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Nearly Current overview from AP / WHO / CDC catching bird flu

Latest news about bird flu (avian influenza)

Sweden plans to vaccinate against bird flu

Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare wants to vaccinate on mass against Avian Influenza, the so called bird flu, after warnings from the World Health Organization, Swedish TV 4 reported on Tuesday.

WHO has warned that millions of people could die when the bird flu spreads between humans.

Johan Carlsson, the head of the Swedish Center for Epidemiology,told TV 4 news that he would like to begin the vaccination as soonas the vaccine becomes available.

He added that from breakout point, it could take 2 to 4 months to produce the vaccine and that Swedish health care authorities should already start preparing

HK May Ban Slaughter of Poultry by Shopkeepers to prevent Bird Flu Pandemic

Hong Kong authorities may ban the slaughtering of poultry by retailers in a bid to prevent a bird (avian) flu pandemic. The WHO has warned that the next global pandemic may come from a mutated bird flu virus.

Shopkeepers have tried to resist laws that prohibit them from slaughtering poultry in front of their customers.

So fat this year 32 people have died from bird flu in Thailand and Vietnam. Poultry stocks have been slaughtered in large numbers to try to stem the spread.

Hong Kong Health Minister, York Chow, said "The broad direction for the government is to separate humans from chickens. And the announcement next month will be about how we are going to do that."

It is common for shoppers in Hong Kong to have their poultry slaughtered in front of them (they like their food fresh). All cases of humans getting infected with the bird flu virus have been when there was close contact with live, infected animals.

WHO experts believe a bird flu pandemic is coming. They no longer talk about whether there is going to be one, they talk about ‘when' one will start and ‘where'. They say that if the virus were to infect a pig, it could then mutate much more easily and become a human-to-human spreading disease. Humans have no immunity to the bird flu virus. Up to 30% of humans worldwide could become infected when the pandemic appears, say experts.

Thai Opposition suggests three ways to deal with bird flu

The main opposition Democrat Party has proposed three ways to deal with the bird flu virus, which emerged in the country earlier this year.

The government should launch strict policies to get rid of the disease before it severely affects Thai chicken exports, a senior Democrat member, Treepol Johjit, said.

To solve the problem, the opposition has proposed three measures. The government should offer to buy roaming ducks and indigenous chickens from farmers at an appropriate price, like 200 baht each, and destroy them.

Farmers should raise fowls in closed systems.

And in the areas that have been repeatedly affected by the flu, poultry should be vaccinated, except those raised for meat exports.

“If the government does not adopt aggressive measures to deal with the issue, the bird flu will become a local disease and re-emerge every year. In that case no one will order chicken meat from Thailand,” he cautioned.

More than 100 billion baht has been lost from the two-time outbreak of the disease in the kingdom this year, according to Mr. Treepol. According to the government, 35 provinces across the nation had been affected by the disease.


WHO: Bird Flu Outbreak Will Likely Cause New Human Flu Pandemic

The World Health Organization is warning Asian nations that its current struggle with bird flu could lead to the next deadly human flu pandemic across the globe. Millions could die. The WHO is holding a major regional conference in Bangkok this week to develop strategies to contain the flu and other infectious diseases.

The World Health Organization made an ominous prediction on Thursday that the current bout of bird flu in Asia could spark a deadly pandemic in humans.

During a conference on infectious disease in Bangkok, Klaus Stohr - who heads the WHO's Global Influenza Program - painted a grim picture of how a new and deadly human flu would affect the world.

"A pandemic will cause a public health emergency," he said. "There are estimates, which would put the number of deaths in the range of between two to seven million. The number of people affected would go beyond the billions."

Dr. Stohr says the world has not had a major flu pandemic in more than 30 years - way past the usual cycle. Recent findings that the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed 20 million people was cause by an animal flu virus, is sparking major concern among scientists.

The avian flu appears to have jumped to humans in Asia this year killing more than 30 people and leading to the slaughter of hundreds of millions of birds. Experts say efforts to contain the disease in birds are barely working.

Dr. Stohr also warns that while the H5N1 bird flu virus is worrying, other animal flu viruses circulating in Asia could also have pandemic potential.

"There's no doubt there will be another pandemic whether it is going to be happening this year or next year we don't know. Whether it is going to be H5N1 or another one we don't know," he said.

The WHO is urging countries to stock up on antiviral medications to help fight a possible flu outbreak.

Dr. Stohr, who spoke to scientists and officials from Southeast Asia, China, Japan and South Korea, says two U.S. companies are conducting trials on a bird flu vaccine - and one might be ready as early as March. Thai officials announced on Wednesday that their scientists could have a vaccine by 2007.

This is not the first time U.N. officials have sounded alarm at the possibility of a human flu pandemic. Last year Thailand initially covered up its avian flu outbreak at chicken farms, as poultry exports are central to the nation's agricultural sector.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu first jumped to humans in Hong Kong in 1997. It killed six of the eighteen people it infected.


Bird flu vaccine expected to be ready by 2007, Thai officials say

A vaccine to protect humans from the deadly bird flu virus is expected to be ready by 2007 after clinical trials are carried out in Thailand, health officials said Wednesday.

Avian influenza devastated poultry farms across Asia this year, forcing the cull of tens of millions of birds. The virus spread to humans, killing 20 in Vietnam and 12 in Thailand. Thai health authorities isolated the virus from five human cases and sent samples for vaccine research to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, said Thawat Suntrajarn, director general of the Department of Communicable Disease Control.

"They will use this is as a model to create their vaccine," Thawat said in an interview.

He said a prototype vaccine is expected by the beginning of 2005, "then we'll have to do two years of clinical trials in humans. In three years, we'll have a safe and efficient bird flu vaccine."

Some of the testing on humans will be done in Thailand, he said.

"Thailand has sent experts to help work on this, and we will have the right to use this vaccine, at an affordable price and in the amount that we need," Thawat said.

The vaccine will be one of the topics discussed at a regional conference to be held Thursday and Friday in Bangkok to discuss "how to prevent and solve other infectious diseases in the future, because in the past two to three years we've encountered SARS and bird flu," Thai Public Health Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan said.

Health ministers and senior officials from 10 Southeast Asian countries, along with China, Japan and South Korea, are among the more than 100 people expected to attend the meeting.

Experts from the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the European Union and other agencies also are to attend.

The meeting "is the ideal means to achieve a strong international approach to the avian influenza threat," said William Aldis, the WHO representative in Thailand.

"The condition does not respect national boundaries, therefore any approach to control of avian influenza must be multinational," Aldis said.

Malaysia extends ban on poultry after bird flu discovered

Malaysia has extended a ban on the movement of poultry along its border with Thailand after the bird flu virus was detected in a chicken.

AFP newsagency reports that Veterinary Services Department director-general, Hawari Hussein, says authorities have taken immediate steps to cull poultry in the Pulau Besar village, in Kelantan, after the virus was found in random samples two weeks ago.

He says while there has been no transmission to humans, bans have been extended because the area is not totally clear of the disease.

The threat of H5N1 remains high because it is still active and widespread in neighbouring Thailand.

Malaysia's first case of the H5N1 strain of bird flu, which has killed at least 32 people in Thailand and Vietnam this year, was detected in a Kelantan village in August.

The ban will remain in place for at least another 21 days.

Mr Hawari says Malaysia will only be declared free from bird-flu after further surveillance and when lab tests proved negative for the disease.

The World Health Organisation has warned that the lethal H5N1 virus is endemic in the region and fears it could mutate into a highly contagious form that triggers a global human flu pandemic.


Cooked pourtry meat confirmed safe from bird flu

A scientific experiment has confirmed authorities' assurance that cooked fowl meat and eggs are safe from the bird-flu virus.

The experiment was conducted by Assoc. Prof. Thawisak Songserm of Kasetsart University's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine with funding from the Thailand Research Fund.

Assoc. Prof. Thawisak, an expert veterinarian, said on Friday that in conducting the study, he injected an amount of the avian flu virus enough to kill a chicken foetus within 24 hours into raw eggs, chicken and duck meat. The egg and meat were later cooked in a normal way.

Tests showed that the cooked items had no traces of the bird flu virus left, Assoc. Prof. Thawisak said.The experiment also found that the virus died after half an hour in sunlight and three days when indoors, he said, adding that the study was in line with international standards.

He urged consumers not to be too worried about the bird flu.

Sukhothai monitors bird flu in 500 students

The provincial public health office in Thailand's northern province of Sukhothai has instructed local officials to closely monitor any bird flu infection among 500 students and residents in a district.

The order had been released after a school in the province's Thung Saliem district reported to the district office of a mysterious death of many pigeons in the neighborhood where the school is located.

Two dead pigeons were sent to a laboratory in the nearby Phitsanulok province to test for bird flu virus and the result confirm that they had died from avian flu, said the chief of Sukhothai’s public health office, Dr. Somchai Rojanaratanankura.

Thung Saliem Hospital has been ordered to increase their monitor on patients coming to the hospital with backgrounds of close contacts with fowls.

Local public health officials have distributed anti-flu viral medicine,Tamiflu, to each of district hospitals to use to treat flu in patients with suspicious symptoms.

So far, there have been no reports of new suspected bird flu patients with symptoms like high fever, or pneumonia.

Sukhothai has been hit by the re-emergence of bird flu disease in the country in July. A large number of poultry in the province have been culled to prevent further spread.

Last month, a 14 year-old girl died from the avain flu viral contraction in the province.


Wild birds: culprits or innocent over bird flu?

The grey heron flew over the barbed-wire fence dividing mainland China from Hong Kong, landing gracefully on a mudflat in the city's Mai Po nature reserve where other wild birds had arrived on their annual migration south.

For some, the heron is a symbol of beauty in a city far better known for its gleaming skyscrapers, towering apartment blocks and crowded city streets.

For others, wild migrating birds are carriers of death.

A grey heron infected with bird flu was found dead near the reserve this month, reigniting fears about the ability of wild birds to spread a disease that has killed 32 people in Asia this year and wiped out millions of poultry.

In recent years, people have come to identify wild birds as a natural host of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus, which scientists have warned could spark the world's next flu pandemic, killing thousands, possibly millions, of people.

But Hong Kong experts are reassessing the role of wild birds, and say they may be getting a bad name they don't deserve.

Experts say certain wild birds are natural carriers of the disease and still pose a risk to the rest of the world. But the H5N1 strain has become so endemic in poultry farms in Asia that migratory birds are no longer an important factor.

The H5N1 strain swept through much of Asia this year, wiping out poultry populations and killing 32 people in Thailand and Vietnam. Where sources of infection could be traced, victims were invariably linked to infected poultry, not wild birds.


"In reality now, part of the transmission that's going on is lateral transmission on the ground. People walking around, holding cages (of infected birds), or infected poultry coming into bird markets and going to other parts of the world, that's the kind of spread that's occurring," said Malik Peiris, a leading microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong.

"The H5N1 has really got a foothold in Asia. It's so widespread we don't need migratory birds to spread it further."

Lew Young, manager of the Mai Po reserve, agrees.

"The fact that there were H5N1 outbreaks throughout this summer in Southeast Asia, which is outside the season for migratory birds to be moving, means it is more likely that the virus is already endemic within the poultry population and it doesn't need wild birds to bring the virus down to southern Asia any more."

Of the 2,000 stool and blood samples taken this year from wild birds in Hong Kong, only two were found with the H5N1.

"If there is a risk of an epidemic worldwide, it will probably not be due to wild birds," Young said.

The 1,500-hectare (3,750 acre) Mai Po sanctuary is a key resting stop for more than 300 species of wild birds fleeing bitter winters in their breeding grounds in northern China, Mongolia and Siberia to warmer grounds in Southeast Asia and Australia.

Experts stress the importance of protecting domestic flocks from wild birds, though even they say that is very difficult.

"Because certain wild birds may be carriers of H5N1, there is always a certain risk that the virus may be transmitted to domestic poultry," Young said.

"Putting screens over chicken coops may be one way of reducing the risk. But in many parts of Asia, poultry may not always be in a coop. They may be free range, particularly in China, Southeast Asia, so it is difficult to control."


Although governments in the region have slaughtered tens of millions of birds in a bid to contain the flu strain, it has proven to be extremely hardy and has re-emerged several times.

"We have something that is geographically so widespread that ... it will not be possible to eliminate it," said Peiris.

The SARS and bird flu viruses originate from animals, which act as carriers and usually don't display symptoms of the disease. But H5N1 bird flu is far deadlier in humans and kills up to a third of all its victims.

It was first seen in humans in Hong Kong in 1997, when it killed six people. No one knows how it jumped from birds to man. Scientists suspect there were human-to-human transmissions in Hong Kong and Thailand, but these have never been confirmed.

The scientific community fears that given enough time, the bird flu virus will evolve to jump from human to human, in much the same way that the SARS virus did in 2003.

Casting a wary eye on the lethal H5N1, the World Health Organisation urged governments this month to provide funds to drug makers developing vaccines against a feared flu pandemic.

Scientists say major flu pandemics occur every 30 to 35 years. The deadliest in the past century was the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-19 that killed between 20 million and 50 million people worldwide. The exact source of this virulent strain is unknown but is thought to have been wild birds.

The virus behind the last major flu outbreak, the Hong Kong Flu pandemic of 1968, is thought to have originated in wild aquatic birds such as ducks.

With SARS and the H5N1 discovered first in southern China, Beijing is understandably worried. It recently approved a plan to build a state laboratory in Hong Kong, the first in China to study emerging infectious diseases.

"So many pathogens were first identified in Hong Kong because Hong Kong and southern China have the highest density of ... humans and animals. They live in close proximity to each other," said Yuen Kwok-yung, a top microbiologist in Hong Kong.

"We have a unique eating culture, we like fresh meat, sell live poultry in markets, all these predispose us to be a very important sentinel post for the study of infectious diseases."


Smuggler of bird flu-infected eagles arrested

Forestry police on Tuesday arrested a Thai national on charges of smuggling two bird flu-infected eagles into Belgium last month.

Poonsak Harnkittipongpaisal was arrested Tuesday morning after he arrived at Bangkok International Airport from Brussels, Belgium.

"He has been charged with trading in an endangered species without a permit and exporting an endangered species," said Forestry Police Lieutenant Colonel Sakchai Thamawichai.

Poonsak, who immediately pleaded guilty, faces a maximum sentence of four years imprisonment or a 40,000 baht (1,000 dollar) fine if found guilty.

Poonsak was stopped at Brussels International Airport on October 24 for attempting to smuggle two crested hawk eagles into the country in two wine-carrying cases.

It was later discovered that the two eagles, which are on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), had been infected by avian influenza, or bird flu, which has been decimating Thailand's poultry and has also claimed 12 human victims this year.

The endangered eagles, indigenous to Thailand, were killed.

Poonsak, who was tested for bird flu in Belgium, had not contracted the virus.


Computer Models to Simulate Hypothetical Outbreak of Avian Flu

A group of scientists who are developing computer models to combat infectious diseases have focused their attention on the H5N1 strain of the bird influenza virus. By simulating the outbreak of this potentially deadly avian flu in a hypothetical human community, the researchers hope to answer key questions about how best to contain the virus. The work is funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), a component of the National Institutes of Health.

Preliminary results from the models could be available by early January 2005.

"We need to take steps to prepare for the possibility of person-to-person transmission of the H5N1 virus," said Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D., NIGMS director. "This modeling project will provide a tool that policymakers, public health workers and researchers can use to test intervention strategies should such an outbreak emerge."

The flu project is part of a national effort, called the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS), to develop computational models of the interactions between infectious agents and their hosts, disease spread, prediction systems and response strategies. The participating research teams are led by scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Md.; Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M.; Emory University in Atlanta, Ga.; and Research Triangle Institute International in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

To simulate the spread of a possible avian flu outbreak that would become infectious between humans, the researchers are developing models of a hypothetical Southeast Asian community of about 500,000 people living in neighboring small towns. The computer simulations will incorporate data on population density and age structure, distribution of schools, locations of hospitals and clinics, travel and the infectiousness of the virus.

These simulation models will allow researchers to test different intervention strategies that may reduce the rate of transmission between people. The objective is to evaluate methods to locally contain the spread of disease.

"We can see what would happen if we take certain actions, like vaccinating specific groups, using antiviral medications, restricting travel or implementing other public health measures," said Irene Eckstrand, Ph.D., MIDAS program officer at NIGMS. "Computer models let us envisage the impact of these decisions in a variety of scenarios."

The ultimate goal of the project, added Eckstrand, is to identify disease prevention and control strategies that not only contain the virus, but also quickly drop the number of people infected to zero — basically eradicating H5N1 from the human community.

"We want to know how we can most effectively prevent the virus from spreading to other areas," said Eckstrand. "These models will help policymakers design strategies to protect the public from a potentially deadly disease."

For more information about MIDAS and other NIGMS-supported efforts to model infectious diseases, visit http://www.nigms.nih.gov/research/midas.html.


Tiger farm to reopen next week after bird flu contained

Local authorities Sunday announced a plan to reopen the Sri Racha Tiger Zoo to public after weeks of closure to fight an outbreak of bird flu which left 147 tigers dead, either from the killer virus or mass cull.Chonburi Provincial Governor Veerawit Wiwattanawanich told a press conference held inside the zoo that the national bird flu task force agreed that outbreak has been successfully eliminated from the farm and would reopened it to tourists next Thursday. At least 45 tigers died from bird flu and other 102 were culled after they fell sick, said the governor. ''We successfully controlled the outbreaks and prevented the virus from spreading. But before we reopen the zoo next week, we will spray some chemicals to kill germs to make sure the farm is absolutely free from bird flu virus and we will collect soil and water samples for tests,'' said Chonburi governor.A TNA reporter said after the press conference, workers of Sri Racha Tiger Zoo celebrated the good news and offered flowers to concerned officials to thank them for their effort in solving the bird flu crisis.

Thailand has battled a string of bird flu outbreaks since early this year with at least 12 people have died from the virus and over 50 million chickens culled.

PM confident avian flu to soon come under control

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra today said he was confident that avian influenza in Thailand could come under control soon, expressing his satisfaction with  cooperation by concerned health officials in containing the disease,"A sharp improvement on controlling the disease has been seen, but concerned health authorities must work even harder before the arrival of the winter season this year", Mr. Thaksin said during his weeky radio address this morning.

Meanwhile, Dr. Charal Trinvuthipong, the director of the government's command centre on bird flu, told journalists that concerned government units had conducted tests on migrant birds which had escaped the cold weather elsewhere to Thailand, and had searched for the H5N1 bird flu virus strain in them, but nothing was found so far. He said health volunteers are still taking positions in every village, with each volunteer being responsible for between 10-20 households.

Officials of the command center are scheduled to hold a meeting on Monday at the Government House, with Deputy Prime Minister Chaturon Chaisang presiding over the session, Dr. Charal said.

Mr. Chaturon chairs the national committee overseeing the overall bird flu situations in the kingdom.


Bird flu virus lives longer in winter

The (thai) Public Health Ministry's Department of Disease Control has warned of the dangers posed by chicken waste in the coming winter months, as the bird flu virus tends to live longer in low temperatures.

People who raise chickens, or live nearby chicken farms should be more careful and avoid touching or stepping on chicken droppings, as they could habour the bird flu virus for longer during the winter, the Director-General of the Department of Disease Control, Dr. Thawat Suntrajarn told TNA yesterday.

The cold weather provides a suitable environment for the avian flu to breed; so closer monitoring is needed to prevent the spread of the disease in winter, he warned.

Suspected bird flu patients must be put under close medical supervision.The bird flu virus could survive for as long as 40 days in tempeatures of four degrees Celsius, according to the doctor.The avian flu virus can be easily transmitted to humans if they are weak.

Chicken farmers should keep their farms and nearby areas clean.Farmers should keep their nose and mouth covered with cloths, while cleaning the chickens and their stalls, Dr. Thawat said. They should also wear shoes at all times to help prevent direct contact with the disease, he added.

The bird flu virus can usually be killed easily with alcohol or chlorine solutions, as well as disinfectants.Normally, the virus can survive for three hours in dried chicken waste, according to recent research by the Kasetsart University, Kampaengsan campus.

Uncooked chicken meat also habours the virus, Dr. Thawat warned; so people should refrain from touching raw chicken meat or frozen chickens. (TNA)


WHO urges global avian-flu shots

As Canada considers having all residents roll up their sleeves for flu shots, public-health experts will meet at the World Health Organization in Geneva Thursday to prepare a plan to vaccinate the world's population against a pandemic influenza strain.

WHO executive director David Heymann said yesterday that he hopes international health officials, including those from Health Canada, will walk away from the table with ideas to boost the number of vaccines that can be produced and delivered worldwide in a single year.

"The concern is that there is only the capacity in the world to develop 260 million doses of vaccine ..... 260 million in a world of how many billion?" said Dr. Heymann, who was in Toronto for a conference on the global battle against infectious disease.

"If there's a pandemic influenza, there would be a need to vaccinate as many people as possible; you'd have to go into developing countries and industrialized countries alike.

"If you're looking at vaccine needs, they're incalculable."

A flu pandemic, which could cause widespread global infection, as did the 1918 pandemic that killed more than 20 million people, is expected to emerge within five years.

No flu vaccine protects against such a strain, which experts predict would evolve from a bird-flu virus, jump the species barrier into humans, then develop the frightening power to spread among people.

The most likely viral candidate is the persistent and virulent so-called H5N1 avian flu spreading in Asia among various animal species and humans.

The European Union is sending a team of medical experts to Asia this month to investigate the situation.

First identified when it struck chickens in China in 1997, the H5N1 virus is causing an epidemic among chickens in Asia, where more than 100 million have been culled in an effort to contain the disease.

But the virus, which seems to spread through migratory birds, has gone on to infect ducks, domestic cats, possibly pigs and 20 tigers in Thailand.

Forty-four human cases with 32 deaths have been reported, 20 in Vietnam and 12 in Thailand.

News reports from Thailand said yesterday that three more people are thought to have contracted the virus after having close contact with chickens that died of unknown causes. Two of these patients are one and six years old.

"It is finding human hosts, and there is one possible or probable transmission of human-to-human contact — a mother who was possibly infected by her child who lived in Bangkok," Dr. Heymann said.

Two vaccines for the H5N1 Asian bird flu are in development and expected to be tested in clinical trials early next year.

But Frank Plummer, scientific director of the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, who also spoke at yesterday's conference, cautioned that "it is a gamble" to invest too many resources in developing vaccines for the H5N1 avian flu.

"It's the most likely bet right now, but we just don't know what could happen," Dr. Plummer said.

But the bird flu has caused considerable distress among the Asian populations.

Poultry industries have been devastated and people are trying to contain panic.

Although there are no official reports of bird flu in China, the discovery of tainted feathers from infected birds intended for stuffing in winter coats sparked the fear of contaminated clothing.

And the Thai News Service reported yesterday that a motorist sped off from a traffic light, fearing bird-flu contamination when four pigeons, near death, fell onto the road.

Allison McGeer, an infectious-diseases expert at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital, who spoke yesterday about a worldwide pandemic to a conference organized by St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto, noted that the Asian bird flu has triggered so much concern because it appears to be evolving rapidly, has an apparent mortality rate of 70 per cent and the world is well due.

"Thirty to 40 years is the longest gap between pandemics in the last 400 years," Dr. McGeer said.

But, she cautioned, no one knows whether the speedy changes to the H5N1 virus are typical of a precursor pandemic strain because no scientists have, until now, kept such close watch of flu activity in the microbial world.

EU officials to check Thai bird flu situation

Representatives from the European Union (EU) will arrive here on Nov. 24 to begin an eight-day tour to verify the safety of the kingdom's poultry exports.

According to Thai Deputy Prime Minister Chaturon Chaisang, the EU team will be showed around government laboratories and poultry farms across the country.

Despite rigorous efforts to prevent spread of the epidemic, bird flu virus were still present in 13 provinces, 32 districts and 14 tambons, Chaturon was quoted by the official Thai News Agency (TNA) as saying on Tuesday.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the virus has been detected in the lower part of Thailand's northern region and the central region, where locals raise free-range ducks.

Chaturon said he has instructed livestock officials to adjust long-term plans to boost efficiency in combating the disease from November to September next year.

The outbreak is likely to continue for some time, he added.

Ministers from China, South Korea and Japan will meet in Bangkok on Nov. 25-26 to exchange information and enhance cooperation in fighting the virus.

Meanwhile, Dr Charal Trinvuthipong, director of the government's command center on bird flu, said laboratory tests on pigs that had died early October in the eastern Prachinburi province showed that they were killed not by bird flu, but bacterial infection.

China lifts 10-month ban on U.S. poultry

China has lifted its 10-month ban on poultry exports from Delaware and the rest of the country, put in place because of an outbreak of avian flu in the state earlier this year, officials announced Wednesday.

China placed trade restrictions on all U.S. poultry exports after a mild form of avian flu was discovered on two Delaware farms in February. The ban resulted in a 76 percent decline in the value of U.S. poultry exports to China, from $41 million during the first eight months of last year to $10 million during the same period this year.

Toby Moore, spokesman for the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council, said China's decision is a big deal. "It is one of our top markets, and we have been out of the market for close to nine months," he said.

Most of Delaware's $60 million in annual poultry exports go to Russia, Hong Kong and China. The lifting of the ban will allow poultry processors in Delaware, such as Perdue Farms, Mountaire Farms and Allen Family Foods, to resume trade with China.

"China is one of several important international markets for Perdue and we are very pleased to resume business with our Chinese customers," said Bob Turley, president of the international division at Perdue.

Most of the chicken parts exported to China are chicken feet and wing tips, which generally are not consumed in the United States. Local poultry companies have suffered significant losses because there is a limited market for those chicken parts outside Asia.

China is the last of the big poultry-importing countries to lift its ban on chicken exports from Delaware and other parts of the country. Hong Kong, Japan and Russia, the largest importer of U.S. poultry, had already lifted their restrictions on Delaware chicken.

Delaware's congressional delegation and state officials had been holding ongoing talks with Chinese officials to assure them that the state is free from avian flu. In August, a group from the Chinese embassy visited Delaware and the Delmarva poultry companies.

"The fastest-growing market for poultry is China," Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said Wednesday. "It's critically important that we have access to that market."

Three more suspected bird flu patients in Phichit

Three more patients in Thailand are suspected of having contracted bird flu. The three people, all from the northern province of Phichit, have been admitted to the bird flu monitoring centre at Phichit hospital as they had all been in close contact with domestic chickens which had died from unknown causes.The three suspected victims are a one-year-old girl, a six-year-old boy and a 52-year-old man. Earlier, a 73-year-old man had been admitted to the Pichit hospital suspected of suffering from bird flu. The new suspected cases of bird flu follow the government’s announcement on Friday that avian flu had been successfully eliminated in the six Thai provinces including Bangkok, all of which had been hit by the outbreak a few months ago.There have been no new cases of bird flu reported in these provinces for several weeks. The six provinces have been bird-flu free for more than a month, according to inspections and 'x-rays' carried out by government officials during October, the Director of the government's Command Centre for Bird Flu, Dr. Charal Trinvuthipong told TNA .However, the thorough inspections also found more areas affected by avian
flu in 10 provinces including Phichit which have already been ridden by
avian flu.

The inspections also found that bird flu-affected areas had shrunk in nine provinces in the past month. These include Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani Provinces on the outskirts of Bangkok. (TNA)


Thailand announces bird flu elimination in six provinces

The Thai government announced the country has successfully eliminated avian flu in six provinces, as no new cases of bird flu were reported in these regions over the past weeks. The six provinces were found free from bird-flu after inspections, or 'X-ray', during October, Charal Trinvuthipong, director of the Thai government's command centre on bird flu, told the Thai News Agency. They include Bangkok, northeastern Loei and Nong Khai provinces, northern Chiang Rai province, and southern Songkhla and Narathiwat provinces.

However, Charal said that October inspections also found bird flu-ridden areas reduced in nine provinces, while eleven provinces have become new bird flu-ridden areas.

Thailand boosts measures against bird flu

Thailand will put six laboratories into operation from next week in an effort to identify any outbreaks of the bird flu virus at the earliest possible opportunities.Once the laboratories, installed situated in Phitsanulok, Chiangmai, Udon Thani, Ubon Ratchathani, Songkla and Nakhon Si Thammrat provinces, are operational, test results will be available within 24 hours, said Phachit Varachit, Head of Thailand's Medical Science Department.

The Thai government has taken measures to curb the disease due to reports on infected people in 12 provinces and cities and has called for all resources to be mobilised for bird flu control, Deputy Prime Minister Chaturon Chaiseng said

USDA funds avian flu vaccine bank for poultry

An Iowa company will develop an avian influenza vaccine antigen bank that could produce up to 40 million doses of vaccine for poultry, the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced recently.

APHIS's Center for Veterinary Biologics (CVB) has awarded a 5-year contract to Fort Dodge Animal Health to manufacture and store killed, frozen bulk viral antigens that can be used to produce vaccine for the H5N2, H5N9, H7N2, and H7N3 subtypes of avian flu, according to an APHIS news release. The company will produce and store the antigens in Charles City, Iowa.

The antigen bank will speed production of poultry vaccine if it is needed, Bruce Carter, DVM, global vaccine manager for the CVB, told CIDRAP News. The vaccine could be produced quickly and used to help contain an outbreak of avian flu in some situations, decreasing shedding and spread of the virus. The bank is to be fully stocked by January 2004, APHIS said.

Vaccine is often used in conjunction with other strategies to control and eradicate the disease. Along with other measures, vaccine was used in the United States as recently as 2003 in a successful effort to eradicate a low-pathogenic virus in layer flocks in Connecticut, Carter said.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is an extremely infectious and fatal form. Once established, it can spread rapidly among flocks. An HPAI outbreak in 1983-84 cost the industry nearly $65 million, and an H5N2 outbreak last February in Texas forced the slaughter of 7,000 broiler chickens, according to APHIS.

The new antigen bank is intended to help counter HPAI, APHIS Administrator W. Ron DeHaven said in the press release. "The [avian influenza] vaccine antigen bank will be a great asset in helping APHIS work to keep highly pathogenic avian influenza from becoming established in the US poultry population," he said.

In the event that vaccine from the new bank is administered to a poultry flock, a vaccine that doesn't precisely match the strain affecting the flock could be used intentionally, said Carter. At least 80% of the efficacy of an avian flu vaccine is due to the hemagglutinin (H) antigen, he said. So, for example, using H5N9 vaccine to vaccinate birds exposed to H5N2 flu helps protect the birds while allowing veterinarians to distinguish between vaccinated and infected birds on the basis of the neuraminidase (N) subtype. This procedure is known as DIVA (Differentiating Infected from Vaccinated Animals), he added.

APHIS guidelines allow H5 and H7 vaccines to be used as tools in potential outbreaks of HPAI in the United States, but only under APHIS supervision or as part of an official animal disease control program, the news release said.

In the first phase of the project, worth $800,000 to Fort Dodge Animal Health, the company will grow the viruses in eggs, as is done for human flu vaccines, Carter said. Next, the allantoic fluid containing the virus will be harvested from the eggs and the virus inactivated. Then the killed bulk viral antigens will be frozen. The antigens can be thawed and mixed with adjuvants to boost the strength of the vaccine, and the resulting vaccine used to immunize poultry.

Fort Dodge Animal Health will store the frozen antigens for 5 years. If vaccine is needed during that time, Carter said, it can be produced relatively quickly. Completing vaccine production if needed is the second phase of the project.

If the bank is activated, Fort Dodge Animal Health's contract calls for the company to receive an additional 1.2 cents per dose, or $120,000 for 10 million doses of a subtype. The maximum possible value of the contract is $1.28 million, Carter said.

"I can't predict how and when we're going to use the vaccine," Carter added, noting that using avian flu vaccine isn't always the best response, depending on the circumstances of an outbreak. "Some years it seems like we just get hammered with outbreaks of avian influenza.

Malaysia free of bird flu but remains on high alert

Malaysia has been declared free of the bird flu disease but remains on high alert for any signs of the deadly virus, officials said Tuesday.

The country has not detected any cases of the lethal H5N1 strain of the virus since October 10, said Veterinary Services Department director-general Hawari Hussein.

Despite fulfilling the 21-day virus-free criteria set by the World Organisation for Animal Health, officials have said they would remain on full alert against the disease.

"The threat of H5N1 is still there so we will continue to be on high alert," an official told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

The government first detected the H5N1 strain of bird flu in August at a village in the northern Kelantan state which borders Thailand.

Officials say the disease, which has killed at least 31 people in Thailand and Vietnam this year, was first brought into Malaysia by fighting cocks that had been exposed to the virus in Thailand.

The rapid spread of the disease was also blamed on cross-border smuggling of chicken products.

In response to the outbreak, Malaysia had heightened anti-smuggling controls at border points and conducted checks at pet shops, bird sanctuaries and poultry farms nationwide.

147 tigers killed in Thailand to contain bird flu

The Thai government killed 147 tigers during last month's operation to wipe out the bird flu virus, the Thai News Agency reported Thursday.

According to the report, the tigers were killed at the Sri Racha Tiger Zoo where several tigers died from bird flu after being fed raw chicken.

The government also killed more than 1.5 million chickens in the operation, the report said.

The destroyed fowls were mainly from farms and villages in the country's central and lower northern regions, where most of the bird flu cases both in poultry and human have been found since thevirus re-emerged in July, the news agency quoted a report of the National Center Fighting Bird Flu as saying.

The report cited the lack of awareness and protective equipmentamong rural villagers and insufficient numbers of monitoring officials as main obstacles to effectively preventing the spread of the disease.

The center suggested that the government pay more attention to enhancing villagers' awareness of the disease and speed up compensation payment to farmers whose fowls had been culled to stop spread of the disease.


Test suggests bird flu may be in Hong Kong

A preliminary test of a dead Grey Heron found in the Lok Ma Chau area indicated a suspected case of H5 avian influenza, a Hong Kong official said.

Further confirmatory tests are being conducted, a Hong Kong government spokesman said.

The dead bird, found by a worker in the restricted area of Lok Ma Chau, was handed to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department for testing Monday, reported Xinhua, China's main government-run news agency Tuesday.

As a precautionary measure, the Center for Health Protection had traced all seven persons who had contact with the dead bird, and found they are in good health, the government spokesman said. "We will be monitoring their medical conditions for the next few days.

All poultry farms within 2 kilometers (about 1 mile) of where the dead bird was found had been inspected by AFCD staff. There was no abnormal mortality and the chickens showed no symptoms of avian influenza.


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