated into a form that can pass from human to human, so far all cases in Turkey involve direct contact with infected birds.

The way to stop the spread, they say, is seemingly simple but almost impossible to implement: to put an end to the haphazard method of rearing birds in backyards, streets, even in homes, which can be seen mainly in rural Turkey but also in shanty suburbs such as Kucukcekmece. The belief is that such free-ranging birds can easily come into contact with the migrant birds thought to have brought the disease to Turkey.

"Since our country is on the migration route we may well come across this issue in the years to come. Therefore we must consign the idea of 'village hens' and 'village eggs' to history," Recep Akdag, the Health Minister, said.

Advice is plentiful. The Agriculture Ministry has prepared a public information film giving warning of the dangers of keeping and slaughtering one's own birds. Newspapers are overflowing with advice urging people to avoid all contact with birds, to buy pre-packaged poultry products only and to look out for symptoms of the flu.

The press has been full, too, of shocked articles about people from impoverished areas still handling chickens and turkeys. The coverage has scared some into drastic action, including families who shoved their live chickens into bags and threw them into the street and those who hurled dead poultry into a stream.

Birds are widely feared. In the town of Sakarya, residents were stranded outside when a small duck got into the stairway of their flats. The residents refused to enter until a municipal official removed the bird. One district after another is banning the sale of unpackaged bird meat and eggs, but local markets are slow to put this into practice. Those buying and rearing their birds in this way are invariably poor.

The Kocyigit family from Dogubeyazit said they killed their sick chickens and ate them because they could not afford anything else.

The cull has sparked defiance in some, reluctant to destroy their source of food and income, and distrustful of official pledges of compensation.

So many birds have been hidden from culling teams that creative measures have to be taken. Two men were fined in Igdir province, while in Dogubeyazit a local governor has resorted to bribing children to reveal where their parents have concealed poultry. The mayor visited weddings to urge guests in Turkish and Kurdish to co-operate with the culling teams for the sake of their children.

In Zonguldak, a northern province on the Black Sea, a district agriculture official berated villagers who had failed to shut up their hens. "You had better all drop dead then!" he yelled in his frustration. "You drop dead," the men yelled back.

A man from Van told one newspaper that he would rather hand over his wives than his chickens. - times online

U.N. Officials Join Turks To Investigate Bird Flu Deaths

Further human cases are expected; USAID works on preparedness

By Charlene Porter Washington File Staff Writer

Three children are dead in rural eastern Turkey, setting off alarms about the appearance of human cases of bird flu on Europe's doorstep.

The three deaths struck the same family in the rural community of Dogubayazit, with three siblings dying in less than a week. A fourth child in the family has survived a bout of the illness. A total of 14 human cases of disease caused by the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus known as H5N1 have been confirmed in Turkey, according to a January 9 update from the World Health Organization (WHO).

In Van province, where the young siblings died, 38 more people are being treated for what could be H5N1. Turkish and international officials are working together to achieve confirmation. Outbreaks in poultry are occurring in several parts of the country at the same time, and the WHO statement says suspected human cases of H5N1 infection are expected to increase.

Turkey is the sixth nation to discover human cases of H5N1, the first outside East Asia, where this dangerous pathogen first started killing poultry two years ago. The number of human cases has crept upward steadily over the last few months, at 146 as of January 7, with 76 deaths, according to WHO.

The WHO statement said there is no evidence so far that the virus has become contagious among humans. The latest victims – the dead and the ailing – almost all have what WHO describes as "a documented link to dead or diseased poultry."

As human cases of bird flu have mounted over the past year, international health officials have warned that this flu strain may have the potential to spread across the globe to become an influenza pandemic comparable to that which killed tens of millions in 1918-1919.

As first news of the human cases emerged from Turkey, U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Michael Leavitt reiterated the U.S. commitment to work with the international community to combat disease.

"We will continue our vigorous efforts in concert with the WHO Secretariat, its regional offices and other international partners," Leavitt said in a January 5 HHS statement, "to track the global spread of the H5N1 influenza virus and to detect human cases as early as possible."

The WHO statement on Turkey is available on the WHO Web site.

PANDEMIC PREPAREDNESS

The discovery of human bird flu cases in a nation thousands of kilometers from where the disease originated highlights the virus's ability to spread.

Though still apparently not contagious among humans, the virus finds many means of travel – in flocks of migratory wild birds, in shipments of infected birds in agriculture trade or in the mud and dust that travel on a truck from an infected farm. Just as the virus has spread, so has awareness among world governments of the need to prepare for the possibility of pandemic and improve their ability to understand and control diseases that may pass from animal to human populations.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is engaged with many governments to support and enable these activities. USAID worked in December 2005 to provide training for 5,000 veterinarians and volunteers in Vietnam, a nation with 93 human cases of H5N1, the highest number of any single nation by far. These groups are learning to recognize the connections between animal and human health and the need to remain alert for signs of disease moving among species. That is the key advice that international health authorities have issued on how to detect, contain and prevent disease spread to avert a pandemic.

In January, USAID will support community-based activities that offer village demonstrations on methods for preventing and containing disease in 16 at-risk provinces in Vietnam and Cambodia, according to a December 19 summary of its activities. (See summary on USAID Web site.)

Experts say that avian influenza has hit Asian nations so widely because traditional methods of raising and selling poultry provide significant opportunities for the disease to pass among animals and people.

The potential of avian influenza to arrive in Africa is another grave concern because infrastructure for both animal and human health care is below international standards there. Systems for disease detection and surveillance among animals or humans are weak, giving diseases a chance to spread rapidly through people, their livestock or both. USAID is supporting a program to improve surveillance in Ethiopia, one of the countries that is considered at greatest risk because of populations of migratory birds that fly in from the north.

The U.S. agency is providing assistance to the ministries of agriculture and health in their work to develop better laboratory and communications capacity.

In Tanzania, health officials are taking what the USAID document describes as "aggressive measures to stop potential bird flu cases." The Tanzanian government is enforcing a ban on poultry and poultry products from affected countries. A program to examine migratory birds for signs of H5N1 also is under way with USAID support.

Additional information is available on the USAID Web site.

U.S. PREPAREDNESS

In the United States, HHS Secretary Leavitt is spreading the preparedness message far and wide as he works through a schedule of meetings with state and local officials in all 50 U.S. states.

At a meeting in Arizona January 6, Leavitt released a new citizens' guidebook, Pandemic Influenza Planning: A Guide for Individuals and Families, a tool to help Americans understand the threat of pandemic influenza and specific actions they can take to protect themselves and their families. - usinfo.state.gov

New Study of Bird Flu Raises Important Issues

January 9, 2006 By Gilbert Ross, M.D., Aubrey Noelle Stimola

A new Archives of Internal Medicine report estimating the prevalence of milder forms of bird flu in Vietnam ("Is Exposure to Sick or Dead Poultry Associated with Flulike Illness?" by Thorson, Petzold, Thi Kim Chuc, and Ekdahl in the Jan. 9, 2006 issue) raises several important questions that have not been widely contemplated before.

The investigators (from Sweden's respected Karolinska Institute, and one Vietnamese Ph.D.) evaluated the frequency of flu-like illness in a rural area of Vietnam over a four-month period in 2004, and attempted to correlate the frequency of such illnesses with the patients' exposure to sick or dead birds and poultry. The study -- which assessed over 45,000 people and relied upon the recollections of rural villagers -- found over 8,000 individuals with self-reported flu-like illness -- about 18% of the study population. The researchers not only found a significant correlation between direct contact with sick or dead birds and human illness, they went on to extrapolate that approximately 700 cases of flu-like illness were attributable to contact with sick birds. Their conclusion, based on these data, was that the H5N1 strain of bird flu was much more common, yet much milder, than has been observed over the course of the past year, during which only a few human cases have been diagnosed (about 150), but with an apparent 50% mortality rate.

Are the conclusions of this one study enough to warrant rethinking the current bird-flu paradigm and considering this threat similar to that posed by the similar "Asian Flu," as opposed to the deadly "Spanish Flu" pandemic? (The Asian Flu pandemic occurred in 1957-8, and caused millions of cases but much lower mortality than the global "Spanish flu" of 1918-9, which killed over 20 million.) Unfortunately, no. While, on its surface, the new study seems to point in that direction, a closer analysis of the study reveals several weaknesses, the most important of which is that no blood samples were taken. As a result, no data on antibody status could be collected, nor could there be any confirmation of a specific viral cause of the reported ailments.

Indeed, it is just as likely that the illnesses sustained by the rural Vietnamese were caused by some other virus, not a bird-type flu at all -- or that if their ailments were due to bird contact, that the cause was any number of bird flu variants, rather than the lethal H5N1 strain being studied intensively now. There are many other bird flu strains, some of which have occasionally transmitted to humans but which do not cause severe disease. Due to this lack of serological confirmation, a void at its center, the authors' theory -- that all such illnesses were possibly due to a mild form of the H5N1 type of bird flu -- cannot be substantiated and remains merely an interesting supposition.

The authors themselves note this uncertainty and call for extensive population studies to include blood tests, which would likely reveal the true extent of prior contact with the lethal avian flu strain. Perhaps they are right and the H5N1 strain has disseminated much more widely but with much less devastating effect than previously thought. Further studies will be needed to get evidence of that hypothesis, though. This study offers only a hint. - acsh.org

HSBC warns on possible bird flu toll

By Andrew Jack Financial Times Jan. 9, 2006

HSBC, the world's third largest bank, is estimating that up to half of its staff could fall ill or be absent from work at the peak of the next flu pandemic, as Europe began to come to terms with the first human cases of the H5N1 bird flu virus on its doorstep. The 50 per cent figure is double the rate forecast in draft guidelines for businesses being drawn up by the World Health Organisation. They will advise planning for 25 per cent absence, and the HSBC estimate is the most explicit warning yet that governments may be underestimating possible disruption.

The projections from HSBC – which the bank's head of crisis management expects to be the template for other multinationals – come as the WHO on Monday confirmed at least two human deaths from the current H5N1 bird flu strain in Turkey.

They are the first cases in Europe and fuel fears of a mutation of the virus that has now claimed at least 76 lives in six countries. Turkish officials on Monday said 14 cases of bird flu had been identified from at least 30 suspected cases believed to have been contracted from birds in the east of the country.

The tabular content relating to this article is not available to view. Apologies in advance for the inconvenience caused.The WHO said it is treating them as "preliminarily positive" subject to confirmation from an international laboratory.

Bob Piggott, head of group crisis management at HSBC, told the Financial Times he was devising ways to cope with as little as 50 per cent of normal staff during a pandemic wave that could last for up to three months. "None of us knows the virulence of the virus, but I would rather be prepared for the worst," Mr Piggott said. He said severalother banks were "moving towards" similar estimates for absences, as they began to step up their preparations for a flu pandemic.

The figures are important as a rare public insight into estimates made by a top company – one that has considerable experience, given its activities across 77 countries including those in Asia and Canada affected by the Sars crisis in 2003. They stand in sharp contrast to official calculations, with the UK government recently downgrading its estimate to an average of 8 per cent of the workforce absent at any one time and 25 per cent cumulatively throughout the pandemic.

Mr Piggott said HSBC has devised plans to boost working from home, teleconferencing and office cleaning once an hour in an effort to limit infection. He added that, alongside employees who stayed at home for at least a week with the flu, many would be off recovering from secondary infections. Others would be absent caring for family members and children taken out of school, or avoiding transport and work to avoid infection.

While recent surveys have indicated that employers are beginning to perceive a flu pandemic as a risk to their operations, few have yet made formal contingency plans on how to respond. FT.com via msnbc

8th human infection of bird flu reported in Hunan

By Zhang Feng (China Daily) Updated: 2006-01-10 06:07

China's Ministry of Health yesterday announced the country's eighth human case of H5N1 bird flu. The infected patient was a 6-year-old boy surnamed Ouyang in Guiyang County of Central China's Hunan Province, according to a report released by the ministry.

The infected boy is being hospitalized and his condition is stable, the ministry said. Investigation found domestic foul raised by Ouyang's family had died before he showed symptoms of fever and pneumonia on December 24, the ministry said.

Ouyang's samples tested positive for the H5N1 virus by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention of China, said the ministry. Ouyang has been confirmed to be infected with bird flu in accordance with the standards of the World Health Organization and the Chinese Government, the ministry said.

Trial of made-in-China vaccine

The first round clinical trial of the made-in-China human vaccine against the H5N1 strain of avian flu is expected to be completed this April, an expert announced yesterday. The clinical trial will let doctors know whether the vaccine is effective and safe, Lin Jiangtao, a doctor from the Beijing-based China-Japan Friendship Hospital, said.

Dr Lin is in charge of carrying out the first round trials, which started on December 21, 2005, in his hospital among 120 volunteers. These healthy volunteers, aged between 18 and 60 and all from Beijing, will be separated into four groups. In each group, six people will be given the vaccine first. If they show no adverse symptoms, like serious allergy, the other 24 people of the group will be administered with the drug.

Currently, all the volunteers in the first group and the first six people from the second group have taken the vaccine and have not shown any adverse results, Lin noted. The other 24 people of the second group will take the vaccine this week. All the volunteers will take the vaccine within two months if there are no unhealthy indications observed during the process. Before April, 2006, a test will be performed on blood samples taken from all the volunteers. The test will aim to check whether an antibody has developed in the bodies of the volunteers, Lin noted. - china daily

Symptoms start with chills and headache

By Nigel Hawkes Jan 10th 2006 -

THE symptoms of flu start quickly and include headache, chills, dry cough, aching body, fever, a stuffy nose and a sore throat. Avian flu is little different, but it may also include symptoms such as eye infections, pneumonia and severe breathing difficulties.

Flu is generally a more serious infection than people realise. So many minor infections, such as that caused by respiratory syncytial virus, are commonly self-diagnosed as flu that most patients have forgetten what real flu is like.

In Britain at present, avian flu is non-existent, and ordinary seasonal flu very uncommon. For the sixth winter in a row, flu activity has been very mild and this year has not come close to exceeding the baseline of 30 cases per 100,000 population.

This time of year is normally the peak, so it will soon be possible to say that another flu season has passed without serious levels of disease. Not since the winters of 1999-2000 and 2000-01 has there been a hint of an epidemic. This neglects the fact that the flu circulating has changed relatively little from season to season, and is generally well-matched by the vaccine. But a new pandemic strain deriving from avian flu - if it emerged - would be different and far more dangerous. The low level of seasonal flu may be partially attributable to flu vaccination, which reached higher levels than ever this year.

The vaccine would not protect against a pandemic strain, for which a totally new vaccine would need to be produced at top speed. Whether this is possible is still in doubt - and even if such a vaccine could be made, production capacity could satisfy only a small fraction of the world's population. - times online

other symptoms include: A police state

Black Sea, Mideast states step up bird flu checks

By Michael Winfrey SOFIA, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Police rummaged through luggage and sprayed cars with disinfectant at border crossings from Turkey and Romania on Tuesday as neighbouring countries tried to stem the spread of deadly bird flu.

Flanked by Turkey and Romania on the Black Sea, Bulgaria said it had put veterinarian and border officials on high alert.

"We are preparing as if for a war," Simeon Yotovski, director of the regional veterinary office of Rousse on Bulgaria's Danube border with Romania. "Inspectors are hand checking the luggage of everyone entering Bulgaria. All cars are being sprayed with disinfectant and any poultry products are being confiscated and burnt."

The virus has killed three people in eastern Turkey and has infected another dozen. To the north in Romania, it has swept through domestic poultry flocks in dozens of villages around the Danube river delta although no human cases have emerged.

Officials in Greece and Georgia, which also border Turkey, said they were taking similar measures. Ukraine, which has reported outbreaks among poultry in the Crimea region, said it had stepped up monitoring at its Black Sea ports.

Most of the countries lie on the Pontic migratory route, by which wild birds travel south from Scandinavia and Siberia to northern Africa for the winter.

Scientists say wild birds have carried the virus to the Black Sea region from east Asia. H5N1 has killed at least 76 people since 2003 and experts now fear it could possibly spread to people in mainland Europe.

MIGRATING VIRUS

Despite the spread of human infections in Turkey, Bulgaria said the greatest risk came from birds still moving south from the Danube delta, Europe's largest wetlands.

The victims of bird flu contract the disease from close contact with infected poultry. There are fears it could mutate into a form which passes easily from person to person, unleashing a pandemic.

"For now, our expectation is that if bird flu appears, it would be caused by the flight of migratory birds coming from the north around the Black Sea," Agriculture Minister Nihat Kabil told reporters.

Following reports of unwillingness to report outbreaks in poultry in other countries, Bulgaria said it would pay farmers twice the market value of their domestic birds in the event they had to be culled.

Romania's agriculture ministry said it had intensified surveillance on birds and domestic animals around affected areas and was monitoring people entering and leaving the country.

Many countries bordering Turkey urged people to keep away from birds and wash their hands to prevent infection. Officials in Armenia and Britain asked travellers to avoid areas in the country where outbreaks had occurred.

"I don't think it would be advisable to travel to the eastern parts of Turkey or to enter parts of known infection," Professor Colin Blakemore, the chief of Britain's Medical Research Council, told the BBC.

Iran has imposed tight controls on its border with Turkey, banning one-day trips to Turkey from its Bazargan border area. It has also joined the rest of Turkey's neighbours in banning its poultry imports, raising concern among the public.

"I have stopped buying poultry since the disease spread to Turkey," Maryam Salehzadeh, an Iranian mother of two, told Reuters. "I don't care about myself but I don't want my children to die." (Additional reporting from Reuters' Moscow, Tehran, Athens, and other bureaus) - alertnet.org

bird round-up continues in Turkey

Turks battle to weaken grip of deadly bird flu

11-1-2006 - By Paul de Bendern ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey stepped up efforts on Wednesday to halt an outbreak of deadly bird flu as a U.N. body warned that the virus risked becoming firmly established there and posed a serious threat to neighboring countries.

The virus has been found in birds in a third of Turkish provinces, killed at least two children and infected more than a dozen people.

The Turkish victims are the first human cases reported outside east Asia since H5N1 avian influenza reemerged in 2003. Two more people in China are now known to have died from bird flu last month, bringing the death toll there to five.

Indonesian authorities said a 29-year-old woman in Jakarta had been diagnosed as suffering from the virus after contact with dead chickens.

"There is a necessity for a global answer to this crisis," World Health Organization (WHO) European Regional Director Marc Danzon said in Ankara.

Scientists fear H5N1, which is known to have killed 78 people, could mutate into a form that can spread easily between humans, leading to a pandemic. European authorities are stepping up precautions and Turkish health officials will travel to Luxembourg to meet European Commission officials on Thursday.

WHO doctors said on Wednesday there was no sign of human-to-human transmission in the Turkish outbreak. They also said there was no reason for people not to visit Turkey. However, experts from another U.N. body, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said the virus risked becoming a constant problem in Turkey as it is in poultry in parts of Asia.

"The highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N1 could become endemic in Turkey," the FAO said in a statement.

Juan Lubroth, senior FAO animal health officer, said the virus may be spreading despite the measures taken to combat it and urged neighboring countries to be on high alert. The world animal healthy body OIE said Ankara should consider poultry vaccination in addition to culling birds.

SPREAD OF VIRUS

Two teenagers died last week from bird flu in eastern Turkey. Their dead sister is also a suspected victim.

The virus has rapidly infected birds in some 30 out of 81 provinces, including Turkey's key tourism region near the Aegean coast, Ankara and Istanbul. Authorities have stepped up the culling of poultry, with over 300,000 birds killed. The WHO said that human victims have contracted the disease from close contact with infected poultry, in most cases children play with birds or helping families kill them for food or sale.

Dr. Guenael Rodier, head of the WHO mission to Turkey, said the case of two Turkish boys who tested positive for bird flu without developing symptoms provided a chance to learn more about the virus.

[My note: if you're not showing symptoms why would you be tested? are they randomly testing people for the virus?]

"The normal flu virus is always at its most virulent at the start of the process, but you don't necessarily exhibit the symptoms at that stage," he said, suggesting a possible similarity between avian influenza and the normal flu virus. "If so, we have diagnosed the H5N1 virus at the very early stages (in the boys). We hope to study this case carefully. This is an opportunity to learn about the disease."

The two children contracted the virus after playing with two dead birds they found near their home in the central Turkish town of Beypazari, west of the capital Ankara.

[My note: did they?]

BIRDS BROUGHT INDOORS

Authorities believe many poor families in the east brought their sick birds into houses when winter hit, increasing the chances of humans catching the deadly virus. More than 70 people are suspected of having bird flu and are being tested, although a majority of them are not thought to have H5N1. None of the positive cases are life-threatening.

[My note: did they bring the birds indoors because of Bird flu scaremongering?]

In eastern city of Van, where some 40 people are being treated for suspected bird flu, locals complained that officials had failed to take away chickens running freely in the roads where children play.

"I'm worried for our children. I have been calling people for three days asking them to take the chickens away," Cengiz Isik, a 34-year-old waiter, told Reuters.

(Additional reporting by Daren Butler in Van, Ankara, Istanbul, Rome, Beijing, Paris and Jakarta bureaux) - news.yahoo.com

bird flu coming to Britain [again]

Ducks could bring bird flu to Britain

11/01/2006 - Wild ducks could spark bird flu in Britain by passing the virus on to domestic birds, an expert has said.

Dr Rob McCracken from the British Veterinary Association told the Today programme that ducks were the birds most likely to pass the virus on to domestic poultry before it could be detected as they show no symptoms of the disease.

He said that free-range poultry in Britain presented a "considerable risk" since they could easily come into contact with wild ducks who have migrated through Croatia, Romania and Turkey.

In Turkey 15 cases of bird flu have been confirmed so far and three children have died from the disease. The lethal H5N1 strain of the virus has been found in birds in 19 of Turkey's 81 provinces.

Dr McCracken said that although the chances of Britain's poultry being infected were slim, the government was right to say birds may eventually have to be kept indoors. He also said that migratory ducks were most likely to land on waterways and advised that domestic birds be kept away from such areas where there was a high risk of contact with wild birds.

He said: "I believe that by and large we have every expectation that there'll be very little possibility of the virus getting to our domestic poultry. "The government I think are quite right in this in saying that when the time comes birds will be moved indoors and the reason why we don't do it sooner is that there are a number of farms, quite a significant number of free range farms do not have facilities to contain the birds 24 hours per day, every day."

He stressed that immediate action did not need to be taken but that when threat was from the virus was imminent, birds would have to be moved inside.

"Let's remember that this is not a virus that's going to spread from farm to farm in the way, in the manner, that foot and mouth disease did," he said. - dehavilland.co.uk

$30 million to improve Turkish surveillance

Turkey may need $30 mln in bird flu aid

By Lesley Wroughton

WASHINGTON, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Turkey could qualify for $30 million in aid from the World Bank after a joint assessment of its needs to deal with the bird flu virus, a bank official said on Wednesday.

"A joint assessment has come up with a $30 million requirement to fill the needs to improve surveillance, veterinary services and put in place a basic human health component to deal with the outbreak," Juergen Voegele, World Bank sector manager for rural development in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, told Reuters in an interview.

He said Turkey had the capacity to deal with the current outbreak of the deadly virus, but it will require significant spending.

Turkey is among a dozen countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia where World Bank, World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) teams have been evaluating the needs of governments to deal with the virus. At least six countries in the region have already been affected by the virus including Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Romania, Azerbaijan and Croatia.

The virus has killed at least two children and infected more than a dozen people in Turkey in little more than a week, the first human cases reported outside east Asia.

The World Bank has proposed a $500 million credit line to help countries deal with the bird flu and a separate multi-donor fund that could be finalized at a summit in Beijing next week. Voegele said since the outbreak in Turkey, neighboring countries have taken the issue more seriously.

"Some countries have low capacity, especially in veterinary services and the communications area. We feel that they should really invest now to do the right thing to beef up surveillance and communications," he added. He said governments may have to reallocate resources to deal with the possibility of a bird flu outbreak and the international community should also be willing to step in. "It is in the interest of everyone around the world that even the weakest and poorest country put the right mechanisms in place so that this thing doesn't spread," Voegele said. - alertnet.org

China

Bird flu kills two in China, new outbreak reported

Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:06 AM ETBEIJING (Reuters) - Two more people in China have died from the H5N1 strain of bird flu, bringing the death toll to five, as the country announced another outbreak in poultry.

The World Health Organization said on its Web site the two victims, reported last month, were a 10-year-old girl in the southern region of Guangxi and a 35-year-old man in eastern Jiangxi province.

Scientists fear H5N1, which has killed more than 70 people since late 2003 and is endemic in poultry across parts of Asia, could mutate into a form that can spread easily between people, leading to a pandemic.

"To put it mildly, it's a serious problem everywhere, not just in China," said Roy Wadia, the WHO's spokesman in Beijing. "We haven't confirmed (the two deaths) in the sense that this is information given to us by China. It's not that we went out there and found out ourselves."

China's health ministry had previously announced that two women died in eastern Anhui province and another in southeast Fujian province. Xinhua added that scientists had identified H5N1 in a dead migratory bird found near the house of the Guangxi victim.

The latest victim is a six-year-old boy from the central province of Hunan, who fell ill in December and is now in hospital. The boy's condition was critical, state media said. "Initial investigation of the newly confirmed case has identified recent poultry deaths in the family flock as the likely source of exposure, though no poultry outbreaks have been officially reported in the area," the WHO said.

Chinese and foreign health officials have said that China's size and lack of resources mean that not every bird or even human case of bird flu is properly identified, making fighting the disease that much harder.

NEW POULTRY CASE

China has confirmed a fresh outbreak of bird flu among quail on a farm in the poor, southwestern province of Guizhou, the Agriculture Ministry said, bringing the total number of poultry outbreaks to more than 30 since the start of 2005 in China.

The outbreak early this month killed 16,000 quail near Guizhou's capital of Guiyang. They were later confirmed to have the H5N1 strain of the virus, and another 42,000 birds were culled to prevent its spread.

"After the outbreak happened, the Agriculture Ministry immediately sent an expert group to lead the prevention and control work," the Agriculture Ministry report, posted late on Tuesday, said.

The outbreak had been brought under control, the report added.

Two teenagers died last week from bird flu in eastern Turkey -- the first reported deaths from the virus outside China and Southeast Asia. Their dead sister is also a suspected victim and hundreds of Turks have rushed to hospitals for bird flu tests.Turkey has reported that at least a dozen people are infected with the virus, mostly children. Cases have been confirmed as far west as the central region around the capital Ankara sparking fears the disease could spread to people in mainland Europe. - reuters.com

Starving Iraq via fear ?

excerpt from USA Today report:

Meanwhile, health officials in northern Iraq, which shares a border with Turkey, have started taking measures to prevent possible cases of bird flu from entering the country. Preliminary tests have shown that at least 15 people in Turkey have been infected with the deadly H5N1 strain of the flu. Two children have died. Doctors, veterinarians and other health ministry officials met Sunday in northern Iraq's Kurdish enclave to discuss bird flu, the region's minister of agriculture said Wednesday.

"A campaign will start on the borders of Turkey and Iran to prevent the importation of any kind of bird," Shamal Abid Waffal said. "No living birds are allowed to be sold in the markets. Even the frozen birds are not allowed to be taken from one city to another without medical tests."

There have been no reported cases of bird flu in Iraq. - usatoday.com

pourous borders?

Porous borders add to Iraq bird flu fears

By Mariam Karouny BAGHDAD, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Iraq said on Thursday it was on high alert to prevent the spread of avian flu from neighbouring Turkey, but officials conceded that poor border controls would make it difficult to enforce a ban on importing birds.

Iraq has been trying to secure porous borders with its neighbours, particularly Syria, since 2003 to stop the flow of foreign insurgents but with little success. Tribes living along border areas also make a living from smuggling goods.

Despite these difficulties, the head of a committee set up by Iraq's health and agriculture ministries to tackle bird flu is confident that the country can avoid being touched by the H5N1 virus that has spread from Asia to Europe's doorstep.

But, it needs help -- both money and expertise.

"We are taking the situation seriously, but we need many things. We need funds and also we need more communication with international health groups, in person not via letters," Abdul Jali Hassan told Reuters.

"We have been on high alert since October, and now even more so after bird flu was discovered in Turkey," he said. "We have issued orders to border officials to check (the poultry imports), but it is a bit difficult knowing the conditions."

He said Iraq had also banned imports of poultry from Turkey, "but in a country like Iraq many people import on their own, it is not organised".

Iraqi authorities say they also have no complete records of slaughterhouses in Iraq, making their job of monitoring any outbreak even more difficult.

"But we are working on locating them and counting them, then we will monitor their work," Hassan said.

Seven government ministries would hold meetings within two days to decide whether further steps needed to be taken, he added.

The H5N1 bird flu virus has been found in wild birds and poultry across large parts of Turkey, particularly in poor villages stretching from Istanbul at the gates of Europe to Van near the Iranian and Iraqi borders.

Turkey says the virus has infected 18 people, including three children from the east of the country who died last week.

Migrating wild birds, often seen as a carrier of the virus, are due to start arriving soon at Lake Ducan in Kurdistan in northern Iraq. - alertnet

Genetic shift?

Genetic Change in Bird Flu Sample Detected

By EMMA ROSS, AP LONDON -13 Jan 2006 - Analysis of samples of the H5N1 bird flu virus from two of its victims in Turkey has detected a change in one gene in one of two samples tested, but it is too early to tell whether the mutation is important, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

The mutation, which allows the virus to bind to a human cell more easily than to a bird cell, is a shift in the direction of the virus being able to infect people more easily than it does now. However, that does not mean the mutation has taken root.

"We assume this could be one small step in the virus' attempt to adapt to humans," said WHO virologist Mike Perdue. "But it's only seen in one isolate and it's difficult to make sweeping conclusions. We just have to wait and see what the rest of the viruses (from Turkey) look like."

Turkey has seen an unusually high number of cases in a short period of time. Experts are investigating why. Health authorities there raised the number of people infected with H5N1 from 15 to 18 on Thursday, after the virus turned up in preliminary tests on two people hospitalized in southeastern Turkey and in a lung of an 11-year-old girl who died last week in the same region. All the victims are thought to have close contact with infected poultry. Samples from several of those cases are being sent to a laboratory in Britain for analysis.

Perdue said the U.N. health agency is not alarmed by the finding in a single virus sample because this exact genetic change has been seen before, in samples from southern China in 2003, and it had no impact on the course of the disease, the behavior of the virus or the pattern of human infections.

"If we saw it in more than 50 percent of samples, it would suggest the virus is really trying to adapt to humans and it would be problematic," he said. Even if the mutation is confirmed in more samples, that does not necessarily mean it is an important enough change on its own to make the virus easily transmissible between humans, Perdue said.

The 1918 flu pandemic, the biggest in recorded history, became a global killer only after the virus slowly made a series of genetic mutations. Influenza viruses are notoriously volatile, and experts expect to see mutations frequently. Many mutations are meaningless, or happen in only a minority of the virus samples, but specialists are watching the H5N1 virus carefully to pick up any important changes as early as possible.

Although nothing can be done to stop the mutations, tracking them is considered the best way to anticipate the next human flu pandemic. - news.yahoo.com

Journalist ?

Man in Belgian hospital being tested for bird flu

14th Jan 2006 BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium is testing a man, probably a journalist, for deadly bird flu after he felt ill when he returned from the Turkish province worst hit by the disease, the Health Ministry said on Saturday.

The man was undergoing tests to determine whether he had contracted H5N1 avian flu, ministry spokesman Karim Ibourki said, adding results were expected later in the day. There was confusion over the man's identity, with some officials saying he may be a journalist who had worked in Turkey covering the bird flu story and others saying he was a holidaymaker.

"It probably is a journalist who had gone to Turkey to cover the spread of the virus," Ibourki said, adding the man had done some work in the eastern province of Van.

Meanwhile, Inge Jooris, spokeswoman for the committee in charge of monitoring for any trace of bird flu arriving in the country, was also unable to confirm his identity, saying it could be someone who had been a tourist in the province.

The Brussels hospital where he was being treated declined comment. The man checked himself into the hospital on Friday after returning from Turkey on Thursday, Ibourki said. Ibourki said the man was not a Belgian citizen but was unable to provide more details.

Three children have died from bird flu and 15 others have been infected since the outbreak began in Turkey two weeks ago. Hundreds of thousands of wild birds and poultry have been culled and producers have seen demand plummet. Rich donors have pledged to increase cash for fighting the flu and a team of U.S. experts have flown to Turkey to help fight the outbreak. - news.yahoo.com

Bird flu patients released

Bird flu battle steps up, Turkey patients discharged 14 Jan 2006 14:18:26 GMT

By Paul de Bendern ANKARA, Jan 14 (Reuters) - The World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed on Saturday that three people who caught the deadly bird flu virus have been discharged from hospital in Turkey as the government steps up efforts to fight the outbreak.

Belgium's Health Ministry said it was testing a man for the H5N1 strain after he fell ill on returning from the Turkish province worst hit by the disease.

Turkey's government met on Saturday to discuss measures to help the country's $3 billion poultry industry, which is at risk of collapse after a sudden bird flu outbreak swept across large parts of the country, worrying neighbours.

The Agriculture Ministry announced that more than 590,000 wild birds and poultry had been culled, with efforts ongoing. Farmers are being offered around 5 lira ($3) per chicken, 15 ($9) lira per goose and duck and 20 lira ($12) per turkey as compensation.

The WHO, in Turkey to help authorities fight the outbreak, said three H5N1 infected people -- aged eight to 17 -- had been discharged from hospital. "We have a total of 18 human bird flu cases -- three dead, and three discharged. This is good news," said WHO spokeswoman Cristiana Salvi. "We still don't know if more confirmed cases will come because bird flu is still among the poultry population and humans, particularly children, are still at risk from contact with sick birds."

Rich donors promised to step up contributions for fighting bird flu, with the European Union pledging $100 million. The United States will send a team of experts to help Turkey fight the growing outbreak.

Roche AG , maker of Tamiflu, the best known drug defence against flu, said it would donate more antiviral pills to Asia, the epicentre of the health threat. Turkish doctors expressed hope that early use of the drug was helping save some of the young victims of the virus. "What we have observed is that when cases are brought to hospital early and given Tamiflu, the treatment has proved to be effective, but it is too soon be certain," Salvi said.

The World Bank said the cost globally of preparing for and responding to outbreaks of bird flu will be between $1.2 billion and $1.4 billion, with needed for animal and human health alike, as well as the building of drug stockpiles to treat victims.

The virus still mostly affects birds but has infected about 150 people and killed at least 78.

The human victims of the disease had all been in East Asia until the recent outbreak in Turkey brought the virus to the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Three infected children died last week in eastern Turkey. The WHO said a four-year-old girl who died on Friday in the eastern province Van had pneumonia, not bird flu.

"Twelve (people) are still in hospital, but none of them are in severe condition," Salvi said.

WARY NEIGHBOURS

European Commission spokesman Mikolaj Dowgielewicz said the EU's executive body was closely monitoring the Belgian case. If the tests were positive, it would be the first confirmed human case in the EU since the bird flu re-emerged in late 2003.

Iran started culling thousands of birds along its border with Turkey to try to stop the disease from spreading.

France said it was extending its poultry confinement measures to 58 departments from an original 26 as fears grow over the virus, believed to be carried by migratory birds.

Romania, just across the Black Sea from Turkey, boosted disinfection measures on major roads and introduced luggage checks at airports, train stations and sea ports.

The H5N1 virus has been found in poultry in 26 Romanian villages since October but there have been no human cases of the disease.

The United States said it was sending a team of animal and human health experts to Turkey to assess the avian flu situation there. They will join experts already on hand from the WHO, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

The WHO said it was planning studies with Turkish authorities to better understand the epidemiology of the disease, including the vulnerability to infection of health care workers and cullers through blood tests. (Additional reporting by Gilles Castonguay in Brussels) (alertnet.org

Iran bird flu cull

Iran destroys 1,000 birds in bird flu clampdown

14/01/2006 - Iran has ordered the destruction of about 1,000 birds in the northeast of the country and banned imports of fowl in an attempt to keep the country free of avian flu which is raging through neighbouring Turkey, the health minister announced today.

Kamaran Bagheri Lankarani told state television the import ban was a temporary "preventive" measure.

"Authorities slaughtered about 1,000 birds and banned trade of birds as preventive measures in Western Azerbaijan province because of outbreak of bird flu in Turkey," Lankarani said.

The minister said the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu had not been detected in Iran.

Lankarani said Iran was on high alert since the outbreak began in Turkey, with which it shares a long border. Both countries are on the north-south migratory route of wild birds, which are believed to be spreading the disease.

"We are on alert and have stockpiled enough vaccines to fight against the disease," Lankarani said.

So far, 18 people in Turkey, including three children who died last week, have tested positive for the H5N1 virus. Turkish authorities have said that all the cases appeared to have involved people who touched infected birds.

No human-to-human transmission of the disease has been found. World health officials fear such a mutation in the virus could lead to a global flu pandemic. IOL

another death in Turkey

Turkish girl dies from suspected bird flu

By Enis Durak VAN, Turkey, Jan 15 (Reuters) - A Turkish girl died on Sunday from suspected bird flu, while her brother was critically ill in hospital after testing positive for the virus. Although the Health Ministry said initial tests on 12-year-old Fatma Ozcan proved negative, doctors still suspect she contracted the deadly disease. If both siblings are confirmed to have bird flu, it would bring the number of human cases in Turkey to 20.

The ministry said tests on her brother Muhammet, 5, showed he has the H5N1 strain of avian influenza, which has already killed three other children in Dogubayazit, the same town in eastern Van province that the Ozcan family come from.

The H5N1 virus has been found in wild birds and poultry across large parts of Turkey, particularly in poor villages stretching from Istanbul at the gates of Europe to Van near the Iranian and Iraqi borders. Several tests are required to establish whether a patient has H5N1. One of the children who died last week initially tested negative.

"The girl who was under treatment in Van, Fatma Ozcan, died today of lung failure. She couldn't be saved," the Health Ministry said in a statement. "The first laboratory tests ... came out negative for bird flu but tests continue." It added: "Her brother who was in the same hospital ... came out positive today."

Separately, Van university hospital doctor Huseyin Avni Sahin told reporters: "Fatma Ozcan died today from suspected avian influenza, she came from Dogubayazit five days ago." Sahin said Fatma was initially taken to a hospital in Dogubayazit after developing a fever and a cough after preparing a chicken with her family. She was later taken to Van.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says it believes human victims have contracted the disease from close contact with infected poultry, in most cases children playing with birds or helping families kill them for food or sale. Scientists fear H5N1 could mutate into a form that can spread easily between humans, leading to a pandemic. European authorities have stepped up precautions.

Syria destroyed birds at a market near its northeastern border with Turkey on Sunday to try to head off any spread of bird flu. "The city is taking precautions against the spread of bird flu," Kibrael Kourou, an official in the border city of Kamishli, told Syrian state news agency SANA.

FIRST CASES OUTSIDE ASIA

The Turkish victims are the first human cases reported outside east Asia since H5N1 reemerged in 2003. The virus mostly affects birds but has infected about 150 people and killed at least 78. Most of the dozen or so bird flu patients in Turkey are not in critical condition but are still receiving treatment, with three people released from hospital last week, the WHO said. Two children, 11 and 13, with bird flu-like symptoms have been hospitalised in Istanbul after coming into contact with chickens in Gebze town, state news agency Anatolian said on Sunday. The children were being treated in hospital, but it was not immediately clear whether they had been tested for bird flu.

So far, bird flu has been confirmed only in poultry in Istanbul, a city of 12 million people on the edge of Europe.

Bird flu has swept across a third of the country since the start of the year. The authorities have culled 600,000 wild birds and poultry to try to contain the crisis. Health officials are going from house to house, particularly in the east of Turkey, searching for birds to cull. Areas where the virus has been detected have been sealed off and people and vehicles leaving have been disinfected.

WHO doctors said there was no sign of human-to-human transmission in the Turkish outbreak but tests were ongoing. However, experts from another U.N. body, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), have said the virus risked becoming a constant problem in Turkey as it is in poultry in parts of Asia.

Turkey's government has set up a committee to come up with measures to help the $3 billion crisis-hit poultry industry.

(Additional reporting by Daren Butler in Istanbul and Rasha Elass in Damascus) - alertnet.org

Syria bird flu cull

Syria culls birds near Turk border to prevent flu

DAMASCUS, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Syria culled birds at a market near the Turkish border on Sunday to prevent the spread of bird flu across their border, though the birds showed no sign of illness, a health official said.

"Any poultry on sale in an unregulated market and any pigeons or game are now culled," said George Khoury, head of the animal health department at the Agriculture Ministry. "No country is safe from the risk of bird flu today, especially not Syria because it neighbours Turkey."

The birds were being traded at an unregulated market where live birds are sold every Sunday in the northeastern town of Kameshli on the Turkish border, he said. "The city is taking precautions against the spread of bird flu," Kibrael Kourou, a city official, told the state news agency SANA.

Health officials also shut down the town's regular bird market and inspected poultry shops for hygiene, SANA said.

A Turkish girl who died on Sunday in eastern Van province is suspected to be the fourth child killed by avian influenza since the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus was found in many parts of Turkey.

Syria shares a 490 km (300 mile) border with Turkey. Scientists have said the virus could be spread by infected birds migrating south for winter. More than 18,000 birds have been tested in Syria and no human cases of bird flu have been reported, Khoury said. - alertnet.org

Germany Media scare...
German far right [now in control]
have something against Turkey...? really?
this outbreak is proving very useful

Suspected bird flu case in Germany-newspaper

BERLIN, Jan 15 (Reuters) - A patient was admitted to a German hospital with suspected bird flu symptoms, a German newspaper said on Sunday.

In an extract from an article in Monday's edition of the paper, the Koelner Stadt Anzeiger quoted a senior doctor at the St Franziskus hospital in Cologne as saying the patient had been admitted with suspected symptoms of the disease.

It quoted unnamed medical sources as saying the man had recently entered Germany from Turkey. - alertnet.org

764,000 chicken killed ...how many over the last 3 yrs?
Where is all that Meat stacked in the supermarket coming from?

Turkey culls 764,000 fowl in fight against bird flu 16/01/2006 - Turkey has slaughtered 764,000 fowl nationwide in its fight to contain the bird flu outbreak, the government's bird flu crisis centre said today.

Nineteen people have tested positive in preliminary Turkish screenings for the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, and three of them have died. Authorities were trying to determine whether a 12-year-old girl who died yesterday was the outbreak's latest victim.

Turkey has been destroying fowl in areas where the disease was confirmed or suspected in birds in an attempt to limit contact between fowl and people.

Officials have said all the people with confirmed H5N1 infection appear to have contracted the virus by touching or playing with birds. There was no evidence of person-to-person infection.

Five-year-old Muhammet Ozcan, admitted to hospital in the eastern city of Van with a fever and a light lung infection, tested positive for the virulent H5N1 virus yesterday, increasing the number of infected people in Turkey to 19, Turkish authorities said. The World Health Organisation has not yet confirmed that case.

His 12-year-old sister Fatma - who initially was believed to have died of the disease - tested negative in initial tests. Authorities were carrying further tests to determine whether she also was infected. If confirmed, her death would be the fourth fatality in Turkey.

At least 77 others in east and south Asia have died since the virus first surfaced there in 2003, the WHO says.

Authorities quickly buried Fatma yesterday evening, wrapping her in a special body bag to contain any virus, following a quick prayer at a snow-covered cemetery under torch light. The girl was from the town of Dogubayazit - the same town where three siblings died of bird flu about 10 days ago.

At least two of the H5N1 patients have been discharged from hospitals after recovering from the virus, and the WHO was examining the cases closely as it tracks how the virus may be changing. Health experts are concerned that the virus could mutate into a form that would spread easily among humans, triggering a pandemic capable of killing millions.

Turkish authorities on Monday continued destroying tens of thousands of birds nationwide as a precaution. At least 764,000 domestic birds have been killed, the crisis centre said, and bird flu in birds is now confirmed or suspected in 29 of Turkey's 81 provinces.

Authorities were also trying to save some of the fowl. Yesterday, people living in remote villages in central Turkey began to disinfect their chicken coops after the Agriculture Ministry distributed special kits.

"We are disinfecting the poultry houses in the village to prevent the spread of the deadly bird flu virus with the equipment we received from the Agriculture Ministry, and we hope it works," said Adil Ova, chief official in the village of Ishan. - IOL

Where is all that Meat stacked in the supermarket coming from?

Experts seek funds as bird flu claims fresh victims

By Ben Blanchard and Lindsay Beck 17- 1 - 2006 - BEIJING (Reuters) - Health experts meeting in Beijing on Tuesday tried to generate a $1.4 billion fund to fight bird flu as Indonesia said a toddler who died may be the latest victim of the virus.

Underscoring the need for urgent action, Indonesia's health ministry said a 3-year-old boy who died on Tuesday was being tested for bird flu. His 13-year-old sister died a few days ago and initial tests showed she had the H5N1 virus.

Turkey said it was treating another child for bird flu, the 21st human case there since the start of the month. The outbreak in Turkey has brought the disease from East Asia to the gates of Europe and the Middle East. The infected child comes from the town of Dogubayazit, close to the Iranian border and home to four Turkish children killed by the virus. Experts fear the virus will spread further unless money is provided to improve veterinary services and animal surveillance.

"There is a significant shortfall of funds in many affected countries ... which will seriously hamper their prevention and control efforts," Qiao Zonghuai, Chinese vice foreign minister, told the donors' conference in Beijing. "In the fight against avian influenza, no country can stay safe by looking the other way," he said.

Bird flu has killed at least 79 people since 2003, according to the latest WHO tally which does not include some of the most recent cases reported in Turkey and Indonesia. Victims contract the virus through direct contact with infected birds. While difficult for people to catch, nearly 150 people are known to have been infected by H5N1 in six countries, killing more than half its victims, a death rate that reinforced fears about the havoc the virus could wreak if a pandemic occurs.

"It is going more and more toward the western part of the world," Food and Agriculture Organization Chief Veterinary Officer Joseph Domenech told Reuters in Beijing.

FEAR AND UNCERTAINTY

The World Bank estimates that between $1.2 billion and $1.4 billion will be needed to prepare for and respond to outbreaks. The Bank has estimated that a bird flu pandemic lasting a year could cost the global economy up to $800 billion.

A senior World Health Organization (WHO) official told delegates the risks from a bird flu pandemic were great.

"Timing is unpredictable and the severity is uncertain," Margaret Chan, the WHO's top pandemic expert, told the conference, attended by delegates from 89 countries and more than 20 international organizations. The Bank approved a $500 million line of credit last week toward the $1.2 billion target and the European Union has pledged $100 million in aid. More significant pledges are expected Chan played down concerns that money might be drawn from other health programs. "My argument is, whatever resources you put in place, compared to the possible economic loss in the event of a pandemic, is peanuts," she told reporters.

CHICKEN SAFE TO EAT

H5N1 is already endemic across parts of Asia and has been found in wild birds and poultry over a third of Turkey. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told Turkish consumers on Tuesday it was safe to eat chicken.

"There is no need to worry about consuming poultry and eggs that have been produced in industrial conditions," Erdogan told a gathering of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). "There is no advantage in harming our poultry sector which employs thousands of people. It is very important for Turkey to remain calm," he said.

Poultry sales have plunged in Turkey, although chicken and eggs pose no health threat to human beings if properly cooked. Turkish authorities have culled around a million birds over the past two weeks to try to contain the crisis. The Agriculture Ministry has imposed a nationwide ban on the transit of poultry.

(For more stories, pictures and video on bird flu see: http://today.reuters.com/News/GlobalCoverage.aspx?type=globalNew s) (Additional reporting by Gareth Jones in Ankara) - yahoo.com/

US bird flu outbreak could cost insurers $133 bln

NEW YORK, Jan 17 (Reuters) - A U.S. avian flu pandemic on the scale of one that took place in 1918 could take the lives of an estimated 1.9 million people and cost the life insurance industry $133 billion in extra death claims, according to a study released on Tuesday.

A moderate influenza outbreak, based on similar events in 1957 and 1968, could cause 209,000 deaths, according to a report released by the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), which cites data from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That compares with a typical year when 36,000 Americans die from the flu.

The moderate outbreak scenario could cost the life insurance industry $31 billion in extra death claims, the I.I.I. said.

Companies affected by an outbreak would include the largest U.S. life insurers as measured by revenues such as MetLife Inc. , Prudential Financial Inc. and New York Life Insurance.

Some insurers have been preparing investors for potential bird flu outcomes.

For example, the world's largest insurance company by market value and a major U.S. life insurer, American International Group Inc. said in its last quarterly earnings report that "an outbreak of a pandemic disease, such as the Avian Influenza A Virus (H5N1), could adversely affect AIG's business and operating results..."

Using the HHS "severe" forecast of 1.9 million deaths, the I.I.I. estimates death claims from the flu would be $54 billion for group life insurance policies and $79 billion for individual life insurance policies.

For a moderate pandemic, estimated costs are $11 billion for group life insurance and $20 billion for individual life insurance, for a total of $31 billion.

If the next influenza pandemic follows the mortality pattern of the 1918 outbreak, with about one-half of the deaths in the 18 to 35 age range, many who die would be covered by both group and individual life insurance. - alertnet.org

WHO to receive two million courses of flu drug

17/01/2006 - The makers of the anti-viral flu treatment Tamiflu are to donate another two million courses of the drug to the World Health Organisation (WHO), it was announced today.

The move by pharmaceutical giant Roche follows previous donations in 2004 and last August, meaning the WHO now has 5.125 million courses of Tamiflu to help people affected in any future flu pandemic.

Tamiflu is not a vaccine or cure for flu, but can shorten the length of illness and reduce the severity of symptoms.

Countries around the world are stockpiling the anti-viral treatment as part of preparations for a flu pandemic, which could kill hundreds of thousands of people.

Roche's donation of three million courses last year is stored in a central stockpile, while the additional two million treatment courses will be stored regionally in locations WHO decides will serve the needs of developing countries.

These countries are less able to afford to stockpile the drugs themselves.

Roche said the regional stockpiles would be used to reduce illness and deaths in the case of an outbreak of avian flu in humans, helping to prevent it from spreading.

It is widely thought that a flu pandemic will emerge when avian flu mutates into a form that is easily spread between humans. Recent cases in Turkey and Asia have involved humans catching the disease from birds.

William Burns, from Roche Pharma, said: "Roche is working as a collaborative and responsible partner with governments and the WHO to assist in pandemic planning, including the stockpiling of Tamiflu. "We are pleased to be able to further increase our donation to the WHO and help establish regional stockpiles of Tamiflu.

Lee Jong-Wook, the Director-General of the WHO, said: "By establishing regional stockpiles of anti-virals, developing countries most likely to be affected by avian influenza in humans will be better prepared to rapidly manage outbreaks in the interest of global public health. "It is important to emphasise that this and the previous donation does not replace the need for individual countries to consider the establishment of national anti-viral stockpiles as one of a number of measures of national pandemic preparedness consistent with the national priorities of each country." - IOL

Iraq tests dead girl for bird flu

Iraq has ordered tests to confirm what may be the country's first case of bird flu, following the death of a girl in the northern city of Sulaymaniyah.

The teenage girl from a town near the border with Turkey and Iran died at a hospital in the city, 15 days after falling ill, officials said. Tests are being carried out in Jordan to see whether the girl died from the lethal H5N1 strain of the virus.

An outbreak of bird flu has killed four people in Turkey, which borders Iraq. Since 2003, the virus has killed around 80 people and thousands of poultry in south-east Asia and China. All human deaths so far are believed to have been caused by contact with infected animals.

While experts warn that a mutant form of the virus that transmits between humans could lead to a pandemic, so far there is no evidence of this taking place.

Family 'well'

The girl suspected of having the disease was from the town of Raniya, in a border region of Kurdish northern Iraq, Kurdish regional health minister Mohammed Khashnow told Reuters news agency. She died shortly after arriving at a hospital in the main city of Suleymaniyah. Mr Khasnow told the agency the rest of the girl's family are in good health and do not work in the poulty business. It is not yet clear when the results of the tests for bird flu will be known. BBC

countries are 'harbouring' the deadly virus?

Iraqi villagers burn chickens in Raniya village

1/19/2006 - Iraqi villagers burn chickens in Raniya village near Sulaimanyia, north of Baghdad January 19, 2006.

Iraqi experts went from village to village in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq on Thursday, searching for signs of the bird flu virus among people and poultry after the death of a teenager from a fever caused alarm.

Iraq was testing for the human strain of the deadly bird flu virus for the first time on Wednesday after a 14-year-old girl died of a fever in the Kurdish region close to the Turkish and Iranian borders.

Health officials said Tijan Abdel-Qader, who died on Tuesday after a two-week illness, lived close to a lake that is a haven for migratory birds flying south from Turkey, where 21 people have been confirmed this month as having the H5N1 virus.

- kurdmedia.com

countries are 'harbouring' the deadly virus?

'Bird flu secrecy' angers Turkey

Turkey says its battle against bird flu is being hampered by the refusal of neighbouring countries to admit they are harbouring the deadly virus. The agriculture minister urged local authorities to be extremely vigilant of "closed regimes". The UN said there was no evidence of such outbreaks.

Bird flu has hit 26 of Turkey's provinces, some near its borders with Armenia, Georgia, Iran, Iraq and Syria. The virus, confirmed as the deadly H5N1 strain, has killed four Turkish people.

'No evidence'

Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker told governors of Turkey's 81 provinces that he had obtained the information about undeclared outbreaks "through unofficial channels".

But the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said there was no proof of an H5N1 outbreak in countries neighbouring Turkey.

Syria's Agriculture Minister Adel Safar rejected the accusation and said that the country's ban on poultry imports and tightening of border controls was a precautionary measure. "Syria is free from bird flu, despite allusions from Turkey that neighbouring countries are hiding that there have been some infections," he said.

A team investigating bird flu in Turkey will visit neighbouring regions next week "to get a sense of whether they are on top of it or not", according to an FAO spokesman.

Representatives from the World Health Organization and World Organization for Animal Health will visit Egypt and Iran, Syria and Caucasus countries.

A mass cull of poultry is under way in almost one third of Turkey's provinces to try to stop the virus spreading any further.

A national awareness campaign has also been launched to warn people of the danger. Story from BBC NEWS: BBC

Now it's Frances turn to xeno-scaremonger

France tests woman for bird flu

A French woman who recently returned from Turkey is being tested in a Montpellier hospital for possible bird flu, the health ministry has announced. A first test was negative, but the results of further examinations are due later on Sunday, the ministry said. The woman had spent two weeks in Turkey, but in a region not known to have been affected, a spokesman said.

Bird flu has hit 26 Turkish provinces. At least four people have died from the deadly H5N1 strain of the disease.

Last week a Belgian cameraman who had returned from eastern Turkey with flu-like symptoms tested negative for the virus. The H5N1 strain of the virus has killed about 80 people - mostly in Asia - since late 2003.

Isolation ward

The 32-year-old French woman went to hospital on Saturday following a stay in the Tarsus region of Turkey, where she had been travelling alone.

Her case was being treated as potential bird flu because of the "symptoms and because the woman saw dead birds while travelling in a country affected by the epidemic," the ministry said in a statement.

She showed flu symptoms and breathing difficulties, and has been tested for signs of the H5N1 strain in her nose and throat. The woman has been placed in an isolation ward, where she is receiving antiviral treatment, the ministry added.

Victims contract the virus through close contact with sick birds, but experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that passes easily between humans, possibly sparking a pandemic. - BBC

'Menace from the east' continues

Indonesian girl dies of bird flu, local test shows

JAKARTA, Jan 16 (Reuters) - A 13-year-old Indonesian girl died of bird flu at the weekend while two others from her family have tested positive for the H5N1 virus, a health ministry official said on Monday, citing the results of local tests.

If confirmed by outside laboratories recognised by the World Health Organisation, the case would take total known deaths in Indonesia from the avian flu to 13 and the number who have had bird flu to 20.

"We found three positive bird flu cases in one family coming from Indramayu, West Java," the official, Hariadi Wibisono, said.

He said the girl died in an Indramayu hospital while her 15-year-old sister and 3-year-old brother had been sent for treatment at a hospital in Jakarta designated to treat bird flu patients.

"A lot of fowls died around the neighbourhood where they lived. But we don't know yet whether these fowls were carrying the virus. We sent a team there to investigate this morning."

The H5N1 virus is not known to pass easily between humans at the moment, but experts fear it could develop that ability and set off a global pandemic that might kill millions of people. - alertnet.org

Algeria steps up measures against bird flu

ALGIERS, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Algeria will spend eight billion dinars ($111 million) to protect itself from any outbreak of bird flu in the North African country, state radio said on Sunday.

Health Minister Amar Tou was quoted as saying the money would be used to import more than seven million doses of anti-viral drugs. He stressed that no case of the disease had been so far reported in the country.

Tou also said the government had ordered seven million masks for health staff in case of any epidemic.

The authorities have said they plan increased health checks at airports and ports to ensure passengers and goods from places hit by the virus do not bring it into the country of 33 million.

Turkey has reported at least four deaths from the H5N1 strain of bird flu this month, bringing the strain to the gates of Europe and the Middle East.

The H5N1 bird flu virus has killed at least 80 people since late 2003. Victims contract the virus through close contact with sick birds, but there are fears it could mutate into a form that can pass easily from person to person, sparking a pandemic.

Huge numbers of birds migrate to Africa every year in search of warmer climates. Birds from Russia fly via eastern Europe and congregate in areas like the Rift Valley in East Africa.

$=72.55 Algerian dinars

- alertnet.org

Turkey culls 1.28 million fowl to prevent bird flu spread

24 - 1 - 2006 - Turkey has culled 1.28 million fowl in a bid to prevent bird flu spread in the country, Turkish National Coordination Center for Bird Flu said on Monday.

A statement issued by the center said that the bird flu was detected in 16 provinces including Ankara and Istanbul.

Twenty-one people have been infected with bird flu in Turkey, including four teenagers who have died of the H5N1 strain of bird flu this year. Experts fear that the disease, which currently jumps from birds to humans, might mutate into a form that can easily transmit among humans, which would lead to a global pandemic. - english.people.com.cn

WHO denies exaggerating bird flu threat

January 24, 2006 - The World Health Organisation (WHO) has denied it is exaggerating the risk of a human influenza pandemic, while China reports a 10th person has been diagnosed with the potentially fatal bird flu virus.

A 29-year-old woman from southwest China was diagnosed with the H5N1 virus, the health ministry said. She was in a critical condition in hospital. The woman, surnamed Cao, ran a shop in a farm goods market in Jinhua Town in Sichuan Province. Six of the 10 known victims of bird flu in China have died.

The WHO has confirmed bird flu as the cause of death of a young brother and sister in Indonesia this month, taking the death toll to at least 82 since the virus reemerged in late 2003. Victims contract the virus through close contact with sick birds but there are fears it could mutate into a form that can pass easily from person to person, sparking a pandemic.

WHO director-general Lee Jong-Wook said the threat of a pandemic was a genuine one. "Concern has been expressed that we are overplaying this threat. We are not," Lee said in an opening speech to the WHO's executive board, holding a week-long meeting in Geneva. "We can only reduce the devastating human and economic impact of a pandemic if we all take the threat seriously now and prepare thoroughly. "This is a global problem," he said.

The United Nations agency has predicted between two and 7.4 million people could die if a pandemic sweeps the world. Wealthy donor nations last week pledged $US1.9 billion ($A2.54 billion) to fight bird flu at a conference in Beijing. The money will be spent on measures to eradicate a virus which is endemic in poultry in parts of Asia.

Turkey recently became the sixth country to report human cases of bird flu, taking it to the gates of Europe and the Middle East. Turkey has reported 21 cases of bird flu, including the deaths of four children, but the WHO says that human cases appear to be winding down there following mass poultry culling and public education campaigns. WHO experts will help nearby countries deemed "at risk" to assess the situation. These include Syria, Iran, Iraq, as well as Ukraine, Georgia and Azerbaijan. - smh.com.au

Related: China in grip of AIDS epidemic, WHO warns

Wed Jan 25, BEIJING (AFP) - China is in the grip of a worsening HIV- AIDS epidemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned, even as new official figures were released showing fewer cases than previously estimated.

"Make no mistake, China's HIV-AIDS epidemic is growing," the WHO's chief representative in China, Hank Bekedam, told a press conference. "With an estimated 70,000 new cases, the epidemic shows no signs of abating."

Officials from China's Health Ministry, which attended the press conference, said there were between 60,000 and 80,000 new HIV-AIDS cases last year. The health ministry and UNAIDS said earlier at the press conference that the number of known cases in China was 650,000, down from a government estimate in 2003 of 840,000.

However, the two organisations and the WHO's Bekedam said the lower figure was due to an overestimate last time, and not that there were fewer cases.

"It (the 650,000 figure) may lead some to believe it has improved," Bekedam said. "That is not so. With an estimated 70,000 new infections last year, we fear the number of infections this year will be even higher." - news.yahoo.com

Chinese woman dies from bird flu: WHO

25th Jan 2006 - BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese woman infected with bird flu, the country's 10th human bird flu victim, has died, the World Health Organization confirmed on Wednesday. The 29-year-old woman surnamed Cao, who ran a shop in a farm goods market in Jinhua town in the southwestern province of Sichuan, died on Monday, Roy Wadia, a WHO spokesman in Beijing, said. Cao fell ill with a fever on January 12 and had been receiving treatment in a hospital in the provincial capital, Chengdu. She was Sichuan's second human case of bird flu this month, after the Chinese health ministry announced last week that a 35-year-old woman from the province died of the disease on January 11.

To date, seven of the 10 Chinese people officially confirmed to have contracted bird flu have died.

China's Ministry of Health was not immediately available for comment.

In Cao's case, and most of China's other reported human bird flu infections, there was no officially confirmed outbreak of the H5N1 strain of bird flu among poultry in the area beforehand.

China, along with Vietnam, has suffered numerous outbreaks in poultry since October and Beijing has launched sweeping measures to stop the virus from spreading and infecting more people. Experts believe the H5N1 virus is contracted through close contact with sick birds, and fear that as the virus spreads it will mutate to enable it to spread easily from human to human, sparking a pandemic that could claim many millions of lives. - news.yahoo.com

Scientists solve puzzle of flu virus replication

Wed Jan 25, 2006 - By Patricia Reaney LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists have solved the genetic puzzle of how influenza A viruses -- including the H5N1 bird flu -- replicate inside cells, which could help to speed up the development of new drugs to avert a pandemic.

As governments bolster efforts to halt the spread of avian flu which has killed 83 people since 2003, an international team of researchers has discovered that the flu virus infects cells by organizing its genetic material in a set of eight segments.

"We've found that the influenza virus has a specific mechanism that permits it to package its genetic materials," said Professor Yoshihiro Kawaoka, of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, who headed the research team. "All influenza viruses have the same mechanism, including bird flu," he added in an interview on Wednesday.

Influenza A is the family of viruses responsible for seasonal flu as well pandemic strains such as the 1918 Spanish Flu that killed as many as 50 million people worldwide. Scientists fear H5N1 could cause the next pandemic if it mutates on its own or mixes with a human virus to form a strain that can spread easily from person to person. So far it has not shown it is highly infectious in humans but knowing how the virus replicates and the mechanism that controls it could provide new targets for antiviral drugs.

"If we can disrupt this interaction ... we may be able to stop the virus replication," said Kawaoka, who is also a professor at the University of Tokyo in Japan.

UNWRAPPING THE PACKAGE

Influenza A viruses enter cells and reproduce their own genetic material, or RNA, into infectious particles that are released and then infect other cells. How it manages to do it has been a mystery, until now.

With the help of an electron microscope, Kawaoka and a team of scientists from Japan, Sweden, and the United States used a technique that generates three-dimensional images to see how the virus packages the segments of RNA into the infectious particles. They found the material is organized in a circle of seven RNA segments surrounding another segment to make a set of eight. Kawaoka said no one had identified that before.

"We need to have more antivirals for influenza," said Kawaoka, who reported his research in the journal Nature. "And as these segments get incorporated into the particle as a set, it suggests these elements could be a target of disruption. There must be a genetic element in each of the eight segments that allows them to interact," he added.

The scientists are trying to identify what is important for the interaction among the eight segments and are looking for molecules that will inhibit it, to prevent the virus from replicating. - alertnet.org

Vaccine Provides 100% Protection Against Avian Flu Virus In Animal Study

by Staff Writers Pittsburgh PA (SPX) Jan 27, 2006

University of Pittsburgh researchers announced they have genetically engineered an avian flu vaccine from the critical components of the deadly H5N1 virus that completely protected mice and chickens from infection. Avian flu has devastated bird populations in Southeast Asia and Europe and so far has killed more than 80 people.

Because this vaccine contains a live virus, it may be more immune-activating than avian flu vaccines prepared by traditional methods, say the researchers.

Furthermore, because it is grown in cells, it can be produced much more quickly than traditional vaccines, making it an extremely attractive candidate for preventing the spread of the virus in domestic livestock populations and, potentially, in humans, according to the study, published in the Feb 15 issue of the Journal of Virology and made available early online.

"The results of this animal trial are very promising, not only because our vaccine completely protected animals that otherwise would have died, but also because we found that one form of the vaccine stimulates several lines of immunity against H5N1," said Andrea Gambotto, M.D., assistant professor in the departments of surgery and molecular genetics and biochemistry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and lead author of the study.

Dr. Gambotto and his colleagues constructed the vaccine by genetically engineering a common cold virus, called adenovirus, to express either all or parts of an avian influenza protein called hemagglutinin (HA) on its surface. Found on the surface of all influenza viruses, HA allows the virus to attach to the cell that is being infected and is, therefore, critical to the influenza virus' ability to cause illness and death.

Since the late 1990s, a number of outbreaks of the avian influenza H5N1 in poultry have occurred in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. Outbreaks recently have been reported in Turkey and Romania. To date, H5N1 has caused the most large-scale and widespread bird deaths in known history--an estimated 150 to 200 million birds have either died in the outbreaks or been killed as part of infection control actions in the last eight years.

The H5N1 virus does not usually infect humans. However, in 1997, the first case of spread from a bird to a human occurred in Hong Kong during an outbreak of bird flu in poultry. The virus caused severe respiratory illness in 18 people, six of whom died. Since that time, more than 170 cases of known H5N1 infection have occurred among humans worldwide, approximately half of whom died.

Based on the published sequence of the Vietnam strain of the H5N1 avian influenza virus, members of the University of Pittsburgh Vector Core Facility, led by Wentao Gao, Ph.D., research instructor in the School of Medicine's department of surgery, constructed several adenovirus "vectors"--viruses that have been modified to serve as a vector, or delivery vehicle, for foreign genes or DNA--containing either the full genetic sequence of the HA protein or sequences for only parts, or subunits, of HA.

They also constructed a vector containing sequences for a portion of the HA protein from the H5N1 Hong Kong strain.

Collaborating with investigators Xiuhua Lu, Ph.D., Doan C. Nguyen, M.D., Yumi Matsuoka, Ph.D., Ruben O. Donis, Ph.D., and Jaquelin M. Katz, Ph.D., of the Influenza Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Gambotto's team tested the ability of their slightly different vaccines to protect mice from infection by wild-type H5N1 by comparing its performance to an adenovirus vector containing no H5N1 genes, or an "empty vector."

The investigators then observed the H5NI-exposed mice for any signs of illness, including weight loss and death, and also checked their blood for anti-viral antibodies and other markers of H5N1-specific immunity.

All of the mice immunized with the empty vector vaccine experienced substantial weight loss beginning about three days after exposure to wild-type H5N1, and all were dead within six to nine days of avian flu exposure. In sharp contrast, most of the mice immunized with the adenovirus containing either the whole or part of the HA protein showed only mild and short-lived weight loss and survived H5N1 infection.

When the investigators looked for evidence of a specific immune response to H5N1, they found similar results. Although they were able to isolate high levels of infectious H5N1 from multiple organs in the mice vaccinated with the empty vector, and to various degrees in animals vaccinated with the vectors containing the HA subunits, they isolated only very small amounts of H5N1 from the mice immunized with the full-length HA vaccine three days after infection. Six days after infection, they could not detect any infectious H5N1 in the organs of mice immunized with the full-length HA vaccine.

Moreover, when they looked at the cellular immune response to vaccination, they found that all of the animals immunized with full-length HA or the subunit vaccines developed strong cellular immune responses. However, only the full-length HA-immunized mice developed strong T-cell responses to both of the HA subunits.

According to Simon Barratt-Boyes, B.V.Sc., Ph.D., associate professor, department of infectious diseases and microbiology, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, and one of the co-authors of the study, the ability of this particular recombinant vaccine--a vaccine carrying only the important immune-stimulating proteins--to induce both antibody- and T cell-directed immunity is extremely encouraging.

"This means that this recombinant vaccine can stimulate several lines of defense against the H5N1 virus, giving it greater therapeutic value. More importantly, it suggests that even if H5N1 mutates, the vaccine is still likely to be effective against it. How effective, we are not sure," Dr. Barratt-Boyes cautioned. "We won't know until that occurs."

Based on the superior degree of protection that they found in mice vaccinated with full-length HA vaccine, Dr. Gambotto's group, working with David E. Swayne, D.V.M., Ph.D., at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, tested its effectiveness in chickens, which have almost a 100 percent mortality rate to H5N1 exposure.

In all, the researchers inoculated four groups of chickens either through their noses (intranasally) or with subcutaneous injections of either the HA-containing vaccine or the empty vector vaccine. The chickens were then challenged with a dose of whole H5N1 virus 10,000 times greater than the dose given to the mice and significantly greater than the dose farm chickens are likely to be exposed to during a natural outbreak.

Interestingly, all of the chickens that were immunized subcutaneously survived exposure to H5N1, developed strong HA-specific antibody responses and showed no clinical signs of disease. In contrast, half of the chickens immunized intranasally died and half survived.

All of the chickens immunized with the empty vector (intranasally and subcutaneously) died within two days of H5N1 exposure. The researchers are still not yet sure why the subcutaneous delivery is more effective than the intranasal delivery of the vaccine, but they suggested it may be because the adenovirus vector they used has limited infectivity via the nose and respiratory tract.

Dr. Gambotto and his colleagues suggest that rather than replacing traditional inactivated influenza vaccines, their adenovirus-based vaccine could be a critically important complement to them. Because it appears to be so successful in immunizing chickens against H5N1, widespread inoculation of susceptible poultry populations could provide a significant barrier to the spread of the virus via that route in this country and other countries that have so far been spared from avian flu.

Also, if there were a disruption in the traditional vaccine production pipeline, a recombinant vaccine could be an attractive alternative for human immunization as well, they said.

Indeed, according to Dr. Gambotto, there are several major advantages to this type of vaccine development approach over traditional approaches. Flu vaccines currently are prepared in fertilized chicken eggs, a process developed more than 50 years ago that requires millions of fertilized eggs that would be in short supply if a pandemic--a widespread, global outbreak--were to occur. The recombinant vaccine approach grows the vaccine in cell cultures, which are unlimited in supply. Another major advantage of this approach is its speed.

"It takes a little over a month for us to develop a recombinant vector vaccine compared to a minimum of several months via traditional methods," he explained. "This capacity will be particularly invaluable if the virus begins to mutate rapidly, a phenomenon that often limits the ability of traditional vaccines to contain outbreaks of mutant strains." Dr. Gambotto added that his group is planning a small clinical trial of the vaccine in humans in the very near future. - spacewar.com

Drug companies pledge to triple flu vaccine output

By Andrew Jack in Davos - Published: January 28 2006

Flu vaccine manufacturers have pledged to as much as triple their production capacity within the next four years to help prepare for a pandemic, a top corporate executive said on Saturday.

David Stout, president, pharmaceuticals at GlaxoSmithKline, told a session at the World Economic Forum that the move follows fresh cooperation with governments, leading to research on 28 possible pandemic flu vaccines and speedier and more efficient production methods. The news came at a time of growing concern among business leaders of the effect of a pandemic, the impact of which was studied during a series of simulation exercises among executives at Davos.

Mr Stout said that vaccines offered "the best approach" to tackling the virus, although it could be several months after a pandemic is first identified because they would have to be distributed. However, he said GSK - the only company with both flu drugs and vaccines - had also spent an additional £50m increasing output of its inhaled antiviral drug Relenza, production of which should reach 15m units this year.

The renewed vaccines activity follows a pledge by US President George Bush late last year of substantial support for new research by flu manufacturers, and the European Union continues to debate similar partnerships with industry.

Anthony Fauci from the US National Institutes of Health said there was some scope for the increased use of pneumococcal vaccine and other measures that could limit the impact of secondary infections caused by a pandemic. However, he said recent research into the highly lethal 1918 "Spanish flu" pandemic suggested that the primary cause of death was from primary flu infections, against which a new vaccine was the best defence. He said increased seasonal flu vaccination, while providing no protection against bird flu, would help preparations by strengthening manufacturing capacity which could be switched to a pandemic vaccine once available. "Pandemics happen," he said. "Sooner or later, it's likely there will be one. But no-one can give a (probability). Molecular evolution is not that simple. But it would be unconscienable if the world did not prepare."

David Nabarro, the United Nations' "flu tsar", said business as well as non-governmental organisations would play a central role in trying to limit any pandemic, and encouraged companies to come forward and take initiatives. He said that they could help communicate the risks and help limit the fall-out and endorsed plans to hold discussions with industry leaders every two months to exchange ideas. He warned of the danger of "false alarms" of a pandemic which "could cause even more damage," stressing the WHO would provide notification of the rising risk of any outbreak.

The executive board of the World Health Organisation on Friday agreed that countries could adopt early new International Health Regulations to tackle a pandemic through enhanced cooperation on disease surveillance, reporting and information sharing. It also released a draft containment plan with recommendations as part of an effort to stop a mutated version of the current H5N1 bird flu virus spreading among humans, through use of quarantining, "social distance" and antiviral drugs for treatment and as a prophylactic around the area of an initial outbreak. A report commissioned by the World Economic Forum estimated the probability of a pandemic at 1-10 per cent for this year and up until 2015, with severe consequences if it took place. - news.ft.com/

Deadly bird flu found in Cyprus

The lethal H5N1 bird flu strain has been detected in birds in northern Cyprus, the European Commission says, the first cases on the island. The commission has ordered an immediate freeze on the transfer of live animals or animal products across the island's Green Line border or to the EU.

Neighbouring Turkey has been battling with an outbreak of the H5N1 strain, which has killed at least four people.

The lethal strain has killed about 80 people, mostly in Asia, since 2003.

A mass cull of poultry has taken place near Famagusta, eastern Cyprus, where the infected birds are believed to have originated. The World Health Organization has not confirmed the positive test results, which were carried out at a specialist laboratory in Weybridge, UK.

There have been no human cases of bird flu reported in the outbreak. Scientists fear the H5N1 bird flu virus could mutate from a disease that largely affects birds to one that can pass easily between people, leading to a human pandemic. - Story from BBC NEWS

Bird flu virus found in falcons

29/01/2006 - Health officials have detected the H5 variant of the bird flu virus in five falcons during routine checks after the end of the hunting season, the Saudi Agriculture Ministry reported.

A Saudi Press Agency report in the kingdom's newspapers today said 37 hunting falcons were destroyed after tests found that five of the birds in avian centres were infected with the H5 strain.

The agency said samples from the falcons had been sent to international testing centres to determine if any of the infected birds had the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus that has killed dozens of people worldwide, most recently four children in eastern Turkey.

It was not immediately known where the samples were being tested.

So far cases of bird flu in humans have only resulted from contact with infected birds, but world health officials are concerned the virus could mutate, enabling it to be passed among humans. - IOL

Iraqis 'confirm' bird flu death

An Iraqi Kurdish teenage girl has died of the H5N1 strain of bird flu, the Iraqi health minister has said.

Abdel Mutalib Mohammed Ali said the diagnosis had been confirmed, despite initial reports from a WHO laboratory saying test results were negative.

However the AFP news agency quotes him as saying that further "testing showed indications of bird flu or even H5N1".

A spokesman for the WHO in Geneva said further tests would be carried out at a laboratory in the UK to make sure. Iraqi officials are investigating the death of the girl's uncle who had also been suffering from flu-like symptoms. Four people have been killed in neighbouring Turkey by the H5N1 strain of the virus. The Iraqi minister has gone to the northern city of Sulaimaniya to meet health officials to discuss efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

"The teenager Shanjin Abdel Qader, from the region of Raniya, who died on 17 January, succumbed to H5N1 virus," Mr Mohammed Ali told told Iraqi television. "We took her samples to the international laboratory and initial test results were negative, but later more thorough testing showed indications of bird flu or even H5N1," he went on to say. "We are calling on Iraqis not to panic or listen to rumours, but at the same to inform us if they suspect anything."

But he warned Iraqis "not to approach domestic birds and poultry as this is the main way of spreading the disease". - BBC

Iraq culls hundreds of thousands of birds

31/01/2006 - Health authorities went on high alert today following Iraq's first reported case of the deadly bird flu virus, culling hundreds of thousands of birds and warning farmers across the country to inspect their flocks.

Five mobile hospitals with special equipment were due to arrive in northern Iraq later today, according to Health Minister Abdel Mutalib Mohammed. A 20-mile security cordon will be placed around the village where the disease appeared, he added.

The measures followed yesterday's announcement that a 15-year-old girl from northern Iraq who died on January 17 had contracted the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu. It was the first confirmed human case of H5N1 in the country. The prospect of a bird flu outbreak in Iraq is alarming because it is gripped by armed insurgency and lacks the resources of other governments in the region. Government institutions, however, are most effective in the Kurdish-run area where the girl lived.

The US has offered assistance to Iraqi authorities to help deal with the outbreak, while a World Health Organisation team of epidemiologists and clinicians was expected to arrive later in the week to start tests. "We are working with the government of Iraq and the World Health Organisation to ensure that the necessary support for diagnosis and treatment of avian influenza is available as needed," US Embassy spokeswoman Sylvia Blackwood said.

WHO spokesman Dick Thompson said health authorities are also investigating two more possible bird flue cases - the girl's uncle who died on January 27 and a 54-year-old woman from the same region who has been taken to hospital.

Iraqi authorities believe the girl most likely contracted the disease from migratory birds that passed it onto domestic birds in her hometown of Raniya, US Embassy health attache Jon Bowersox said.

Raniya is just north of a reservoir that is a stopover for migratory birds from bordering Turkey heading south through Iraq's southern marshlands, onto Kuwait and further to South Africa, said Bowersox. At least 21 cases of bird flu have been recorded in Turkey, raising fears the virus may have moved south. - IOL

how subtle?

Suspected bird flu victim was in UK

A cook on a ship which recently sailed from an unamed UK port died from suspected bird flu in a Lithuanian port yesterday, the director of the country's epidemical crisis centre was reported to have said last night. - Scotsman

Incoming! PSYOPS

Genes of deadly bird flu reveal Chinese origin

22:00 06 February 2006 NewScientist.com news service - Debora MacKenzie

The H5N1 flu virus has been circulating continuously in poultry in south-eastern China for a decade, scientists have found. A massive genetic analysis shows the virus has mainly been spread by poultry, but also that wild birds carried it from southeast China to Turkey.

Yi Guan and colleagues at Shantou University, plus scientists in Xiamen and Hong Kong, say the only way to stop the virus is to control it in southeast China. The Chinese authorities have denied the country is the epicentre of the virus and opposed independent flu research. The researchers analysed samples taken from 13,000 migratory birds and 50,000 market poultry in southeast China between January 2004 and June 2005, when the Chinese government banned independent sampling. In the markets, they found H5N1 in about 2% of apparently healthy ducks and geese, and some chickens, in all but two of the months in the sampling period. The genetic make-up of the virus differed slightly between Guangdong, Hunan and Yunnan provinces, forming distinct geographic clusters. But they all descend from a 1996 Guangdong virus, and show the greatest genetic variation in Guangdong and neighbouring Guangxi and Hunan, showing they have been there longest.

Divergent strains

Robert Webster of St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, US, a co-author of the paper, says this shows the virus originated in those provinces, and has been circulating in the region ever since, long enough to evolve divergent strains. These strains then "colonised" neighbouring areas. Viruses from Vietnam and Thailand match Guangdong viruses, while Indonesia has its own related cluster. Genes from Vietnamese viruses reveal repeated introductions from Guangxi, most recently in 2005. This contrasts with past insistence by Chinese officials that H5N1 exists only in isolated cases in China, and did not necessarily originate there. The existence of distinct clusters also means the main carriers cannot be wide-ranging birds - instead, most transmission is via local poultry movements. Co-author Malik Peiris, of the University of Hong Kong, told New Scientist: "If there had been repeated waves of virus introduced into, for example, Yunnan, one would expect multiple sub-lineages of the virus. But in each place there is only one."

Long distance transmission

But wild birds are involved. The team found H5N1 in six apparently-healthy migratory ducks at Poyang Lake in Jiangxi province, which borders Guangdong and Hunan, in January and March 2005, before the northward migration. The isolates had all the genes, and certain specific mutations, later found in geese at Qinghai Lake, 1700 kilometres northwest. And this virus, notes Peiris, is very like H5N1 in Turkey. The team also tested whether the Poyang viruses would make ducks too sick to fly by infecting young mallards. "Most got a bit sick then recovered," says Webster, and all shed virus for up to a week. "The evidence is now overwhelming that migrating birds can move H5N1 over long distances," says Peiris. "But they are not the scapegoats for maintaining H5N1 within poultry. There the cause and solution lies within the poultry industry."

Another important finding of the research is that antibodies to each sub-lineage of H5N1 did not bind readily to other sub-lineages. That means vaccinating people or birds against one strain may not protect against others. The team warns that H5N1 pandemic vaccines should be developed using several strains, and constantly updated.

But to head off the threat of a human pandemic, the authors insist "the source of the virus in southern China must be contained". Webster adds: "Let's be optimistic that [the Chinese authorities] will accept that this thing is out there. It is terribly important to realise that perfectly healthy looking birds have this damn virus." - new scientist

Resource warning?

Deadly bird flu found in Africa

The deadly strain of bird flu has been found in poultry in northern Nigeria, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has said in statement. The Paris-based organisation said this was the first time the disease had been detected in Africa. The body said it was the "highly pathogenic" strain of the H5N1 bird flu virus, which can kill humans.

It was detected on a farm in the northern state of Kaduna, where a team of experts have been sent. Authorities there said they had taken measures to stamp out the outbreak by disinfecting the affected premises, imposing a quarantine and putting restrictions on animal movements. It is not clear if the case on a commercial chicken farm in Jaji, near the city of Kaduna, has any relation to the deaths of thousands of chickens in neighbouring Kano state. Officials at the Ministry of Agriculture say they are still investigating whether the poultry there died of a more common avian disease.

Emergency meeting

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos says an outbreak of bird flu could have devastating consequences in Nigeria where millions of people rear chickens as a basic source of income.

The OIE said that an Italian laboratory for avian flu had detected the strain from samples from the infected farm which had some 46,000 birds. "We are really not dealing with a backyard operation," OIE expert Alex Thiermann told Associated Press news agency.

Farmers in Kano are preparing to hold an emergency meeting. The price of chickens in Kano has halved, with a bird now fetching not more than $2.

Mutation fears

Scientists believe the bird flu might have been carried by migrating birds from Asia to Europe and Africa but say it is hard to prove a direct link. There are fears that the disease could easily spread in Africa because of a lack of safeguards. "What is most important now is not how it got into Nigeria, but how it can be prevented from leaving Nigeria," Cape Town ornithologist Phil Hockey told Reuters.

More than 80 people have died of H5N1 bird flu since the disease's resurgence in December 2003 - most in Asia. Experts point out that cross-infection to humans is still relatively rare, and usually occurs where people have been in close contact with infected birds. But they say if the H5N1 strain mutates so it can be passed between humans some 150m people could die. - BBC

Notice the keywords - 'experts' 'authorities'
this is Geo-political Resource-rape warning -

African bird flu 'set to spread'

The first case of H5N1 bird flu in Africa is likely to be followed quickly by others, creating a "very severe situation", the UN's top expert says. Dr David Nabarro of the World Health Organizaton (WHO) told the BBC the virus "might be quite widespread". It comes after the strain deadly to humans was detected on a farm in Kaduna in northern Nigeria. Officials are investigating whether poultry in other states have also died from the virus.

Dr Nabarro said the WHO was anticipating further outbreaks in other parts of Africa. "If it's in Nigeria it might also be in other countries that are less well-equipped." He said governments and ordinary people would have to take "very, very strong precautions" to protect themselves and stop the disease spreading. "We've got to have all countries, particularly in West Africa, being very vigilant for bird die-offs, which are the indicator of bird flu being in the population."

Experts have been sent to the commercial chicken farm in Jaji, in Kaduna state, where bird flu was found. Authorities there said they had taken measures to stamp out the outbreak by disinfecting the affected premises, imposing a quarantine and putting restrictions on animal movements. Dr Nabarro, who is leading the UN's response to bird flu, said reports from Nigeria's ministry of agriculture suggested bird flu may also have been found in the northern state of Kano and further south in Jos.

Early detection

The BBC's Alex Last in Lagos, Nigeria, says an outbreak of bird flu could have devastating consequences in a country where millions of people rear chickens as a basic source of income.

Experts have long feared that if H5N1 reached Africa, it could quickly take hold and spread out of control.

Dr Alex Thiermann of the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health told the BBC that Africa's "veterinary infrastructures are very weak". "And it is essential for the containment of this disease to have the ability to early detect and take rapid action. And therefore we feel that Nigeria and the other countries that are at risk need help very quickly."

Sold as meat

Nigeria says it will cull all infected birds and compensate farmers. But a northern Nigerian farmer told the BBC News website that people fear they will not be paid.

"The dead birds are being sent to market to be sold as meat... because people are not sure if the government will assist them," said Auwalu Haruna from Kano.

It is thought bird flu may have been carried to Nigeria by migrating birds or the smuggling of infected chickens from abroad. More than 80 people have died of H5N1 bird flu since the disease's resurgence in December 2003 - most in Asia. Experts point out that cross-infection to humans is still relatively rare, and usually occurs where people have been in close contact with infected birds. But they say if the H5N1 strain mutates so it can be passed between humans, it could become a global pandemic, killing millions. BBC FEAR

Notice the keywords - 'excercise'... 'Africa' -
this is Geo-political Resource-rape warning -

Rumsfeld, NATO Ministers To Discuss Afghanistan and Rapid Reaction Force

By Al Pessin Washington - 08 February 2006

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will be in Italy Thursday and Friday for an informal meeting of NATO defense ministers that is expected to focus on final preparations for expanding the alliance's role in Afghanistan and for the creation of the NATO rapid response force. VOA Pentagon Correspondent Al Pessin will be traveling with the secretary and filed this report on what is expected at the meeting.

[snip]

The [..] senior defense official, who spoke anonymously, [..] the force will have a major exercise in West Africa in June, and is supposed to be declared operational in October. But the official says NATO members have committed only about 80 per cent of the troops needed for the force, and Secretary Rumsfeld will be pressing for more commitments at this week's meeting.

The official says the Italy meeting will also include a session with the Russian defense minister, and another one with defense ministers from the seven members of NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue group. In the Russia meeting, the official says the main issues will be the sharing of radar information, strategy for fighting the drug trade in Central Asia and Afghanistan and concern over Russia's recent withholding of natural gas supplies from Ukraine in a political dispute.

The official says Russia and three of the Dialogue countries will participate for the first time later this year in a NATO counter-terrorism naval operation in the Mediterranean. The three regional countries will be Morocco, Algeria and Israel, representing what the official called a "not insignificant" moment of cooperation between Israel and the two Arab countries. - VOA


this is Geo-political Resource-rape warning -

Bird flu makes its way around Europe

16:51 13 February 2006 - Five more countries have found the H5N1 bird flu virus in birds in the last three days. Its spread remains consistent with the movements of wild birds, although certain wild species are also becoming major victims of the virus, which is leaving a trail of dead swans across Eurasia.

On Friday, Azerbaijan reported that H5N1 had been confirmed in dead wild birds, including swans, from the Caspian Sea coast. The coast is a major wintering spot for migrants, including some duck species that summer in Siberia, where there were H5N1 outbreaks in summer 2005, and winter from the Caspian and Black Seas through Turkey and the Mediterranean down to northern Nigeria. The virus has appeared now in all those areas.

Large numbers of dead wild birds were reported along the Caspian coasts of Azerbaijan and neighbouring Iran in autumn. Iran announced in October that their dead ducks tested negative for avian flu. But die-offs continued in Azerbaijan until February, according to press reports, and under foreign pressure Azeri officials finally sent samples to the flu reference lab in Weybridge, UK, says Juan Lubroth, head of animal diseases at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome.

Chinese origin

Then on Saturday, Greece confirmed that it had found H5N1 in three dead swans on Thermaikos Gulf near the northern city of Thessaloniki. Greece is also expected to announce Monday that it found H5N1 on the Aegean Island of Skiros in a dead red-breasted goose (Branta ruficollis) which conservation organisation Bird Life International describes as "globally endangered".

Also on Saturday, Italy confirmed H5N1 in dead swans from the southern provinces of Puglia, Sicily and Calabria, where birds wintering near Venice had flown to escape a cold snap. Bulgaria confirmed H5N1 in dead swans from the Danube delta.

"From what I have seen of the genetic sequence, the Italian virus is identical to the one from Qinghai," a strain first found in wild birds at Qinghai Lake in northwest China in spring 2004, says Lubroth. This strain has since appeared across Siberia, and in Mongolia, Turkey, Romania, Ukraine and Nigeria.

Megacity risk

Meanwhile, Slovenia has found an H5 flu strain in a dead swan near the Austrian border. It is expected to be confirmed as H5N1. Bird deaths in Armenia are also under suspicion.

"In Greece and Italy it is very clear wildlife introduced the virus," says Lubroth. Without better understanding of which species carry it, and where, it is hard to be certain in other cases, he says. "We asked for money for this research two years ago." Now the FAO hopes to radio-track birds and test water from bird habitats for the virus.

Meanwhile, H5N1 continues to spread in Nigeria, with reports of outbreaks in poultry now from eight states, possibly including the megacity of Lagos. People in Nigeria who had flu symptoms and were near dead birds are being tested, while in Greece several people who contacted dead wild birds are being tested. - new scientist

Germany

Germany Says Tests Show H5N1 Bird Flu

13th feb 2006 - BERLIN - Preliminary tests have shown the presence of the H5N1 strain of bird flu in two dead swans in Germany, a government official said Tuesday.

The swans were found on the island of Ruegen, and regional agriculture ministry spokeswoman Iris Uellendahl said a preliminary test showed it was the virulent H5N1 strain. Samples from the birds were being take to an European Union laboratory in Britain for a definitive test, Uellendahl said. Poultry within about two miles of the site where the swans were found will be tested, she said.

On Saturday, H5N1 was confirmed in birds in Italy and Greece _ the first time the highly infectious strain had been detected in the EU. It also has occurred in birds in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

The virus has killed at least 91 people in Asia and Turkey since 2003, according to the World Health Organization. Almost all the human deaths have been linked to contact with infected poultry, but experts fear H5N1 could mutate into a form that spreads easily among people, possibly starting a human flu pandemic. - chron.com

Switzerland

Swiss order poultry indoors over bird flu fears

BERNE, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Switzerland on Wednesday ordered all poultry to be kept indoors from February 20 for an indefinite period after bird flu was detected in fowl in neighbouring countries.

"The ban starts on February 20 and will be in force until further notice," the government said in a statement. "The poultry must remain indoors under a solid roof where no wild fowl or droppings can enter," it added.

The measure had been widely expected after cases were detected in birds in recent days in Germany, Italy, Greece and Austria. [nL15148550]

Returning migratory birds are suspected of being the carriers of the deadly virus, and Switzerland also lies on their route back from Africa and other southern areas.

The Swiss took similar measures in October, following outbreaks amongst poultry in Russia, as birds began to head south for the winter. alertnet.org

Austria

First suspected bird flu cases in Austria

Feb 14, 2006, Vienna - Austria reported its first suspected cases of bird flu on Tuesday with the discovery of two possibly infected dead swans in the country's south-east.

An announcement by the office of Agriculture Councillor of Austria's Styria province, Hans Seitlinger, said that examinations of a number of dead birds had come up with two cases of suspected H5N1 virus. The probability was 70 per cent. Further tests were still needed, said Seitlinger's office.

The announcement said that following a suspected weekend case of bird flu in neighbouring Slovenia, the Styrian population had been particularly vigilant in reporting finds of dead birds.

In the past few days 21 - six swans, six ducks, three herons, three comorants, a pheasant and two pigeons - had been sent for analysis to the national veterinary institution at Moedling south of Vienna.

At the weekend, Slovenia reported its first case of bird flu when an apparently infected dead swan was found near the Austrian border.

A European Commission spokesman said the virus belonged to the H5 group. There would be an exact diagnosis by the E.U. Reference Laboratory in Weybridge in Britain, where samples had been sent for further testing.

According to the Austrian Health Ministry, first tests had revealed that the virus was H5N1 which is potentially fatal for humans. monstersandcritics.com

Avian flu closer to the Nordic Region

Strain H5N1 of the avian flu bug moved closer to the Nordic Region on Tuesday, when the disease was diagnosed in birds in both North Germany and Austria.

The strain was also identified in Romania. The dangerous H5N1 strain, which an be transmitted to people, has now been found in seven European countries.

Sweden and Norway both introduced bans on keeping poultry outdoors on Tuesday after the announcement that H5N1 had been identified on the German island of Rügen in the Baltic Sea. All over Sweden, all chickens, turkeys and other tame poultry must now be kept indoors. In Norway, the ban covers Oslo Fjord and the southerly Rogaland in the first instance. In Denmark, the Veterinary and Food Administration has requested that poultry be kept indoors.

A Finnish member of the Nordic Council, Lauri Oinonen, has submitted a member's proposal calling on the Nordic governments to propose new measures to stop the spread of avian flu. The Nordic health ministers discussed setting up a joint Nordic facility for the production of influenza vaccine at their meeting on 16 December. - norden.org

Europe locks up its chickens as bird flu spreads

By David Evans PARIS, Feb 15 (Reuters) - European governments ordered farmers to lock up their chickens on Wednesday after the deadly bird flu virus was found in two new countries on the continent, dealing another blow to battered poultry sales.

Germany and Austria are the latest EU countries to report the discovery of dead swans infected with the H5N1 strain of avian influenza, that has spread from Asia to Africa and killed 91 people and led to the destruction of millions of birds.

The World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) says the cases themselves do not necessarily mean the disease, which is highly contagious among poultry, has spread to domestic flocks, and this is where governments should now concentrate their efforts.

"Little can be done about the migratory patterns of wild birds, therefore we emphasise the importance of minimising the opportunity for domestic birds to come into contact with wild birds," a spokeswoman for the OIE said.

German Agriculture Minister Horst Seehofer said authorities would now focus on preventing any transmission to livestock. He brought forward a ban on keeping poultry out of doors to Feb. 17 from March 1. Seehofer said the ban would take immediate effect on Wednesday in the rural northern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, where the infected swans were found.

In Austria, the Health Ministry said it had created a restricted zone within a 3-km (2-mile) radius of where the dead swans were found, in the Styria region bordering Slovenia. All poultry trade has been banned in the area for at least 30 days. Monitoring for signs of bird flu will be carried out within a further 10-km (6-mile) radius, and poultry bought and sold only with ministry permits.

In the entire area, farmers will have to confine their poultry stock to barns. Poultry markets and shows, and hunting for wild fowl, have been banned, the ministry said.

SCANDINAVIAN ALERT

The latest European cases follow the discovery at the weekend of the virus in Italy and Greece, putting governments as far north as Stockholm and Oslo on alert.

Sweden has ordered farmers to keep chickens and turkeys indoors, reinstating restrictions that were issued in the autumn and Norway has imposed a similar ban and stepped up its checks.

The Netherlands, home to Europe's most densely-populated poultry flock, may also bring its ban forward soon.

In France, the national food safety agency warned the government on Tuesday of an increased risk from migratory fowl.

The farm ministry is expected on Wednesday to extend its ban on keeping poultry outside to the whole of France.

The Slovenian Veterinary Administration has ordered the confinement of all poultry in the country and authorities have told people to stay away from wild birds.

And the Swiss government on Wednesday ordered a nationwide poultry lock-up from February 20.

In Italy, police impounded more than 80,000 chickens and 7,000 eggs from farms in the south of the country as part of a major crackdown on health norms.

SALES PLUNGE

The new cases have had a dramatic effect on Europe's 20-billion-euro ($23.82 billion) poultry sector. Sales in Italy have plunged more than 50 percent since the weekend, the farm union Coldiretti said, while others have estimated losses to the sector of one billion euros.

In France, sales are down by 15 percent after recovering around Christmas, although they have held up in the UK, where 90 percent of poultry reared for meat is kept inside anyway.

There are fears that in Germany, where turnover is around two billion euros, consumers may start to shun chicken too.

"Poultry sales are currently 10 to 15 percent below normal levels but we attribute this more to reports about several meat hygiene scandals not to bird flu," said Thomas Janning, a spokesman for the German poultry industry association ZDG. "Naturally we are concerned that consumers will react to the reports of bird flu in the two wild swans."

In neighbouring Poland, poultry producers said they were getting increasingly worried.

"The probability of bird flu knocking on our door is rising. If it happens, our exports will be hit," said Leszek Kawski of the country's poultry association. - alertnet.org

Minister tells bird flu-hit France: "Eat chicken!"

PARIS, Feb 19 (Reuters) - "Eat chicken!" French Agriculture Minister Dominique Bussereau urged his compatriots on Sunday, seeking to ease consumer concerns after France confirmed its first case of the H5N1 bird flu virus in a dead duck.

"The first step consumers can take in solidarity (with chicken farmers) is not to stop eating chicken," Bussereau told Europe 1 radio. "If after this broadcast you had a bit of time to eat some chicken, that would be a very good thing."

France, Europe's biggest poultry producer, on Saturday confirmed a duck found dead in the east of the country had the H5N1 bird flu strain, which has killed at least 91 people since late 2003 according to the World Health Organisation.

French President Jacques Chirac has urged calm over the country's first bird flu case, and Bussereau has sought to assure consumers that no case had been found on a poultry farm in France, and that it was safe to eat cooked chicken.

"We must help the sector," Bussereau told Europe 1. "That starts with publicity campaigns. We will have radio spots. And we will take financial measures to help chicken farmers."

In France's poultry sector, which has a turnover of 6 billion euros ($7.12 billion) per year, farmers are worried about a fall in sales due to consumer concerns over bird flu.

Leading French poultry firm DUC SA has said sales in its fourth quarter ending at the end of December slumped 8.5 percent, blaming the decline on "heavy publicity surrounding avian influenza".

Georges Blanc, a leading French chef who runs a restaurant in the eastern French region where the duck with the H5N1 strain was found last Monday, said he was worried by the situation but had noticed encouraging signs in his restaurant. "One must not fan fears emerging among consumers," Blanc said. "I am offering an "all" poultry menu and ... there has not been a loss of interest this weekend."

Jean-Michel Lemetayer, head of France's main FNSEA farm union, called for an emergency meeting of the government and representatives of the poultry sector to decide on measures to help farmers.

Bussereau has said some 900,000 birds would be vaccinated against bird flu in France from Wednesday. Last week, France extended a ban on keeping poultry outside to the whole country.

Avian influenza has flared anew in recent weeks, spreading among birds in Europe and parts of Africa and prompting authorities to impose bans on the poultry trade, introduce mass culling and vaccinate poultry flocks.

Scientists fear that if the virus acquired the ability to easily pass from person to person, it could cause a pandemic that would kill millions. - alertnet.org

Bird flu 'could take 142m lives'

Worst case economic cost is $4.4 trillion

SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- As many as 142 million people around the world could die if bird flu turns into a "worst case" influenza pandemic, according to a sobering new study of its possible consequences. And global economic losses could run to $4.4 trillion -- the equivalent of wiping out the Japanese economy's annual output.

The study, prepared for the Sydney, Australia-based Lowy Institute think tank, says there are "enormous uncertainties" about whether a flu pandemic might happen, and where and when it might happen first. But it says even a mild pandemic could kill 1.4 million people and cost $330 billion.

In its "ultra" or worst-case scenario, Hong Kong's economy is halved, the large-scale collapse of Asian economic activity causes global trade flows to dry up, and money flows out to safe havens in North America and Europe. Deaths could top 28 million in China and 24 million in India.

The report's release in Sydney Thursday comes as two more countries in Europe -- Germany and Austria -- report that the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus has been detected in wild fowl

The Lowy Institute's report, titled Global Macroeconomic Consequences of Pandemic Influenza, looks at four possible scenarios:

Mild, in which the pandemic is similar to the 1968-69 Hong Kong flu;

Moderate, similar to the 1957 Asian flu;

Severe, similar to the 1918-19 Spanish flu (which infected an estimated 1 billion people and claimed as many as 50 million lives);

An "ultra" scenario that is worse than the Spanish flu outbreak.

Although the 1918-19 flu outbreak probably originated in Asia, it was known as the Spanish flu because the Spanish media were the first to report on its impact.

Since bird flu first appeared in China's Guangdong province -- which adjoins Hong Kong -- in 1996, the disease has claimed more than 90 human lives -- almost all in Asia, with the most recent deaths in Turkey. In addition, about 200 million birds around the world have died or been culled. Outside of Asia, there have been bird flu outbreaks in Greece, Italy, Turkey, Croatia, Russia, Azerbaijan and Romania in Europe, Iraq and Iran in the Middle East and in Nigeria, Africa.

This spread of the disease from Asia to the fringes of Europe in recent weeks has prompted massive global attention on possible prevention measures, with the U.S., the EU and countries such as China and Japan committing hefty financial and human resources to combating the disease.

But the new Lowy Institute report, by the Australian National University's Prof. Warwick McKibbin and research fellow Dr Alexandra Sidorenko, says the major difficulty with influenza vaccine development is "the need to hit the constantly moving target as the virus mutates very rapidly."

Their observation follows a scientific study released last week which said bird flu was much more diverse than previously thought, with at least four distinct types of the deadly H5N1 virus. In that study, a group of 29 scientists around the globe found that the virus was both more genetically diverse and able to survive in birds showing no signs of illness.

One of the researchers, Dr. Malik Peiris, professor of microbiology at Hong Kong University, told CNN on February 8 that regional virus types meant there was a need to look for "broad cross-protection" rather than a single vaccine. Peiris said that while wild birds may contribute to the introduction and spread of bird flu, the perpetuation of the disease was through stocks of domestic poultry. He said no country was fully prepared to combat the disease, which needed to be tracked back and tackled at its source.

Further mutation

So far, all but a handful of cases of human sickness have been caused by direct contact with sick birds, suggesting the virus is unable to move easily among humans. But health officials have warned that with continued exposure to people, the virus could mutate further and develop that ability. While scientists scramble to prepare an effective medical response, the Lowy Institute report primarily looks at the macroeconomic impact of a flu pandemic.

It said there would be four main sets of "shocks" for each scenario: shocks to the labor force (through deaths and dislocation to production); additional supply shocks through increased costs; demand shocks; and risk premium shocks, involving financial flows. In the worst scenario, it said the death toll could reach 28.4 million in China, 24 million in India, 11.4 million in Indonesia, 4.1 million in the Philippines, 2.1 million in Japan, 2.0 million in the United States and 5.6 million in Europe. In the world's least developed countries, the toll could top 33 million.

The study's figure of 142 million possible deaths is similar to an earlier estimate of 150 million deaths by World Health Organization senior official David Nabarro, when he was named as head of the United Nations avian flu response team in September last year. The Lowy Institute study found that East Asian economies would be proportionately more affected than the United States or Europe. In the "ultra" or worst-case scenario, Hong Kong's economy, for example, would shrink by more than 53 percent.

"This is clearly a major economic catastrophe," the report's authors note. "The large scale collapse of Asia causes global trade flows to dry up and capital to flow to safe havens in North America and Europe."

Japan would experience a larger shock than other industrialized economies, but a smaller shock than the rest of East Asia. However, its integration with the collapsing East Asian economies means it would take a further shock through declining trade flows. The authors say a "key part of the story" is the monetary policy response. "Those countries that tend to focus on preventing exchange rate changes are coincidentally the countries that experience the largest epidemiological shocks," they say. "This is particularly true of Hong Kong, which receives the largest shocks and has the most rigid exchange rate regime."

The report concludes that a "large investment of resources" should be dedicated to preventing an outbreak of pandemic influenza. The Lowy Institute report is authored by Prof. Warwick McKibbin, professorial fellow at the institute and Professor of Economics at the Australian National University (ANU); and Dr Alexandra Sidorenko, a research fellow at the ANU's National Center for Epidemiology and Population Health, and adjunct research fellow at the ANU's Australian Center for Economic Research on Health. - CNN

EU Considers Europe-Wide Bird Flu Plan

By ROBERT WIELAARD Associated Press Writer - Feb 20, BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- The EU governments on Monday discussed ways to combat bird flu, including a Europe-wide program to vaccinate poultry, as the lethal H5N1 bird flu virus has spread to six European Union countries.

France - the EU's largest poultry producer - became the latest EU country to report H5N1 cases last week, joining Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy and Slovenia.

In Paris, French Health Minister Xavier Bertrand urged consumers to keep eating poultry - and foie gras - insisting that commercially farmed birds remained safe.

"No farms on our territory are affected" by bird flu, he said on LCI television, adding the only confirmed case in France was a wild duck that died of the H5N1 bird flu virus last week.

Despite governments' efforts to reassure the public that eating cooked poultry remains safe, poultry farmers said consumption has fallen and caused at least hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.

France's chief farmers' union demanded the government free up funds to support poultry producers' efforts to prevent and fight the flu. Outside the EU, bird flu has been confirmed recently in Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. France has already announced it will vaccinate some 900,000 birds. However, there is no specific vaccine available against the lethal H5N1 strain, only generic vaccination.

The EU agriculture ministers discussed the economic impact bird flu and considered if the EU should provide financial or other relief for businesses affected by the falling prices of poultry meat.

Last week, the EU governments boosted measures to prevent the spread of bird flu by announcing stricter precautionary methods for affected areas. They imposed a general EU-wide rule to apply a 6.5-mile quarantine and surveillance zone around suspect or confirmed outbreaks of bird flu either in wild birds or cases found on the farm, and to an additional wider buffer zone, to be determined by national authorities, to better keep a cap on the spread of the virus.

The Netherlands ordered millions of chickens, ducks and turkeys to be kept indoors to reduce the risk of being infected by migrating birds.

EU financial aid is not available for vaccinating poultry as a preventive measure. If bird flu is found in commercial stocks, these stocks must be killed after which a vaccination program would qualify for EU aid, officials said. The EU has extended restrictions on imports of poultry and bird products from Bulgaria, where the H5N1 virus was confirmed over the weekend in wild swans. ll products from wild birds, including eggs, farmed and wild feathered game, and hatching eggs will be banned from entering the EU. Also a regional ban will apply for imports of poultry meat, eggs and products from wild fowl.

Currently, no Bulgarian poultry or poultry products can be imported into the EU due to recent outbreaks of Newcastle disease, another bird illness.

EU officials have said EU rules now do not provide for financial aid for poultry farmers in case bird flu decimates their stocks or prices drop due to falling public confidence as happened during the EU's mad cow scare in the 1990s. - associated press

Germany detects new bird flu cases, culling more poultry

BERLIN, Feb. 21 (Xinhuanet) -- The total number of birds found killed by the H5N1 bird flu virus rose to 103 in northwestern Germany, with another two dozen dead fowls detected carrying the killing virus on Tuesday.

Around 18 dead swans and three geese were the latest victims, said the Institute for Animal Health in Riems, which claimed that the virus might have been spread by swans from Russia. Two of the 103 cases were found outside the Baltic Sea island of Ruegen, where 270 troops and volunteers have been collecting the carcasses. The island on the northern tip of the state of Mecklenberg-WestPomerania was declared a state of emergency on Sunday.

Meanwhile, heavy clouds grounded a Tornado flight set to collect data on spots where dead birds were found. The number of poultry culled as a precaution on the island had reached 2,865 by Tuesday, although no domestic poultry was yet infected with the virus.

Last week, the German government ordered all poultry be kept indoors to keep them from the virus. A spokesman for the Institute for Animal Health in Riems noted that the virus could have been carried by migratory whooper swans from northern Russia, as they usually migrate between countries in northern Europe and the region near the Arctic Circle.

German officials tried to pacify the public by saying that the spread of the virus could be contained and the World Cup to be held in summer would not be affected.

Economics Minister Michael Glos appealed for Germans to remain calm and "not to create an impression of panic," which could have a negative impact on the World Cup. xinhuanet.com

Greece finds 7 more cases of bird flu H5N1

ATHENS, Feb. 21 (Xinhuanet) -- Seven new bird flu cases have been detected in dead wild swans in northern Greece, while the sample taken from a dead swan from Halkidiki and sent to London on Sunday was checked positive for the lethal H5N1 virus.

According to an announcement released on Tuesday, the seven new cases come from regions in the northern prefectures of Halkidiki, Thessaloniki, Pella and Pieria. All the relevant European Union services have been briefed on the issue, while services involved in the issue have already been instructed to take all necessary measures, both national and EU, in these regions.

So far, one wild goose and five swans with the H5N1 strain of the disease that has killed 92 people worldwide have been found in Greece and officials are scrambling to enforce measures to preventa spread to domestic poultry.

Bird hunting has been banned, and owners of poultry in the areas in question have been ordered to shut their flocks indoors.

Greece's nationwide action plan -- called Perseus after the mythological hero that cut off Medusa's head -- has been in force since the first suspect case appeared in October. Although domestic poultry has not been affected, producers said chicken consumption has plummeted and has forced them to kill chicks or deep freeze chickens. Some authoritative body said that chicken consumption in Greece has dropped 80 percent since the first positive case of H5N1. xinhuanet.com

UK rejects vaccine plan as EU debates flu jabs

Feb 21st 2006 - Britain has decided not to implement bird flu vaccinations of poultry flocks as EU countries debated growing demands for immediate inoculations against the disease today.

The UK government has insisted that contingency plans were robust if the virus arrived in the UK. But the controversial vaccination plan was on the agenda at today's meeting of national bird flu experts from the 25 EU member states.

The move was requested by France last week - before the country became the seventh EU country to be affected by the virus - and is backed by the Netherlands.

The British Government is reviewing the idea but it is not recommending the use of vaccines at the moment.

Reasons include the "logistical problems" of delivering the vaccine to large numbers of birds, the fact the vaccine can mask symptoms, and the "ongoing cost" of overseeing flocks, with vaccines needing to be repeated every six months. The Government insisted yesterday that the spread of avian flu to UK shores was "not inevitable" and that its contingency plans were sufficiently robust.

It acknowledged there was a "higher" risk of bird flu coming to Britain after France confirmed a duck it found dead was infected with the lethal H5N1 strain of the virus.

A spokesman for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said last night that the Veterinary Laboratories Agency had confirmed nine swans found dead in England had tested negative for bird flu. The swans were sent for tests over the weekend.

Globally, avian flu has killed 91 people since 2003 - in all cases the victims contracted it from close contact with poultry. But there are concerns the virus could mutate into a form easily passed from human to human, leading to a pandemic which could kill millions worldwide.

Meanwhile, the Tower of London is keeping its famous ravens indoors to protect them from the disease. Special aviaries have been created for the six birds in one of the towers of the fortress on the Thames. Legend has it the tower will collapse and the kingdom will fall if all the ravens leave. - eveningtimes.co.uk

Blair urged stop research cuts

Prime Minister Tony Blair is being urged to intervene to halt plans for huge cuts to a top research establishment. The row centres on the future of the UK's Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) and claims a spending shake up would devastate a "health service" for wildlife.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is calling on the Prime Minister to intervene as the public consultation on the future of the world class network of study centres and scientists reaches a critical stage.

The Natural Environment Research Council meets on March 8 to decide on the fate of the CEH at Monks Wood, Cambridgeshire, Winfrith Dorset, Oxford and Swindon.

Tom Oliver, Head of Rural Policy at the CPRE said: "Will the Prime Minister leave a legacy of a high quality, modern and effective "health service" for our wildlife? Or will he allow the essential network of study bases, world class scientists and their huge experience in "preventive health care" for wildlife to be thrown away? "And just when we need them most. CPRE is calling on the Prime Minister to commit to retaining the CEH and its existing number of field study centres, multi-skilled scientific teams and their long term research programmes which cannot be undertaken effectively by universities".

A decision on the future of the organisation is due on March 8. Tom Oliver added: "Our wildlife faces an ever increasing range of threats, particularly from climate change, pollution and lower river flows.

"The Prime Minister says he cares about the effects of climate change. If he really does, he cannot let the people who are working to understand its effects on wildlife be lost and much of their work abandoned. "This core group of scientists are at the cutting edge of work on the long term effects of climate change and pollution on the health of our cherished birds, animals and plants. Their early warnings on the effects of climate change or pollution are invaluable in saving wildlife from decline. And a Government minister has acknowledged the importance of this work. This is the preventive health service for our wildlife.

"Seeing a rich variety of wildlife when out and about is greatly valued by the English people. Threatening that enjoyment and the sheer survival of many species would be madness. The Prime Minister should show leadership and save this key organisation while he still can." - scotsman

Austria finds H5N1 in chickens, ducks at sanctuary

VIENNA, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Austrian authorities have found the H5N1 bird flu virus in two chickens and three ducks in an animal sanctuary in the southern city of Graz, the regional agriculture ministry said on Wednesday.

While Austria's health ministry said the birds were not part of any commercial stock, the birds are the first case of domestic poultry carrying the H5N1 virus in the European Union, rather than in wild birds such as swans.

The birds had been kept in the same cage as a swan brought to the sanctuary from the area previously hit by the virus, violating regulations imposed after the first occurrence of the virus in Austria, a health ministry spokeswoman said.

The swan had died in the animal sanctuary "Noah's Ark" last week, prompting the slaughter and testing of all 30 birds that had been kept in the sanctuary. - alertnet.org

Thailand bans EU chicken imports

Thailand has banned imports of live poultry from European Union countries hit by the lethal H5N1 bird flu virus.

The 90-day ban applies to seven EU nations including France, Germany and Italy, where the deadly strain has been found in wild birds.

Thailand, which is one of the world's biggest exporters of poultry, imports breeder chickens from Europe. The news came as Austria said that it had found a chicken infected with the virus - the first such case in the EU. Austria's health ministry maintained that its commercial poultry stocks had not been affected by the virus.

Vaccination programme

The Thai ban on EU imports also applies to Bulgaria, Romania, Austria and Slovenia, the country's director of livestock disease control Nirandorn Auengtrakulsuk said. "Because imports from France and Germany are banned, Thai chicken farmers might want to seek breeders from sources that are not affected by the bird flu disease, like Britain," Mr Nirandorn said.

Thailand imported about 1 million breeder chickens between the beginning of January and 17 February, he said.

Mr Nirandorn added that the ban could be lifted within 90 days "if concerned countries can manage to curtail the disease before that".

After two days of talks, EU officials agreed on Wednesday to back plans by France and the Netherlands - the community's two biggest poultry producers - to vaccinate millions of poultry against bird flu. The programme, initially opposed by several countries, will be limited to birds in specific high-risk regions.

The H5N1 strain has killed more than 90 people since late 2003, and devastated poultry farms across Asia. It can be caught by humans who handle infected birds, but is not yet known to have passed from one person to another. BBC

17 villages quarantined in southern Russia following bird flu outbreaks

MOSCOW, Feb. 22 (Xinhuanet) -- Local authorities have quarantined 17 villages in Russia's southern Dagestan province after the deadly H5N1 bird flu strain was identified in three poultry farms,an official confirmed.

All transportation of fowl and poultry products from these affected villages have been banned, said Zaidin Dzambulatov, chief of Dagestan's government veterinary committee.

Access to 10 poultry farms has also been severely restricted, she emphasized.

On Wednesday, local authorities confirmed a third case of H5N1 virus in a Dagestan poultry farm after detecting the virus in two similar farms last week, which were the first confirmed cases of the virus in the Russian Caucasus region.

The region borders Azerbaijan where bird flu cases have been confirmed this month. Neighboring Turkey has also seen 21 cases of the virus being recorded in human beings.

Russia's first H5N1 case was confirmed in Siberia last year, but, to date, no human case has been registered in Russia.

So far at least 90 people have been killed by the human-infecting H5N1 strain around the world.

Experts are still concerned that the virus could mutate into a form, not just transmissible from animals to humans, but between humans, with the potential to lead to a devastating pandemic. xinhuanet.com

Europe calls in the military Reuters PARIS - Europe called in the military and shut chickens in sheds and coops yesterday to halt the spread of deadly bird flu that has reached France and hit poultry sales across the continent.

European Union (EU) commissioners Markos Kyprianou and Josef Proell called in the military and shut chickens in sheds and coops on Monday in a bid to halt the spread of the deadly flu, which has hit poultry sales across the continent, threatening an industry worth €20bn a year.

With European cases so far limited to wild birds, authorities worked to prevent the H5N1 virus infecting the EU's one-billion-strong domestic poultry flock.

French authorities clad in protective suits installed a 3km security zone around the spot near Lyon where an infected duck was found. Veterinarians were busy on Monday checking all birds within the zone.

Birds from other French regions were being tested too, but two suspected cases in the Somme region turned out negative.

The H5N1 strain has now spread to Europe, the Middle East and Africa from Asia. Germany, Italy, Austria and Greece reported their first cases last week.

Germany deployed reconnaissance jets and soldiers in biohazard suits to help control the virus after it was confirmed to have reached the mainland from an initial outbreak on the Baltic island of Ruegen.

H5N1 has devastated poultry stocks and killed at least 93 people, mostly in Asia, since 2003, says the World Health Organisation (WHO).

In Nigeria, WHO spokesman Dick Thompson said the lack of human cases two weeks into an epidemic among poultry had not stopped the alarm bells ringing.

With Africa's first outbreak of the H5N1 virus showing no sign of tailing off, health officials had to stay on the lookout for human infections, he said. With Sapa-AFP - businessday.co.za

Bird flu fever grips London

By Local London Reporter - Wednesday 22nd February 2006

MAYOR of London Ken Livingstone has urged tourists and residents to stop feeding pigeons in the capital to reduce the potential of spreading bird flu in Britain.

Meanwhile, the Tower of London have decided to keep their famous ravens indoors to protect them from the disease, which is quickly spreading across Europe.

Mr Livingstone said: "There is no documented specific threat in Britain at this present time and therefore there is no cause for immediate alarm, but we also have to take all prudent steps to ensure that we do not do anything to encourage or assist diseases spreading.

"Many of London's spaces have very large numbers of feral pigeons, leading in some cases to unpleasant amounts of bird faeces, a problem that needs to go up our agenda. "As a prudent step to discourage the spread of any germs and diseases, not just Avian flu, it makes sense to minimise contact with feral pigeons, which are the bird most in contact with humans in London and which are known already to carry many diseases."

London's wild pigeons, particularly at Trafalgar Square, are famous the world over. A spokesman for the Tower told Reuters that six ravens had been moved from lawns outside the 11th century castle into specially built cages in one of its towers. "Although we don't like having to bring the Tower ravens inside, we believe it is the safest thing to do for their own protection, given the speed that the virus is moving across Europe," said Raven Master Derrick Coyle. "We are taking advice on the vaccinations against Avian Flu, and in the meantime, we will continue to give our six ravens as much care and attention as they need." - this is local london

India seals off 'bird flu town'

feb 23rd 2006 - Officials in India's Maharashtra state have begun sealing off an entire town where bird flu has been discovered. No-one will be allowed in or out of Navapur, which has a population of nearly 30,000, or 19 nearby villages.

The measures come after reports that blood samples from people in hospital have tested positive for bird flu. Health officials deny the reports. Hundreds of thousands of birds are being culled after deadly H5N1 bird flu was found in Navapur last week.

Health Ministry officials say tests on 90 of 95 people for bird flu have proved negative. The other five samples, taken from 12 people who have been quarantined with flu-like symptoms in Maharashtra, are being tested further. Results are expected on Thursday.

"We do not rule out the possibility of humans being affected, and it is a distinct possibility," Health Secretary PK Hota told reporters in Delhi.

'Safe to eat'

Chicken and eggs are off the menu in most parts of India. The country's poultry industry, one of the world's largest, has already been hit with massive losses. On Wednesday, the Indian parliament banned poultry products from its cafeterias. Major airlines, the country's railway service and the army have all taken similar steps.

"We are not cooking poultry dishes but have put extra mutton and fish dishes on the menu," a parliamentary chef told the AFP news agency.

But other government officials are reassuring people that chicken and eggs are safe to eat if cooked properly. Health officials served chicken dishes and ate them in front of the media at a scheduled news briefing on bird flu in the capital, Delhi, on Tuesday.

Slaughter

Teams of health workers have killed hundreds of thousands of birds around the town of Navapur. Reports say the focus has now shifted to cleaning up the area after the mass slaughter. But poultry traders and farmers say they are struggling after a sharp drop in sales.

One trader in the city of Mumbai (Bombay) distributed 2,000 chickens for free on Wednesday in an attempt to dispel fear.

Poultry exporters say they have already suffered more than $45m in losses and say exports have been badly hit, particularly to the Middle East.

The H5N1 virus does not pose a large-scale threat to humans, as it cannot pass easily from one person to another. Experts, however, fear the virus could mutate to gain this ability, and in its new form trigger a flu pandemic, potentially putting millions of human lives at risk. BBC

France seals off turkey farm and slaughters birds

23/02/2006 - French authorities sealed off a turkey farm today that vets suspect may have been infected by the deadly bird flu virus, testing the dead poultry and slaughtering the rest, the Agriculture Ministry said.

If H5N1 is confirmed at the farm, it would be the first time the disease has spread to poultry stocks in France - the European Union's largest poultry producer. The farm with more than 11,000 turkeys is in the same region of southeast France, the Ain, where the country's first two cases of H5N1 bird flu - in two wild ducks - were detected.

The region is dotted with ponds that attract migrant birds and is home to Bresse chickens, famed throughout France for their succulent flesh. A vet who suspected bird flu at the turkey farm raised the alarm this morning after a "high" death rate was observed, the ministry said in a statement. An official at the local prefecture in Bourg-en-Bresse said that up to 90% of the turkeys had died.

Samples from the dead turkeys were sent for laboratory tests. Results were expected tomorrow, the ministry statement added. Surviving birds were being slaughtered this afternoon. The farm's residents were forbidden to leave unless necessary. A system to disinfect vehicles was being set up and protective equipment furnished to the farmer and officials working in the zone, the ministry said.

Hours earlier, the ministry announced the second case of deadly bird flu of the H5N1 strain in a wild duck, found in Bouvent, some 22 miles from the village of Joyeux where the first infected duck was discovered last week.

Special surveillance measures were put in place around Bouvent with protection zones of two and six miles around the site. Among other measures, vehicles were being checked to ensure that no poultry or other captive birds leave the region.

Last week, the French government ordered all domestic birds indoors or, in a few regions, vaccinated in a bid to halt bird flu. Violators could face fines of up to €734.30. Besides dealing with the realities of bird flu, authorities were battling fears that a protracted crisis could devastate the industry. Poultry sales plunged by 25 to 30% since the first case of lethal bird flu was reported last week.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin was actively trying to reassure the French and encourage them to keep eating chicken and other poultry. On a visit yesterday to the Ain region, he was filmed eating chicken and cradling a chick.

"No poultry farms have been affected," Villepin said today just hours before suspicions were raised about the turkey farm. He assured aid to farmers would be forthcoming.

President Jacques Chirac yesterday ordered the government to work to calm consumer fears. - IOL

Containing Outbreak 'Would Only Delay a Flu Pandemic'

SciDev.Net (London) NEWS February 21, 2006 Posted to the web February 23, 2006

By Catherine Brahic

A global flu pandemic cannot be avoided solely by containing an outbreak at its source, because the H5N1 bird flu virus is now so widespread that a form able to spark a pandemic could emerge more than once, say researchers. They say that instead of containment, plans should focus on how to limit the chance of pandemic-forming viruses emerging in the first place.

In a paper published yesterday (20 February) in PLoS Medicine, Marc Lipsitch of the Harvard School of Public Health and colleagues say that, at best, containment would only delay a full pandemic.

Experts believe a pandemic strain of flu could emerge if H5N1 gained the ability to spread between people, either by mutating or by swapping genes with a human flu virus. Lipsitch's team says that if this can happen once, it is just as likely to happen again "the next day or week, nearby or in another country". He explains that if an initial outbreak of a pandemic virus were to be contained, most people would not be exposed to it, and so would not have protective immunity if a second pandemic form emerged.

Containing a pandemic virus at its source would buy some time to prepare for future outbreaks, but not much, so efforts should focus on how to limit the chances of a pandemic-forming virus emerging in the first place, say the researchers.

Lipsitch accepts that drastic measures such as changing how chickens are raised or treated when ill would cost money and disrupt lives, so might only be acceptable to people after a pandemic virus emerges.

Last year, researchers including Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, United Kingdom, said a pandemic might be prevented if its initial outbreak is detected early and anti-flu drugs are distributed rapidly (see Bird flu pandemic 'could be avoided if --').

Ferguson believes that Lipsitch's team's conclusions are based on a common misconception that, with the emergence of H5N1 in Asia, a pandemic is more likely today than it was before. He argues that although a pandemic is inevitable in the long run, nothing indicates it will happen in the next few years, nor that it will be triggered by H5N1. Ferguson told SciDev.Net that if a pandemic does occur this year or next, the chances of another occurring in close succession are slight.

"Put another way, if we succeed in containing a pandemic which started this year, we are likely to buy ourselves at least ten years until the next one."

Ferguson believes that containing an outbreak is critical, particularly for Africa and South Asia, which are unlikely to have access to potential vaccines. "It is the only policy that will protect them, even temporarily," he says, adding that the paper by Lipsitch's team may distract from this goal.

Lipsitch told SciDev.Net that he feels the risk of a flu pandemic has increased recently, largely because more people in Asia can now afford to raise chickens for food. This, he argues, means there is more contact between humans and birds, making the risk of a bird flu virus infecting people and exchanging genes with a human flu virus higher than ever before. - allafrica.com

FAO Says Bird Flu Virtually Unavoidable in Afghanistan

Agencies KABUL, 23 February 2006 - An outbreak of bird flu among birds in Afghanistan is virtually unavoidable, a UN agency warned yesterday, calling for immediate steps to tackle the threat. With cases of the deadly disease detected in neighboring Iran and India, Afghanistan is practically surrounded, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said.

"Today we can say that an outbreak of the disease among birds in Afghanistan is virtually unavoidable," FAO representative Serge Verniau, said in a speech near a lake used by migrating birds on the outskirts of Kabul.

Meanwhile, a bomb fixed to a bicycle struck a convoy of NATO peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan yesterday, killing two people and wounding 13 others including a German soldier, officials said. Police said the bomb exploded near vehicles belonging to the International Security Assistance Force in the center of the northern city of Kunduz.

However, it was unclear if a man riding the bicycle was aware that it was carrying a bomb, Kunduz province police commander Mohammad Razaq told AFP. "The man and a bystander were killed, 12 local people were injured and one ISAF (soldier) was injured," he said. The ISAF headquarters in the capital Kabul said the attack was caused by an improvised explosive device and was not a suicide blast. - arabnews

France starts vaccination programme, virus takes hold in Africa

Mon Feb 27, PARIS (AFP) - French authorities began a limited vaccination programme of ducks and geese against bird flu, as the lethal H5N1 strain made further inroads in Africa and international experts met in Paris to discuss ways of fighting the epidemic.

Health officials in the southwest French department of the Landes started the inoculation of flocks of birds intended for production of foie gras, in an operation that was expected to take several weeks.

Geese on a farm at the village of Classun were the first to receive an injection to the neck containing a vaccine based on the related H5N2 virus. Booster shots are required after four weeks.

Experts see vaccination as a last resort in countries with an advanced level of veterinary organisation. Confinement of domestic fowl, isolation of suspect cases, surveillance and selected slaughter is still the preferred option.

An exception was requested for southwest France because it was deemed impractical to confine the region's large flocks.

On Saturday France became the first European country to report an outbreak of the potentially deadly strain of the bird flu virus in domestic poultry, after hundreds of turkeys succumbed at a farm in the eastern department of Ain.

The commercial repercussions of the outbreak were driven home Monday as the trade ministry in Paris announced that some 20 countries were now banning poultry and foie gras imports from France.

Meanwhile the virus continued its advance into Africa, with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) reporting the first cases in Niger. Nigeria, which was previously the only west African country with the disease, reported that two more states in the north -- Yobe and Nassarawa -- had been hit. A total of 300,000 birds have died or been slaughtered since the virus was detected two weeks ago, officials said.

In Nairobi, Kenyan authorities said 400 dead chickens were being tested for H5N1.

The bird flu virus is carried mainly by wild waterfowl, and with the springtime migration north to Europe imminent, the implications of large-scale African infection are far-reaching. Chief veterinary officers from more than 50 countries in Europe as well as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Iran and Syria started a two-day meeting at the OIE's headquarters in Paris aimed at coordinating their response to the worsening epidemic.

"They will be be hearing country-by-country situation reports, analysing the way the virus is spreading and recommending coordinated measures for detection and control," said OIE spokeswoman Maria Zampaglione.

OIE director-general Bernard Vallat warned that bird flu was transforming from "epidemic to pandemic."

"With the exception of Australia and New Zealand, which are not hit by bird migrations from affected areas, the rest of the world is directly exposed. ... Various clues have raised the fear it could contaminate the American continent," he told France's Le Monde newspaper.

Elsewhere in Europe, Bosnia reported its first cases of H5N1 -- in two migrating swans found dead near the central town of Jajce. Germany reported more flu cases in wild birds and Switzerland said a first case of the broader H5 virus had been detected. A swan in Croatia also died of the disease. Moscow said an outbreak of H5N1 was detected in domestic fowl in the southern Russian region of Stavropol. A case of H5 bird flu was confirmed in domestic poultry in Azerbaijan and tests were being conducted to determine whether it was the H5N1 strain.

Parts of a zoo in Ukraine's southern port city of Odessa were placed in quarantine pending test results after pheasants and parrots began dying last week.

India slaughtered hundreds of thousands of chickens and checked around 90,000 people for bird flu symptoms in the northwestern state of Gujarat as authorities ordered tests on dead birds in Assam in the northeast.

Experts fear that H5N1, which has killed more than 90 people, mostly in Asia, since 2003, may mutate into a form that can pass between humans, launching a pandemic that could kill millions.

Human deaths have been recorded in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Iraq, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam. Some 40 countries have now been hit by the H5N1 strain, which began in east Asia and spread west to Europe and Africa. - news.yahoo.com

Insurers unwilling to cover risks to poultry farmers

By Andrea Felsted, Patrick Jenkins, Martin Arnold and Norma Cohen Published: February 27 2006

Insurers are unlikely to pick up the bill for flocks of poultry decimated by avian flu, according to brokers and insurers.

In the UK, according to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if an outbreak occurred on a farm, the government would compensate farms for healthy birds that needed to be culled, but not diseased ones. It said culling would take place only if there was an outbreak.

A group of Lloyd's insurers have been offering policies that would provide an additional payment, equivalent to 25 per cent of government compensation, if flocks kept indoors had to be destroyed because of an outbreak of avian flu on those premises.

However, Bill White, an insurance broker specialising in livestock risks at Heath Lambert said the insurers had now stopped writing the policies. There had been moderate interest in such policies over the last few years because "up until recently the fear factor was not there".

"The underwriters are taking a pause underwriting new risks while they review the current situation," he said. "There is a lot of confusion in the information being published in the press and in the industry."

The NFU Mutual, which insures about two thirds of the UK's farmers, said it did not provide cover against avian flu. While poultry farmers insured their birds against potential loss from fire, when it came to disease, they would tend to rely on preventative measures rather than insurance cover.

David Foreman, chief underwriting officer at Wellington, a Lloyd's insurer, said that for new livestock policies or renewal of cover, avian flu had been specifically excluded from the conditions under which insurers would pay claims since January 1.

Peter Jackson, consumer product sector leader at Aon in London, said it was also unlikely that farmers would be able to claim for loss of business under policies which reimbursed them in the event of their not being able to trade, because avian flu was regarded as an "extreme outside of the norm" event.

The picture is similar outside the UK.

Robert Hartwig, chief economist for the Insurance Information Institute, a US insurance trade body, said that in the US, insurance tended to be bought to cover only particularly valuable animals. In the event of poultry being destroyed by avian flu, he expected farmers to be reimbursed by the federal government.

In France, where a turkey farm's entire flock was culled after H5N1 was discovered, insurers would leave it to the government to compensate farmers who have their livestock slaughtered.

Groupama, the French insurer with the most farming customers, said that under a 1989 law the government would cover the cost of all livestock deaths – in flocks of poultry or herds of cattle – caused by infectious diseases. The law was introduced during the "mad cow" scare of the 1990s.

Christophe Humann, a Groupama spokesman, said: "Government compensation covers the cost of replacing dead livestock, as well as any equipment that is damaged as a result of the slaughter, and veterinary bills for disinfections."

Mr Humann said the costs of building shelters to comply with government orders to bring poultry indoors because of bird flu was not covered by insurance, however, nor would the loss of revenue or profit because of lower consumer demand due to a health scare.

However, he said the company did provide insurance to cover the costs of withdrawing a product hit by a health scare, which would provide compensation to slaughterhouses, supermarkets and food distribution groups.

Groupama also provides what it describes as a "breeding accident guarantee". That covers the cost of replacing livestock that dies accidentally, such as through suffocation because the animals are confined indoors.

In the UK, some organisers of game shoots have been seeking cover in the insurance market in order to cover losses from having to cancel events. - ft.com/

Deadly bird flu strain reaches Sweden

Staff and agencies - Tuesday February 28, 2006

Bird flu hit a ninth European Union country today with the discovery of two dead ducks in Sweden. The Swedish authorities notified the European commission of confirmed cases of the H5N1 virus in two dead wild ducks. Samples from the birds were dispatched to the EU laboratory in Weybridge, Surrey, for further tests.

A commission spokesman said Sweden had already triggered the obligatory control measures that apply in any member state that finds bird flu, limiting movements of poultry within six miles of the outbreak.

The deadly strain of the virus has now been confirmed in Greece, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Germany, Slovenia, France and Slovakia. Earlier, the government's chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, said he feared bird flu could become endemic in the UK.

"I would anticipate that avian flu will arrive at some point in the UK. We also have to anticipate that it will be here for five years plus. We are talking about the possibility of this disease being endemic here in the UK as it did in China. It is a long-term factor," Sir David told the BBC. He also ruled out the use of the currently available bird flu vaccines in the event of a UK outbreak, but conceded that these may have to be used if the outbreak were widespread. "The Chinese have adopted the position of mass vaccination, and if it became so widespread here, we might have to go down that route, even with the vaccination not being very good," he said. Sir David added that he expected bird flu to reach UK shores within months, rather than days or weeks, owing to the pattern of migratory paths.

Yesterday, he said the existing H5N1 inoculation would mask signs of the virus in birds but not prevent its spread. Rare breeds kept in zoos would be the only birds for which vaccines would be feasible, and the inoculation of organic or free-range birds would not be recommended, he said.

Elsewhere, it was confirmed today that bird flu had infected a cat in Germany in what is the first case of a non-avian mammal infection in Europe.

"We know that mammals can become infected with H5N1," said Maria Cheng, a World Health Organisation spokeswoman. "But we don't know what this means for humans. "We don't know if they would play a role in transmitting the disease. We don't know how much virus the cats would excrete or how much people would need to be exposed to before they would fall ill."

The virus had proved deadly to tigers and snow leopards in a Thai zoo after they were fed chicken carcasses, and big cats had died from H5N1 in Thailand in 2003 and 2004, she added.

"That has been one of the features of H5N1: that it has been able to infect a pretty wide variety of mammals," Ms Cheng said.

In Hungary, another swan found dead north of Budapest tested positive for an H5 type of bird flu, officials said. The country reported its first bird flu cases in three swans earlier this month.

The authorities in Slovenia also said today that EU tests had shown H5N1 in three more dead fowl. The three swans were found dead in the river in Maribor, near the Austrian border.

Slovenia's previous bird flu cases - several swans and a grey heron - were found in the same area, veterinarian officials in Zagreb said.

Nanvy Morgan, an analyst at the UN's food and agriculture agency, said she expected to see poultry "consumption shocks" around the world this year following the spread of bird flu.

Producers in Europe, Africa, the US and Brazil were all having to deal with falling demand and export prices, she said.

The UN agency advised that poultry products, properly cooked at or above 70C throughout, were safe to eat, she added. - guardian.co.uk

German pet owners advised to take precautions after cat dies of bird flu

· Families told to not allow cats in bed at night · Virus discovered for first time in Sweden

Luke Harding in Berlin and Sarah Boseley - Wednesday March 1, 2006 - The Guardian

German officials warned cat owners yesterday not to sleep accompanied by their pets, and to keep them indoors, following confirmation that a cat has died of the H5N1 avian flu virus. The cat was found at the weekend on the Baltic island of Rügen, near to where most of Germany's 121 cases of H5N1-infected wild birds have been found. Tests carried out on the animal by scientists at Germany's Friedrich-Loeffler institute confirmed H5N1, probably from having eaten infected birds.

Thomas Mettenleiter, director of the laboratory, said it was well established that when cats eat infected birds they can themselves become infected. There had been no confirmed cases of the virus moving from cats to humans, he said. "An infection of humans, which theoretically cannot be ruled out, could probably only occur with very intimate contact to infected animals," he said.

The H5N1 virus was first discovered in swans and wild birds in Germany two weeks ago. It appears to be spreading across western Europe.

Bird flu was detected yesterday for the first time in Bavaria in southern Germany, bringing to five the number of German states where the disease has been confirmed. Sweden also reported its first case yesterday.

The World Organisation for Animal Health said: "The spread of the infection to domestic poultry in other European and neighbouring countries is highly likely, and may even be made worse by the arrival in Europe of possibly infected birds from Africa and the Middle East next spring."

Germany's agriculture ministry said last night there was no reason to panic but warned that cat owners in affected areas should keep their pets indoors. Pet owners were advised to keep their cats at arm's length, and not to allow them on to their bed at night.

"It isn't easy for a cat to become infected. This must have happened in very unusual circumstances. Probably the cat ate a highly infectious animal," said Michael Schmidt, a virologist at Berlin's Free University. "It is very rare for an infected animal to infect humans. There have only been about 160 cases so far. Nevertheless, it's best if cat owners avoid taking their cats into their beds. They should keep a distance."

The news caused concern for the cat population in the UK. The British Veterinary Association urged cat owners to remain calm, pointing out that the animals were as yet not at risk, because the virus has not reached the UK.

Freda Scott-Park, president of the BVA, said that the risk to the cat family had been known of since tigers in Thailand had got HSN1 two to three years ago after being fed infected chickens, but vets had not talked about it openly for fear of a backlash against pet cats.

"We have got to be alert to the dangers to our domestic cats. We have been very well aware of it, but we haven't advertised the risks," she said."Already vets are having birds brought in by people saying please put them down in case they get avian flu. There is potentially a welfare problem of enormous proportions looming."

There is no vaccine to protect cats against flu, and unlikely to be one, because expensive clinical trials would have to be done to establish its effectiveness.

Avian flu does not transmit easily to humans. Those people who have caught H5N1 have handled sick birds. It has long been thought that, for the feared pandemic to occur, there would have to be a mixing of the avian flu virus with a human flu virus. That might well take place in another mammal.

A number of mammals are already known to get flu - the mouse family, rabbits, hares, ferrets, pigs, cats and macaque monkeys - as well as humans. But, said Dr Scott-Park, "current strains of the virus appear to be inefficient at infecting non-human species".

Of all the mammals that get flu, the most likely "mixing vessel" is not the cat, she said, but the pig. "Pigs are a superb mixing vessel, because they manufacture virus at a rate of knots," she said. "Pigs are a virus factory." They are also biologically similar to humans.

It was not clear last night whether the dead cat succumbed to the same strain of H5N1 which has already devastated poultry stocks across Asia and Turkey and has killed more than 160 people. - guardian.co.uk

FIFA chief warns of bird flu threat to World Cup finals

ALLAN HALLIN BERLIN

THE World Cup might be cancelled because of bird flu, football's top official warned yesterday.

Sepp Blatter, the president of the sport's governing body FIFA, said the tournament could be called off if bird flu starts to be transmitted from human to human.

That would be a devastating blow to World Cup host Germany, which has outbreaks of the virus in five states. Health officials fear the possibility of the virus being passed between humans, especially after it was confirmed on Tuesday that the lethal H5N1 strain has killed a cat in Germany - the first such case in the European Union.

If the virus mutates, the prospect of thousands of fans coughing and breathing over one another in packed football stadiums when the World Cup starts in 99 days would present a health nightmare for Europe. Under this scenario, experts estimate that thousands would die and the health services of Germany and its immediate neighbours would be overwhelmed, forcing major events to be cancelled.

When Britain was hit by foot-and-mouth disease, a series of sporting events was cancelled and the 2001 Six Nations rugby championships were disrupted by travel restrictions.

Mr Blatter said a flu pandemic could lead to the tournament being called off. "At the moment, there's no question of cancelling," he said. "But if it should turn out that bird flu develops into a threat, like cholera or the plague, if it passes on from human to human, it is a decision for the government and we must respect that."

The dead cat was found on the Baltic island of Ruegen, where the highly pathogenic form of H5N1 bird flu was detected in mid-February. Cats and a tiger were first infected with bird flu in Asia in 2004 after the outbreak of the deadly form in 2003. Experts warn that pets may have to be kept indoors to avoid them eating dead birds carrying H5N1 and becoming carriers.

Meanwhile, there are growing signs of falling consumer confidence in poultry as bird flu fears grow. Some 57 per cent of respondents to a Food Standards Agency survey said they were worried about the safety of chicken meat, up 6 per cent on last year.

A warning was also issued yesterday that fears of bird flu arriving in the UK are destroying the hobby of poultry-keeping. Fabian Eagle, based near Swaffham, Norfolk, said poultry prices had dropped by up to a quarter in recent weeks.

"It's dire. The value of stock is just collapsing," he said. "The idea of keeping a few chickens as a hobby has become very fashionable in recent years. But people don't want to do it now. All they want to do is get rid of them." - scotsman.com

Paris worried as 43 countries ban French poultry

PARIS, March 1 (Reuters) - The number of countries outside the European Union which have banned or restricted French poultry imports on bird flu fears has risen to 43, French Trade Minister Christine Lagarde said on Wednesday. This sharp rise over a matter of days is worrying Paris which is now asking governments to limit the bans to the region of France infected by the deadly strain of bird flu.

France last week discovered the H5N1 virus, which has killed 93 people since 2003, in a turkey farm in eastern France, the first case at a farm in the European Union.

Since then 43 countries outside the 25-member bloc, including Japan, Brazil, Canada, Thailand and Australia, have imposed curbs on French poultry products, including foie gras. Some of them, such as the United States, are banning poultry products only from the Ain department where the virus was found.

"The United States have imposed a ban but they did it in a partial way by only banning poultry from the Ain department. This seems legitimate," Lagarde told French TV France 2. She added that French diplomats in restricting countries were "on alert" to explain the situation to local authorities and ask them to limit their embargo to the infected region.

French Agriculture Minister Dominique Bussereau said on Tuesday he was worried by the rise in bans which at that time involved 20 countries and 12 percent of French poultry exports.

Officials estimate annual French poultry exports outside the European Union to be worth 400 million euros ($474 million).

Under EU rules, poultry meat, eggs and products from the zones set up around a bird flu infection site are blocked from the market, except for certain products that meet stringent conditions, such as heat-treated meat.

Trade in the same products from unaffected parts of the country may continue. - reuters

Bahamas Bird Flu Testing Prompts U.S. to Triple Drug Stockpile

March 2 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. more than tripled its national flu medication stockpiles as the Bahamas, 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Florida, tested whether dead birds found there carried the Western Hemisphere's first cases of avian influenza.

The U.S. government yesterday ordered 12.4 million courses of the flu treatment Tamiflu from Roche Holding AG and 1.75 million of Relenza from GlaxoSmithKline Plc, raising the country's National Strategic Stockpile to almost 20 million courses of treatment, the Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said.

China may have culled about 6,000 chickens on a farm in the southern province of Guangdong after as many died of an undetermined cause. China's Ministry of Agriculture ordered the farm, near the city of Guangzhou, to destroy all its remaining chickens while an investigation takes place, the Hong Kong-based newspaper Apple Daily reported today. The outbreak would be China's second in poultry since the beginning of February.

Bird flu has spread, most likely through the movement of migratory birds as winter ends, to at least 14 countries since the beginning of February. The H5N1 bird virus has been found in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa. Test results from the Bahamian birds may be ready in four days.

The virus has infected 174 people since late 2003, mainly through contact with birds. At least 94 of those patients have died, and researchers say if H5N1 gains the ability to spread quickly among people it could touch off a lethal, worldwide epidemic, or pandemic.

Health Concern

``The recent appearance of the virus in birds in a rapidly growing number of countries is of public health concern, as it expands opportunities for human exposures and infections to occur,'' the World Health Organization said on its Web site.

President George W. Bush's pandemic readiness plan calls for health officials to buy enough Tamiflu to treat one in four Americans, or about 75 million people.

Canadian food authorities quarantined the eight Quebec poultry farms that imported live ducks and hatching eggs from France, and collected samples from the farms for testing, the Canadian Press reported yesterday, citing the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Canada has banned all live birds from France, the first European Union country to find bird flu, the Press said.

German health authorities last weekend found the body of a bird flu-infected cat on the Baltic Sea island of Ruegen, where the country's first cases of the virus were detected. There is no evidence that bird flu infections in domestic cats aid the spread of H5N1 to humans, the WHO said.

An Indonesian boy hospitalized with bird flu symptoms died, doctors in Jakarta said yesterday. - bloomberg.com

China sees 9th bird flu death, Baku fears Europe's first victims

Sun Mar 5, 3:10 PM ET HONG KONG (AFP) - China confirmed that a ninth person had died from bird flu, state media reported, while Azerbaijan said it was checking if two children may have died from the illness.

As the inexorable spread of the disease continued -- with France, Germany, Greece, Poland, Romania and Switzerland all announcing new confirmed or suspected cases in birds -- authorities in Europe, Asia and Africa stepped up measures to prevent a pandemic.

Hong Kong, which borders the province of Guangdong where the latest Chinese fatality occurred, slapped a ban on imports of poultry and other birds from Guangdong.

Poland and France imposed hygiene safety defences around new infected areas and Nigeria promised neighbouring Niger equipment and training to stem the virus' advance.

Exports for the World Health Organisation, which last week warned the world was "closer to another influenza pandemic than at any time since 1968", are due to meet in Geneva on Monday to work out a rapid response system to stop the virus becoming a pandemic and killing millions of people.

The latest death in China brings to 95 the number of people reported to have died from bird flu since 2003 -- all of them in Asia except for four in Turkey and two in Iraq. China's health ministry said a 32-year-old man who had frequented poultry markets had succumbed to bird flu in Guangdong, the first case in the province, the official Xinhua news agency reported. Hours later Hong Kong -- which suffered the world's first reported major bird flu outbreak among humans in 1997, when six people died -- suspended imports of live poultry and pet birds from Guandong for three weeks.

On the other side of the world, Azerbaijan said it was checking samples from two children who died in the Asian part of the country. If confirmed, Azerbaijan would be the second country that straddles Europe and Asia to have human victims. Tests were also being conducted on four of their relatives, who are in hospital.

"They all lived in a village and had direct contact with poultry," a health ministry spokeswoman told AFP.

Further west, the veterinary service in Poland said a dead swan found in the city of Torun "probably" had the highly pathogenic strain of H5N1. The European Union reference laboratory in Britain is to check samples, which if positive, would signal Poland's first case of the bird flu variant that can kill humans. Warsaw, which has been on high alert since cases of the virus were detected in neighbouring Germany and Slovakia, introduced a protection zone and traffic restrictions in Torun and urged the public not to panic.

Elsewhere Greece confirmed four more cases of highly pathogenic H5N1 in wild birds and France confirmed two, one of them in a previously unaffected region near Marseilles. Europe's largest poultry producer has now reported more than 30 incidences of virulent H5N1, prompting the Paris government to announce the allocation from Monday of 52 million euros (63 million dollars) in aid to poultry farmers. The latter's produce has now been totally or partially banned by 46 countries.

Berlin said it was checking a suspected new case in a wild goose, which could bring to six the number of German states affected by virulent H5N1.

Switzerland said it was testing four wild geese and Romania, the European country worst hit by the virus, announced another suspected death in poultry.

In Africa, where bird flu has been discovered in Nigeria, neighbouring Niger and Egypt, Nigeria promised protective equipment for Niger's three-billion euro emergency eradication plan. This came a day after the World Bank pledged financial aid to the impoverished state.

The worst fear is that the virus will mutate into a strain of bird flu that could be transmitted easily between humans and trigger a global pandemic. Experts meet at the WHO in Geneva on Monday and Tuesday to agree on an global system for detecting mutations and acting to head off a health catastrophe. Specialists from five countries near the Black Sea will, at the same time, meet in Romania to thrash out a regional cooperation plan. - Yahoo News

Bird flu kills 10th person in China

Big News Network.com Wednesday 8th March, 2006 (UPI)

China reported its 10th death from avian flu Wednesday, with a 9-year-old girl dying from the H5N1 virus in eastern China.

The state Xinhua news agency said the girl did not respond to medical treatment and died Monday night in Zhejiang province.

No information was given on how she contracted the virus.

Provincial officials told the news agency no bird flu outbreak in poultry or new suspected human case has been found.

There have been 15 cases of human infections in China so far, with five people surviving.

Globally, 175 human cases that include 95 deaths have been reported to the World Health Organization.

The disease first appeared in Southeast Asia in 2001, and has spread through migratory birds through Asia and into Europe. - bignewsnetwork

Possible bird flu hospitalizes Belgian

Big News Network.com Wednesday 8th March, 2006 (UPI)

A Belgian man has been admitted to a Brussels hospital with a possible case of the H5N1 bird flu.

The man had returned to Belgium Sunday from a trip to China, Expatica quotes the Belgian news agency Belga as reporting.

Health Ministry officials were quick to tell the public that the man had a possible case of bird flu, not a probable one.

The Brussels man visited rural areas, markets and companies while in China, Expatica said.

He was admitted to the Brussels hospital Monday afternoon with flu-like symptoms, including high fever and headaches. - bignewsnetwork

Bird flu discovered in Sweden

Big News Network.com Wednesday 8th March, 2006 (UPI)

Bird flu has been found in four birds in eastern Sweden, the Swedish Board of Agriculture reports.

Three tufted ducks were discovered with the deadly avian flu virus in Oxelosund, south of Stockholm, The Local said. Another infected bird, a greater scaup, was found in Karlskrona, in the far south of Sweden.

The board said in a statement that more infected birds were likely to be found elsewhere in the country, The Local said.

A police patrol, together with an ornithologist and local officials, inspected the Stumholmen area of central Karlskrona Wednesday morning.

The island of Stumholmen is a mainly residential area, with a nursery school and the Maritime Museum, The Local said. No parts of the town have been sealed off as yet.

The H5N1 strain of the virus first arrived in Europe in October, when it was diagnosed in birds in Turkey and Romania.

The World Health Organization reports that 94 people have died of the virus so far, the majority in Asia. - bignewsnetwork

U.S. officials to expand bird flu testing

Big News Network.com Wednesday 8th March, 2006 (UPI)

Federal officials, worried migrating birds might bring bird flu to North America, reportedly plan to significantly increase testing of wild birds.

Beginning next month, nearly eight times as many wild birds will be tested as have previously been studied, USA Today reported Wednesday. As many as 100,000 birds will be tested -- up from the 12,000 birds examined since 1996, the United State Department of Agriculture said.

Officials said the expanded program reflects growing concern the deadly H5N1 avian flu virus that has spread across Asia and much of Europe will be carried into the western continental United States by fall.

The virus was discovered in China in 1996 and moved into people for the first time in Hong Kong a year later. It now has been reported in 39 nations, infecting at least 175 people since December 2003, USA Today said.

Scientists say the virus doesn't have the ability to spread easily from person to person. If that happens, it could start a pandemic. - bignewsnetwork

Bird flu kills Indonesia children

10th March 2006 - Two Indonesian children have become the latest victims of bird flu, raising the country's death toll to 22. The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that a 12-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy had died from the H5N1 virus, the health ministry said. The girl died in the town of Solo and the boy at a hospital in Semarang, both in Central Java province. Both children were said to have been in contact with sick chickens before they became ill.

'Rapid diagnosis'

Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari told reporters more would be done to protect people from the disease. "We will carry out intensive rapid diagnosis of patients suspected of having the disease," she said.

She pledged more supplies of the antiviral Tamiflu drug for health centres, the Associated Press news agency reported.

The virus has been found in birds in 26 of Indonesia's 33 provinces, she said.

More than 90 people have now died of the H5N1 strain of bird flu since 2003. The vast majority of the deaths have been in Asia, but cases in people and birds have also been recorded in Europe and Africa. Almost all the deaths have been linked to contact with infected poultry. Experts fear the virus could combine or mutate into a form that passes easily between humans, possibly sparking a pandemic, but there is no evidence that this has happened yet. - BBC

Russia launches bird vaccinations

10th March 2006 - Russia has begun the mass vaccination of poultry to try to stop the spread of the lethal H5N1 bird flu virus. Millions of vaccines have already been delivered to provinces in southern Russia - a region believed to be most vulnerable to the virus. The virus is blamed for nearly a million poultry deaths in Russia.

France and the Netherlands have been given permission by the EU to vaccinate fowl against the virus - a policy some experts have criticised as dangerous.

Critics say the vaccine does not offer birds complete protection from the disease and could, in effect, mask its spread among flocks - raising the risk that it could ultimately infect humans.

They also point out it is highly expensive.

However, many farmers' associations and vets have called for an EU-wide vaccination policy.

Millions of birds and scores of people have died from the H5N1 virus. The virus has so far only infected people who have come into direct contact with diseased fowl - but experts fear a mutant form of the virus may trigger a pandemic among humans.

'Fake vaccines'

The mass vaccination of Russian birds has already started in the southern republics of Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkaria, Russian TV reports. The programme is initially focusing on delivering the vaccine to farms that are near ponds and waterways frequented by migratory birds. Officials are quoted as saying the project will be completed by July. The vaccine is being given free to domestic fowl. Officials in the southern Krasnodar region have warned farmers against criminals who have reportedly been posing as vets and selling fake vaccines.

Several governments across Europe have urged farmers to confine their poultry indoors to reduce the risk of infection. - BBC

IMF warns of economic blow from bird flu pandemic

By Lesley Wroughton - WASHINGTON, March 13 (Reuters) - A deadly bird flu pandemic is likely to deal a sharp blow to the global economy with widespread disruptions in work places, trade and payment systems and could prompt a surge in demand for cash, the International Monetary Fund warned on Monday.

"If the pandemic is severe, the economic impact is likely to be significant, though predictions are subject to a high degree of uncertainty," the IMF said in an initial assessment of risks associated with a bird flu pandemic if it were to spread from person to person. Currently, bird flu has been proven to spread only from birds to humans. "Once the pandemic has run its course, economic activity should recover relatively quickly," the global lender said.

The H5N1 strain of the deadly bird flu virus has spread into Europe, Africa and resurfaced in Asia. The World Health Organization has confirmed that 176 people have been infected with bird flu around the world since 2003, and 98 have died, and Azerbaijan said on Monday that three people have died there of bird flu. So far, the virus remains in birds, but experts fear it could change into a form easily transmitted from person to person and sweep the world, killing millions.

The IMF said its assessment was aimed at helping its 184 member countries prepare for a possible pandemic. The IMF said the biggest disruption would come from high absenteeism levels in the work place, as people stayed home to deal with infections or to avoid them. It also warned that trade, transportation and tourism would be affected as countries restricted exports to control the spread of the virus.

The fund said net capital flows to emerging markets may be temporarily reduced and some governments may be forced to draw on their reserves to ease pressure on their budgets. It said capital flows would be affected "as a result of some combination of possible operational disruptions in the financial systems, loss of confidence in more vulnerable countries, and abrupt shifts in risk preferences." Commodity prices could also decline mainly due to weaker demand, the fund said, also cautioning there could be supply disruptions for key commodities such as oil.

"Although these effects are likely to be temporary, asset price declines could put the balance sheets of some financial institutions under stress and they may face challenges in meeting regulatory norms," the IMF said. "Market operations could become more disorderly in the case of a breakdown in the trading infrastructure, leading to limited or intermittent trading," it added.

The fund said increased spending by governments on health and public safety would likely put pressure on fiscal balances and monetary policy may need to be eased temporarily. "In response, allowing a temporary easing in the fiscal stance would be appropriate in most cases," it said, adding that central banks should ensure they have enough cash to deal with a possible surge in liquidity demand and "shock-related" price increases.

Sandy Mackenzie, assistant director in the IMF's research department, said in a conference call with reporters it was difficult to forecast the impact of a bird flu pandemic on global gross domestic product. Still, he said stable countries could encounter a sharp but short-lived impact on GDP from a severe pandemic.

"GDP might drop very sharply in one quarter and then rebound the next," he said. "The sharp decline would be due to the fact that rates of absenteeism and illness between them would reduce the labor force and labor time substantially."

Asked if there had been any impact to the global economy since the 2003 bird flu outbreak, Mackenzie said the biggest impact was to the poultry industry of certain countries amid mass culling of birds.

"The impact is not great enough as yet to register on GDP," he said, adding that governments and businesses were not all prepared to deal with a possible pandemic, especially in the world's poorest countries. - reuters.com

Scientists ponder bird flu findings

Big News Network.com - Monday 13th March, 2006

Avian flu fears have scientists trying to determine how bird flu spreads and one Italian researcher is sharing that information should be given to the public.

The dilemma is apparently as widespread as are fears of a pandemic. The World Health Organization urges nations to share bird-flu data but limits access to its database concerning avian flu. That database reportedly contains 2,300 genetic sequences of the virus -- approximately one-third of the world's known sequences, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

But Italian scientist Ilaria Capua, director of the Italian Veterinary Institute, has ignored the WHO.

Capua, last month, received a sample from Nigerian officials of the virus that caused the first confirmed case of bird flu in Africa. Instead of entering the information into the secret WHO's database, as WHO officials urged her to do, Capua posted the data on the Internet.

Capua's action has spurred a controversy in the scientific community, but she says one person who supports her action is Nancy Cox, chief of the influenza branch of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Capua says she received a personal note from Cox that said, I applaud your decision. bignewsnetwork

Azeri deaths to take bird flu toll past 100

Tue Mar 14, 2006 By Rufat Abbasov and Lada Yevgrashina - BAKU (Reuters) - Avian flu was thought to have claimed another three lives in Azerbaijan, taking the death toll from the virus beyond 100, while secretive Myanmar on Tuesday tackled its first outbreak in birds.

The Azeri victims, who died earlier this month, fell ill after contact with sick birds and were not thought to have infected each other, local health officials said.

Azerbaijan, which lies on a crossroads between Asia and Europe, reported its first bird flu deaths overnight, citing results from tests at a mobile laboratory borrowed from a U.S. Naval facility in Cairo.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said it believed the tests were reliable, adding it awaited results from a British laboratory before confirming the H5N1 virus was to blame. While it remains mostly a disease of poultry, bird flu can occasionally infect humans and has previously killed at least 98 people in seven countries in Asia and the Middle East.

Scientists fear it is only a matter of time before the H5N1 virus mutates into a form that passes easily among people, triggering a pandemic which could kill millions and cripple the global economy.

Local officials said they believed the Azeri victims contracted the virus from sick birds. "The (deceased) fell ill as a result of contact with birds," said Shyakar Babayeva, head nurse at the Lung Disease Research Institute in the capital, Baku, where they were treated."I do not believe the virus passed from human to human," she told Reuters. Azerbaijan is located on the Caspian Sea, sandwiched between Russia and Iran. It also shares a border with Turkey where four children died from bird flu in January.The three victims were from a village in the Salyan region, in the south of the country near the Caspian Sea coast. Details were sketchy, but local media said two of them were teenagers, a girl of 17 and a boy aged 16. It was not clear if all three victims came from the same family.

In recent weeks, bird flu has spread deep into Europe, taken hold in Africa and flared anew in Asia, adding urgency to efforts to contain its spread and prevent a pandemic.

MYANMAR, AFGHANISTAN

International agencies are rushing protection suits and testing kits to Myanmar as the secretive Asian country battles its first outbreak of bird flu.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) agreed to send $40,000 worth of equipment to help the former Burma contain the outbreak on a farm in the central Mandalay region. "The situation is under control. The FAO and other agencies are helping us," Than Daing, deputy director general of the Livestock Breeding & Veterinary Department, told Reuters.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai told his people to avoid touching chickens as the country awaited test results to determine if bird flu found in five chickens is the H5N1 strain. "Don't touch chickens at the moment, until this virus is finished," Karzai told farmers at an agriculture meeting in Kabul.

There is concern that Afghanistan, with weak veterinary and health sectors after decades of war, will struggle to contain an outbreak. - reuters

Bird flu detected in Jalgaon

No case of human infection, says Health Ministry

Health card

Around 700 birds reported dead.

Most deaths reported from backyard poultry farms.

75,000 more birds to be culled.

Mumbai , March 14 - An outbreak of avian influenza was reported on Tuesday from Jalgaon in Maharashtra. According to a senior State official around 700 birds have died with some samples testing positive for bird flu. "Tests confirmed that it is the H5N1 strain of bird flu,'' Dr Vijay Satbir Singh, Secretary, Public Health Department, Maharashtra Government, said.

It could not be confirmed if all the deaths were due to bird flu.

Dr Singh said there were a large number of birds in the region, an area of 1,200 sq kms. Major deaths have been reported from Marul village in Yaval taluka of Jalgaon, in the northern part of the State. There have been some deaths at Dharangaon and Chopda taluka of the district as well.

"Most of the deaths have been reported from backyard poultry farms,'' Dr Singh said. He along with the State Chief Secretary would be travelling to Jalgaon on Wednesday to make an assessment of the situation. The outbreak of avian influenza in the country was reported earlier from the Navapur area of Nandurbar district in the State. Following this, the State Government had culled a total of 64,858 backyard poultry and 2,53,063 farm poultry birds; destroyed 14.47 lakh eggs and 1,09,040 kgs of feed.

Outbreak

After efforts to contain the outbreak, the Central Government had just reinstated chicken on the menu of the Defence services, railways and airlines. It had also issued advertisements about the safety of eating well-cooked chicken. The poultry industry, severely impacted by this crisis, had begun recovering and as late as Tuesday morning industry officials were expressing optimism of things getting back on track. Given the Jalgaon episode, that recovery process may get delayed.

Our Delhi Bureau adds - The Health Ministry today said that some cases of bird flu have been detected in four villages of Jalgaon district in Maharashtra, but added that there has been no case of human infection.

Speaking in the Lok Sabha, the Agriculture Minister, Mr Sharad Pawar, said that information had been received that some birds had died in the four villages, including Hate and Salve, in Jalgaon district.

Tests have confirmed that dead birds had been affected by avian flu, the Minister said while replying to a debate on Demands for Grants for the Agriculture Ministry.

Ms Upma Chawdhry, Joint Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry, said: "We have decided to cull 75,000 birds following confirmation of bird flu cases."

Response teams

She added that 50 rapid response teams would be deployed to monitor and provide assistance in the areas around Jalgaon; the quarantine area is spread over 1,250 sq km.

Meanwhile, Mr Vineet Chawdhry, Joint Secretary, Health Ministry, said that so far there have been no reports of human infection. All the 11 persons who had been quarantined were discharged by March 3, while about 70,000 persons living around the villages have been screened and cleared.

Tamiflu stockpiled

The Government already has stockpiled seven lakh units of Tamiflu, the drug used to treat bird flu infection. Mr Chawdhry said that both Hetero Drugs and Cipla have assured that they are in a position to supply the drugs within 48 hours. Mr Pawar had earlier said that the agriculture industry had lost Rs 200 crore a day on account of the bird flu scare. The Government had decided to provide relief to farmers through rescheduling of term loans and replenishment of working capital at the earliest. -0 hindu business line

Managing disasters

The poultry industry last week received yet another reminder of how, in spite of a surface normality in our everyday lives, we are never far from a calamity. If you were in the business of raising, selling or cooking chicken or eggs, financial ruin would have stared you in the face. Who would have imagined that in a matter of days a scare such as the Avian flu virus, which was almost baseless where most parts of India were concerned, would wipe out the livelihood of several hundred thousands?

Loss of livelihood

On the eastern side of Western Ghats, in Tamil Nadu alone, the poultry industry is reportedly growing at over four million birds in an average week and valued annually at around Rs 1,300 crore. As an immediate reaction to the reports of bird deaths, the government announced culling of birds only within a ten-kilometre radius of the affected areas in Maharashtra; yet the ripple effect of this crippled the trade in many states far away.

Many destroyed eggs before they could hatch because the losses would have been greater otherwise. The average price fell from Rs 41 to Rs 11 a kg of meat. Now comes the suggestion that there may well have been vested interests in the drug industry in America pushing the vaccine Tamiflu and wanting to drum up support for their case.

A cautious approach

According to presented facts and figures, the virus, if it has indeed spread, has been relatively innocuous compared to several other major causes of human fatalities worldwide. One estimate has it that the damage has been limited to some 90 deaths. Surely, this does not qualify the flu virus to be called an epidemic, in the same breath as malaria or AIDS? The lesson for the government is one of more mature and cautious approach to disaster management.

By allowing the scare to snowball the way it did, the livelihoods of thousands of traders and farmers have been wiped out.

Some say, the media played their role in killing the earnings of poultry farmers, traders, retailers, companies, vaccine manufactures, maize and soya growers.

Lessons for managers

There are lessons in this for managers in general too. When you have everyone losing their heads around you, it pays to keep your cool and look at the data carefully, and then plan the damage limitation exercises and disseminate information accurately, clearly and quickly.

In one case, a well-known club of Chennai immediately circularised all its members on the steps being taken and clearly showed that with proper care as to the cooking temperatures recommended and practised always, there was no question of any virus spreading to humans, quite apart from the fact that there was not even one case reported in this State.

In this instance, one industry senior manager has pointed out that as selling is not a national level activity, unlike packaged products, and it is predominantly rural and confined to regions, the business could easily be demarcated into four-five natural zones of contiguous producing and consuming States. This would avoid future damage even if any such scare does arise.

S. Ramachander

Bird Flu Plans Require $30.5 Mln More for 2007, U.S. FDA Says

March 14 (Bloomberg) -- The Food and Drug Administration's request for $30.5 million more next year to prepare for a flu pandemic would help speed development of tests, vaccines and treatments, agency chief Andrew von Eschenbach said.

The FDA also would use the money to increase vaccine manufacturing capacity and lengthen the shelf life of treatments for the influenza virus now circulating in birds, von Eschenbach told a U.S. Senate subcommittee at a hearing in Washington today. Von Eschenbach briefed the panel on the agency's requests, included in President George W. Bush's $2.77 trillion budget proposal for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

``We are in a race,'' von Eschenbach said. ``We are in a race with regard to our ability to mobilize and prepare all the appropriate interventions and solutions that would be necessary to deal with an avian flu outbreak.''

The increased funding would give the FDA $55.3 million for fiscal 2007 to prepare for the possibility that the H5N1 virus will mutate into a form that spreads easily among humans, causing a pandemic. Since late 2003, 177 people have caught the illness mostly through contact with birds, and 98 of them have died. Birds infected with the virus may arrive in the U.S. within six months, a World Health Organization official said March 8.

In addition to increased funding for pandemic flu preparations, the FDA also is asking for $20.3 million more to cover cost-of-living increases in salaries, $19.9 million to protect the nation's food supply from bioterrorism, and $5.9 million to improve the process of approving medicines tailored to individual patients.

Under Bush's proposal for fiscal 2007, the agency's budget would increase 3.8 percent to $1.95 billion. - Bloomberg

Officials say Azeri dog dies of bird flu

Wed Mar 15, 2006 BAKU (Reuters) - A dog has died of bird flu in Azerbaijan, a country where the virus is believed to have caused the death of three young women, officials said on Wednesday.

"A dead stray dog has been found, and after analysis type A bird flu was discovered. The medical investigation is continuing," said a statement from the state commission tasked with fighting the spread of bird flu. It said the dog died on March 9 in the capital Baku. - reuters.com

Renowned Bird Flu Expert Warns: Be Prepared

There Are "About Even Odds" That the Virus Could Mutate to an Easily Transmitted Form, He Tells 'World News Tonight'

By JIM AVILA and MEREDITH RAMSEY ABCNEWS March 14, 2006 - Robert G. Webster is one of the few bird flu experts confident enough to answer the key question: Will the avian flu switch from posing a terrible hazard to birds to becoming a real threat to humans?

There are "about even odds at this time for the virus to learn how to transmit human to human," he told ABC's "World News Tonight." Webster, the Rosemary Thomas Chair at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., is credited as the first scientist to find the link between human flu and bird flu.

Webster and his team of scientists are working to find a way to beat the virus if it morphs. He has even been dubbed the Flu Hunter.

Right now, H5N1, a type of avian influenza virus, has confined itself to birds. It can be transmitted from bird to human but only by direct contact with the droppings and excretions of infected birds.

But viruses mutate, and the big fear among the world's scientists is that the bird flu virus will join the human flu virus, change its genetic code and emerge as a new and deadly flu that can spread through the air from human to human.

If the virus does mutate, it does not necessarily mean it will be as deadly to people as it is to birds. But experts such as Webster say they must prepare for the worst.

"I personally believe it will happen and make personal preparations," said Webster, who has stored a three-month supply of food and water at his home in case of an outbreak.

Frightening Warning

"Society just can't accept the idea that 50 percent of the population could die. And I think we have to face that possibility," Webster said. "I'm sorry if I'm making people a little frightened, but I feel it's my role."

Most scientists won't put it that bluntly, but many acknowledge that Webster could be right about the flu becoming transmissible among humans, even though they believe the 50 percent figure could be too high.

Researcher Dr. Anne Moscona at New York Weill Cornell Medical Center said that a human form may not mutate this year or next - or ever - but it would be foolish to ignore the dire consequences if it did.

"If bird flu becomes not bird flu but mutates into a form that can be transmitted between humans, we could then have a spread like wildfire across the globe," Moscona said.

No one knows how long or how many mutation changes it would take for bird flu to become a direct threat to humans.

"It may not do it. There may just be too many changes. The virus may not be able to be a human virus," Moscona said.

But that hasn't stopped Moscona from searching for new types of anti-viral treatments that both prevent and slow the spread of bird flu.

"I don't think that once we have human-to-human transmission, it's going to be possible to contain it," she said.

That is why nearly every viral scientist in America, perhaps the world, is waiting and watching the avian flu virus to see if it remains just a threat to birds or changes its genetic code and becomes a deadly threat to humans as well. - ABC News

Global bird flu threat fears grow

16/03/2006 - Burma and India have announced culls of thousands of poultry to curb the spread of bird flu, while Sweden has confirmed its first cases of the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus in two wild birds.

Afghan authorities, meanwhile, said yesterday that preliminary test results from a UN lab left them "99 percent certain" that the country's first bird flu outbreak was the deadly H5N1 strain.

Further tests at the lab in Rome were expected to confirm the outbreak, said Mustafa Zahir, the director of the government's environment department.

Concerns over the global spread of bird flu were heightened again this week when the Caucasus nation of Azerbaijan reported three people killed by the virus. It also has killed 98 other people in Asia, the Middle East and Turkey since 2003, according to the World Health Organisation.

Though human infections so far generally have been traced to direct contact with sick birds and not other people, WHO is worried the virus could mutate into form that easily spreads among people. The more regions affected, the higher the chance of this, experts say.

The virus has killed or prompted the culling of more than 140 million chickens and ducks across Asia since 2003, and has recently spread to Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

A European Union laboratory confirmed that two wild ducks found infected with an H5 subtype of bird flu in south-eastern Sweden were infected with H5N1, Sweden's National Board of Agriculture said Wednesday.

In Southeast Asia, Burma said yesterday that that it has culled 5,000 birds in a three-kilometre (two-mile radius) of a farm where the country's first case of H5N1 was detected last week.

It also banned the sale of chicken and eggs near the property where 112 chickens died, in the city of Mandalay, according to the Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department.

North Korea, meanwhile, said it has ordered all poultry to be "cooped up" to prevent infection from migratory birds which could be carrying the disease.

"Bird influenza, in general, is propagated widely by wild birds," said Mun Ung Jo, vice chairman of the North's main quarantine office, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

In India, tests were being conducted to determine whether four infected chickens had the deadly H5N1 strain, said Upma Chowdhary of the federal animal husbandry department. India has reported no human infections of the virus.

A cull of about 75,000 chickens would be carried out in and around four Indian villages in Maharashtra state's Jalgaon district, Chowdhary said. India last month suffered its first outbreak of H5N1 among birds, also in Maharashtra. Authorities culled more than 200,000 birds in that outbreak. It's not clear whether the two outbreaks were related. - IOL

Bird flu confirmed in Afghanistan

16/03/2006 - 08:53:05

Lab tests have confirmed an outbreak of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu in Afghanistan, the United Nations and the government said in a joint statement today.

"The H5N1 strain of avian influenza has today been confirmed in Afghanistan in six samples," it said.

The announcement comes a day after the government said it was almost certain of an H5N1 outbreak, but further tests at a UN Food and Agriculture Organisation lab in Italy were needed to confirm it. - IOL

Denmark confirms first case of H5N1 bird flu

16/03/2006 - 13:30:39

Danish authorities in Copenhagen today said they had confirmed the country's first case of deadly H5N1 bird flu.

The Ministry for Consumer and Family Affairs said a buzzard had tested positive for the disease.

A sample had been sent to the EU reference laboratory in the UK for final verification. - IOL

Major bird flu outbreak feared in Israel 17/03/2006 - 09:39:57

About 11,000 turkeys have died in what Israeli officials suspect is the country's first outbreak of the dangerous H5N1 strain of bird flu, and officials will decide within hours whether to destroy tens of thousands of other birds, they said today.

After preliminary tests, Health Minister Yaakov Edri told Army Radio there was a "very high chance that this is avian flu." "We are already pretty sure it is avian flu, but of course, there are more tests to be done," Edri said.

An Agriculture Ministry spokeswoman, Dafna Yarisca, told The Associated Press it could take anywhere from hours to days until final results were in. The suspected outbreak in Israel was centred on the Negev Desert farming community of Ein Hashlosha and the nearby community of Holit, where thousands of turkeys died. Officials imposed a quarantine in a radius of seven kilometres (four miles) around the area, and were prepared to destroy flocks in a radius of three kilometres (two miles) if suspicions are confirmed, Edri said.

"In the coming hours we will decide whether to destroy birds; if further steps are required, we will take them. ... We're talking about tens of thousands of birds," he said. No cases of human illness have been reported, Edri said. If deadly avian flu is confirmed, and in the unlikely event it spreads to humans, Israel has vaccinations for half a million of its seven million people, he said.

Health officials fear H5N1 could evolve into a virus that can be transmitted easily between people and become a global pandemic, but there has been no confirmation of this happening yet. At least 97 people have died from the disease worldwide, with most victims infected directly by sick birds.

Ein Hashlosha is about two kilometres (one mile) from central Gaza, and Holit is 15 kilometres (nine miles) to the southwest, about two kilometres (one mile) from southern Gaza.

Yarisca said Israel, in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, regularly tests chickens from Gaza for avian flu, and so far, the flocks there have aroused no cause for concern.

The H5N1 virus was detected in neighbouring Egypt last month, and Agriculture Minister Zeev Boim said yesterday that the death of the birds in southern Israel might indicate the disease entered Israel from Egypt.

The H5N1 strain has killed or forced the slaughter of tens of millions of chickens and ducks across Asia since 2003, and recently spread to Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Officials said there was no danger of infection from eating cooked chicken, turkey or eggs. - IOL

Warnings issued over cats with bird flu

18 March 2006 - From New Scientist

NAIL down your cat flaps. Domestic cats are at higher risk of catching the H5N1 bird flu virus than previously thought.

Austrian health authorities last week announced that three out of 40 cats tested positive for the virus on saliva tests at an animal shelter in Graz that also housed infected birds. Yet the cats had no flu symptoms and shed no virus in their faeces, suggesting that a previously unrecognised mode of transmission might have been be at work.

H5N1 can make cats seriously ill. Usually cats eating infected birds develop the virus and shed it in mucus, urine and faeces. This is what is thought to have happened to three cats that died on the German island of Rügen.

"Hundreds of cats have been left at animal shelters by people afraid of bird flu"

The Austrian cats, however, merely shared premises with infected birds, and may have caught the virus from the birds' faeces or by sharing food, says Albert Osterhaus at Erasmus University at Rotterdam in the Netherlands. It is too early to say whether cats could pass on such mild infections to humans or other animals. Even so, hundreds of cats are reported to have been left at animal shelters in France and Germany over the past week by people afraid of bird flu. - newscientist.com

Egyptian woman 'dies of bird flu'

A 30-year-old woman who died this week was Egypt's first human victim of bird flu, state television has said. Reports said the woman, who maintained a domestic bird farm despite a ban on the practice, died of a fever at Cairo's main hospital on Friday. Samples have been sent to the UK for further tests.

Egypt last month ordered the slaughter of all poultry kept in homes, as part of efforts to stop the spread of the H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus. The H5N1 strain has killed at least 90 people since early 2003, mostly in South-East Asia. The virus can infect humans in close contact with birds. There is still no evidence that it can be passed from human to human.

BBC

USA - Bird flu predicted to cross state - Migration could bring it here by fall

March 22, 2006 - Michigan's spot on a major migratory bird route puts it in the path of the much-feared bird flu's slow spread from Asia, making it likely to get to the state before many other parts of the United States, experts say.

According to scientists, it is likely that bird flu -- one strain of which the World Health Organization has blamed for 103 deaths and the death or slaughter of millions of birds -- will spread from Asia to Alaska as early as next month, as birds migrate around the Pacific. From there, it could spread to ducks, geese and swans that take a continent-long route that sweeps south from Alaska and then swings across the nation's midsection.

Over Michigan.

Still, just because the bird flu is heading our way this fall, that doesn't mean people should panic, said Nicholas Throckmorton, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's headquarters in Washington, D.C. "Do not assume that just because there is a flyway over your house that you are in the direct line of fire," he said Tuesday. A flyway is a migration route for birds.

Worldwide, human deaths from bird flu are relatively rare. But there are some worries that one strain of bird flu -- the H5N1 virus that has been killing large numbers of birds in Asia and, more recently, in Europe and Africa -- could mutate into a pandemic flu that could kill millions of people worldwide. But that key mutation may never take place. Still, in preparation for the bird flu's arrival, officials at the Michigan State University Extension and the state Department of Agriculture are planning a series of training sessions this spring and summer for the many Michiganders -- including hundreds in the rural outer reaches of the metro area -- who keep chicken coops or feed the ducks at ponds or lakes in their backyards.

Tom Purves, an excavation contractor from Clarkston, keeps a few chickens in his backyard. On Tuesday, he took time off to hear a speech by University of Michigan flu expert Arnold Monto. "Everybody's talking about it," Purves said. "If it comes, if it's a disease that's threatening, I'm getting rid of the birds."

Expert advice

MSU officials are warning people to pay particular attention to swans. They seem to be the bird species that's most likely to die from the bird flu. In addition, U-M's Monto spoke to a group of nurses and female executives to help them prepare for a possible pandemic. One suggestion he stressed was that everyone should get a flu shot this fall. There is no vaccine for bird flu.

In a normal winter, the flu kills about 36,000 Americans, mostly elderly people and the very young. During a flu pandemic, however, when a particularly deadly version of the flu virus develops, many more can die. During the 1918 flu pandemic -- the worst in the nation's history -- about 500,000 Americans died. In that year, the flu seemed to be most fatal to people between the ages of 25 and 40. Scientists say they don't know why.

Of the 200 reported human cases of bird flu in Asia and Europe, 103 have been fatal. Most of those infected so far have had close contact with infected poultry.

Monto has been talking about the possibility of a flu pandemic to other groups as well, including Domino's Pizza executives, a few days ago.

Isolated responses

Carryout food orders zoomed up in Asian cities a few years ago, when a deadly disease called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome seemed to be spreading rapidly. People didn't want to go out for fear of putting themselves in contact with large numbers of other people. For the same reason, Monto said, sales of cars shot up in Beijing even faster than before because residents didn't want to ride the bus. After his speech Tuesday, a woman worried about the retail industry asked Monto how, in the face of a pandemic scare, she could encourage people to continue to shop in malls like the one where she works.

"There's nothing you can do," he said. "People are already shopping on eBay."

Monto's speeches and the planned extension service workshops for bird hobbyists are all part of an orderly scramble to get ready for a potential public health disaster. Experts say everyone should be doing their part. Individuals may want to stock up on bottled water and canned food so they don't have to go out often. Business supervisors should make plans to have as many people as possible work from home if a flu pandemic materializes.

Larger numbers of birds fly from Alaska to Washington state, for example, via the Pacific Flyway or North Dakota via the Central Flyway. And even when the bird flu arrives here, health officials are hoping that the virus still will not be able to transfer easily from person to person. That's the key change that would be needed to turn the H5N1 virus that has been killing large numbers of birds in Asia -- and, more recently in Europe and northern Africa -- into a pandemic flu that could kill millions people worldwide. And that key mutation -- the one that would make the virus transmissible among humans -- may never take place. But health officials and wildlife bird specialists are getting ready, just the same.

"Many of us feel that if it's not H5N1, it'll be something else because we're long overdue" for a flu pandemic, Monto said. "Starting next fall, if a hobbyist or a landowner finds a bird die-off, please alert either Michigan DNR or a local public health agency as soon as possible," said Throckmorton of the Fish and Wildlife Service. "And, as always, don't touch dead birds." - Detroit Free press.com

Bird flu can't spread easily in humans: expert

By Patricia Reaney Wed Mar 22, LONDON (Reuters) -

Scientists said on Wednesday they may have uncovered why the H5N1 avian flu that is so lethal in birds has not been able to spread easily among humans. It is because bird flu viruses attach to receptors, or molecules on cells, in different regions of the respiratory system from human influenza viruses. Receptors act like doorways that allow the virus to enter the cell, multiply and infect other cells. Humans have receptors for avian viruses, including H5N1, but they are found deep within the lungs. Cells in the upper airway in humans lack the receptors targeted by avian flu viruses, which limit their ability to spread from person to person.

"For the viruses to be transmitted efficiently, they have to multiply in the upper portion of the respiratory system so that they can be transmitted by coughing and sneezing," said Dr Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a virologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who led the research team.

The H5N1 bird flu virus has killed 103 people and infected 184 since late 2003. People infected with the virus, which has spread from Asia to Europe, the Middle East and Africa, have had close contact with diseased birds. Scientists fear the virus could mutate into a pandemic strain that could become highly infectious and capable of killing many millions of people.

"Our findings provide a rational explanation for why H5N1 viruses rarely infect and spread from human to human, although they can replicate efficiently in the lungs," Kawaoka and his team said in a report in the journal Nature.

MULTIPLE MUTATIONS

Professor John Oxford, a virologist at St Bartholomew's and the Royal London Hospital, Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry in London, said the research provides a reasonable explanation for the small number of human cases. "This gives some meaning to the great conundrum at the moment, the fortunate conundrum of why this virus is not going from human to human," Oxford said in an interview "It looks like a deep scientific study into that and we need more of those studies."

Kawaoka and a team of researchers in Japan infected human tissue with bird flu viruses. Their findings suggest that strains of H5N1 circulating in birds would have to undergo several key genetic changes to become easily transmissible in humans.

"The virus has to mutate to recognize human virus receptors which are in the throat," Kawaoka told Reuters. "Certainly, multiple mutations need to be accumulated for the H5N1 virus to become a pandemic strain."

Scientists do not know how far the H5N1 has mutated to become a pandemic strain but Kawaoka's findings show the importance of looking for changes in virus recognition of human receptors. The changes or mutations must occur in the hemagglutinin protein, the "H" in the virus designation, for avian H5N1 viruses to recognize human receptors, according to the researchers.

"Identification of H5N1 viruses with the ability to recognize human receptors would bring us one step closer to a pandemic strain," Kawaoka added. - news.yahoo.com

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Mysterious Disease Kills Pigs Suchandana Gupta

The Times Of India - 3-23-6 - BHOPAL -- After chickens in Maharashtra, it's pigs and peacocks in MP.

A mysterious disease has struck the swine population and over 500 pigs have died in the past fortnight in Mhow and Indore city.

There are also reports of pigs dying in districts of Khandwa (bordering Maharashtra) and Guna in northern MP. In fact, peacocks have also been dropping dead in rural areas of Indore over the past week.

The Indore administration has banned pig-owners from allowing their swine population to roam in residential areas till May 15.

Though the state government said there was no need to panic as humans don't get infected by pig diseases, animal husbandry officials admitted bird-flu could also be transmitted to swine and water fowl. - timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Second Egyptian dies of bird flu; H5 virus found in mink

Mar 29, 2006 (CIDRAP News) - A second Egyptian has died of H5N1 avian influenza, and the virus may have infected a mink in Sweden, according to recent reports.

The Egyptian victim, Fatma Mahmoud Youssef Sabra, 30, lived in the Qaliubiya governorate north of Cairo, the Associated Press (AP) reported today. Egyptian authorities confirmed that she died of H5N1 infection, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) statement. The agency said she became ill on Mar 12 after slaughtering chickens at home; she was admitted to a hospital Mar 16 and died Mar 27.

The first human case in Egypt involved another 30-year-old woman from the same governorate, who died Mar 17.

As previously reported, tests by the Cairo-based US Naval Medical Research Unit 3 (NAMRU-3) confirmed three other human cases in Egypt, for five total cases to date. The WHO listed the patients as a 32-year-old man who worked on a farm where poultry were culled shortly before he fell ill on Mar 16, a 17-year-old boy from a poultry farm in the Nile Delta who fell ill Mar 18, and an 18-year-old girl from the Kafr-El-Sheikh governorate who fell ill after butchering sick poultry. She has been hospitalized since Mar 25, but the man and the teen-ager have recovered, WHO said.

The WHO has postponed adding these cases to its case count until confirmatory testing is completed, the agency said today. The current tally is 186 human cases, including 105 deaths.

Conflicting reports on the status of avian flu in Iraq have emerged in the past 3 days. A WHO spokeswoman told Reuters news service on Mar 27 that avian flu was under control in Iraq, in comments that appeared focused on the virus' spread in poultry.

Today Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that birds in a district of Baghdad have tested positive for H5N1 flu, while a man elsewhere in the city has been hospitalized with signs and symptoms consistent with avian flu. Tests on birds from the Kamamaliya district were positive for H5N1, said Ibtisam Aziz, a spokeswoman for the Iraqi government's avian flu committee. The tests were conducted after a man who died earlier this week was suspected of having avian flu, AFP reported. A relative of the man had similar symptoms but has since recovered, Aziz said.

Reports did not say when test results for those three suspected human cases were expected.

Mink had H5 flu virus

In Europe this week, an H5 virus has been confirmed in a new species, a mink found in Sweden. There have been no confirmed reports of H5N1 avian flu in mink, according to a species list maintained by the US Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center.

The mink had an aggressive H5 virus and was euthanized, the National Veterinary Institute in Sweden said, as reported by Reuters Mar 27. The animal was found in the Blekinge region of southern Sweden, where several infected birds have been found.

The institute said the mink was thought to have contracted the virus by consuming infected wild birds, the suspected mode of transmission to felines as well.

Bird cases continue to spread

The H5N1 virus has now been confirmed in two more European countries where it was suspected of killing wild birds, news services reported. A dead swan found last week in southwestern Czech Republic had the virus, and confirmatory tests are under way at the European Union reference lab in England, AFP reported today.

The English lab has confirmed H5N1 in a buzzard that was found in Denmark, south of Copenhagen, AFP reported in a separate story today. Denmark has now reported a dozen cases of the virus in birds.

In western India, the culling of a quarter-million chickens began today, following newly confirmed cases of H5N1 in several villages, AFP reported. Four hundred cullers began the culling, which was expected to last 5 days and span 1,500 square kilometers in two states, said Bijay Kumar, animal husbandry commissioner in Maharashtra state.

Meanwhile, concerns have arisen over the handling of samples from poultry in India. Spoiled samples have hampered efforts to identify new outbreaks, according to AFP. Only one lab in India is testing for H5N1, and it has been handling as many as 5,000 samples a week. However, conditions outside the lab in Bhopal are posing problems, said H.K. Pradhan, head of the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory in Madhya Pradesh, in an AFP interview.

"The samples are coming from far-off places and the cold chain is not maintained properly so the virus dies," Pradhan said. "In some areas ice is not readily available" to preserve poultry carcasses, he added. "The state authorities need to take more care."

In Israel, authorities in Jerusalem ordered culling of poultry at Kibbutz Ma'aleh Hahamisha today after H5N1 was found there yesterday, The Jerusalem Post reported online today. Israel earlier had culled 1.2 million poultry from 53 farms in 14 communities in only 9 days, the agriculture minister was quoted as saying. - cidrap.umn.edu

Cambodia, south west, ducks: new outbreaks

Date: Thu, 30 Mar 2006 From: Alfonso Rodriguez Source: TODAYonline, Singapore, 03 Mar 2006 [edited]

Bird flu has been found in ducks on 2 family farms in south western Cambodia, a little more than a week after a toddler died from the H5N1 virus in the country, officials say.

Though no new human infections have been found, the latest outbreak marks the 4th time in 2 months the virus has struck in Cambodia after a year without any reported cases. "We have a new outbreak of bird flu," said Kao Phal, director for the agriculture ministry's Department of Animal Health.

Samples taken from 3 ducks in Kampot province's Angkor Chey district tested positive for the H5N1 strain of the virus, which has killed 5 people in Cambodia and resulted in the slaughter of thousands of birds since 2003. A number of ducks have died on the 2 farms, and nearly 200 were slaughtered after the virus was detected.

The discovery follows the death of a 3 year old girl from bird flu on 21 Mar 2006. Prime minister Hun Sen has called for the government to step up its public awareness campaigns, as bird flu remains a mystery to many rural Cambodians.

People from the dead toddler's village told AFP just after her death that they had been eating chickens that fell ill and died. Most poultry in Cambodia is raised on small farms or in backyards, making it difficult to prevent the spread of the virus.

The virus has been found in ducks in the eastern province of Kompong Cham twice since February 2006, triggering the slaughter of hundreds of birds. Thousands of birds smuggled in from Vietnam, next to Kampot province, have also been destroyed in recent months.

Bird flu plan for 'mass graves'

The use of anti-viral drugs may be one way to deal with an outbreak

2 april 2006 - Plans for mass burials are being considered as part of Home Office preparations for a possible bird flu pandemic, reports the Sunday Times. It cites a confidential report that says a "prudent worst case" assessment suggested 320,000 could die if the H5N1 virus mutated into a human form. The document warns "there are likely to be substantially more deaths than can be managed within current timescales".

The Home Office said it did not respond to leaks but is making preparations.

A spokesman said: "Prudent precautionary planning is under way across all elements of the response, including the health service, other essential services and local authorities."

The H5N1 virus, which causes bird flu, does not pose a large-scale threat to humans, as it cannot pass easily from one person to another.

'Common burial'

Experts, however, fear the virus could mutate at some point in the future, and in its new form trigger a flu pandemic, potentially putting millions of human lives at risk. Any such mutation and subsequent pandemic would lead to delays of up to 17 weeks in burying or cremating victims, the document - said to have been discussed by a cabinet committee - states.

And the document warns the prospect of "common burial" would stir up images of the mass pits used to bury victims of the Great Plague in 1665. However, it "might involve a large number of coffins buried in the same place at the same time, in such a way that allowed for individual graves to be marked". The report suggests town halls could deal with what it refers to as a "base case" of 48,000 deaths in England and Wales in a 15-week pandemic.

'Strong plans'

Titled Managing Excess Deaths in an Influenza Pandemic and dated 22 March, according to the Sunday Times the document says vaccines would not be available at least for "the first wave" of a pandemic and would not be a "silver bullet".

The newspaper claimed ministers discussed the issue last week and, although they were alarmed at the prospect of such delays to burials, accepted there might be no option in the event of a mass outbreak.

Bird flu has already prompted the slaughter of millions of birds across three continents since the H5N1 strain emerged three years ago. And it has claimed the lives of more than 100 humans - all of whom had been in close contact with infected birds.

Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson has said preparing for a pandemic was "a top priority" and "strong plans" were in place to respond. These plans include building a stockpile of 14.6 million doses of anti-viral drugs to treat those who fall ill during a pandemic. - bbc.co.uk

Bird flu spread into Burkina Faso

Big News Network.com Tuesday 4th April, 2006 (UPI)

Burkina Faso has become the fifth African nation to confirm an outbreak of the H5N1 strain of bird flu, reported at a farm near Ouagadougou.

The nation's minister for animal resources, Tiemoko Konate, told the BBC 65 samples from different regions had been sent to Italy for analysis.

The other African nations reporting the presence of avian flu are Cameroon, Egypt, Niger and Nigeria. The virus has also spread across Europe and parts of Asia, killing about 100 people worldwide since its reemergence in 2003, the BBC said.

Scientists fear the virus could mutate to spread between humans, triggering a global pandemic.

Bird Flu hits domestic poultry in Germany

05/04/2006 (Berlin/Brussels, DTT-NET.COM)-

German authorities have confirmed outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 on a poultry farm in Bernsdorf, Saxony, close to Leipzig.

The presence of H5N1 was confirmed by the National Reference Laboratory at noon today, at the farm which consists of 8000 turkeys, 5000 geese and 3300 hens held in separate units.

Further tests are now being carried out by the laboratory to confirm whether or not this is the Asian strain of the H5N1 virus, and samples will be sent to the EU Reference Laboratory in Weybridge, UK for further testing.

German authorities are planning to cull in coming hours around 15,000 domestic birds amid the confirmation of bird flu presence and rigorous control and monitoring of other holdings in the vicinity will be applied.

According to EC set measures a high risk area is being established (3 km protection zone) around the outbreaks and also a surrounding surveillance zone of 10 km (including the protection zone).

In the protection zone, poultry must be kept indoors, movement of poultry is banned except directly to the slaughterhouse and the dispatch of meat outside the zone is forbidden except where products have undergone the controls provided for in EU food controls legislation (i.e meat sourced from healthy animals in registered farms, subject to ante and post mortem checks by vets in the slaughterhouse).

In both the protection zone and the surveillance zone, on-farm biosecurity measures must be strengthened, hunting of wild birds is banned and disease awareness campaigns for poultry owners and their families must be carried out.

The deadly H5N1 strain of the virus has reached twelve EU countries so far; Greece, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Germany, Slovenia, France, Slovakia, Sweden, Poland, Czech Republic and Denmark.

Beside Germany, the virus has reached domestic birds also in France and Sweden.

More bird flu deaths: Germany starts a cull

April 6, 2006

A 16-year-old Egyptian girl died from bird flu today, taking to three the country's human death toll from the virus. Eleven people have caught the virus in the country so far, the Egyptian government said.

A Cambodian boy also died this week from the disease which has killed at least 108 people worldwide. In Egypt, it was first detected in birds in February and has since devastated their poultry industry. The government has banned the domestic rearing of fowl.

In Europe, Dr Albert Osterhaus, of Erasmus University in Rotterdam, called for new precautions because cats, and possibly other mammals, could help spread the virus.

H5N1 bird flu has spread rapidly across Europe and the Middle East in recent weeks, and has flared anew in Asia.

Germany said yesterday that tests had shown that a form of H5N1 had spread to domestic fowl on a farm. Although several European countries, including Germany, have reported cases of avian flu in wild birds, most have managed to keep it out of domestic flocks.

In February, France was the first European country to report an outbreak on a poultry farm.

Britain has found bird flu in a dead swan in Scotland and are testing to see if it is the deadly H5N1 strain. Officials have set up a 3km protection zone in Fife, Scotland, where the bird was found. A further 10km surveillance zone is in force.

Bird flu remains essentially an animal disease, but can infect people who come into direct contact with infected birds. Experts warn it could mutate into a form that passes easily from person to person.

Children who play around poultry are one of the groups most at risk.

The Cambodian boy, from the province of Prey Veng, abutting Vietnam, died on Tuesday night.

Egypt said its latest human case was a baby girl from the south of the country whose father raised birds in his home. "Tests showed that the case was positive," Health and Population Minister Hatem el-Gabali said, adding that the child was in a stable condition.

Fears over the virus have grown in Europe after reports that German cats had become infected. Animals such as dogs, foxes, ferrets and seals may also be vulnerable to infection, researchers say in the journal Nature.

They recommend that in areas where avian flu is endemic, cats should not be in contact with birds or their droppings. If pets or other carnivores showed signs of illness they should be tested for H5N1.

There is no evidence that people can contract bird flu through eating properly cooked meat, but the spread of the virus has depressed poultry sales in many markets.

Germany said yesterday that it would start culling to prevent the spread of bird flu after finding its occurrence on a farm which houses more than 16 000 turkeys, geese and chickens. "This is the first case of H5N1 in domestic fowl (in Germany) and this makes it somewhat explosive," Saxony's Minister of Social Affairs, Helma Orosz1, told a news conference. "Tonight we will start to kill all the birds." - Reuters

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