Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Bird Flu Scare Shakes Up The Valley

Movement, Sale of Live Poultry Restricted Statewide

By Hannah Northey

HARRISONBURG — State officials hope to clip the wings of a possible avian flu outbreak in the Valley by canceling public events and sales involving live poultry, and prohibiting the application of poultry litter in 17 counties in Western Virginia until the end of the month.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is calling for the measures in response to Friday’s discovery of avian flu antibodies in a flock of 54,000 turkeys on an unidentified Shenandoah County farm. The antibodies were found in the birds, located on a farm west of Mount Jackson, during a "preslaughter" test.

Elaine Lidholm, director of communication for VDAC, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, is still trying to isolate the virus, and may identify what’s causing the antibodies today.

"The state doesn’t wait for confirmatory results because time is of the essence," Lidholm said.

Birds within a 6-mile radius of the farm have tested negative for the antibodies so far, said Hobey Bauhan, president of the Virginia Poultry Federation.

But Lidholm said the extra precautions are necessary because the detected antibodies match characteristics of H5, a low pathogenic strain of avian influenza that has the ability to mutate into a highly pathogenic form.

The scare has widespread implications in Rockingham County, which remains one of the top poultry producers in the nation, according to Bauhan.

Neighboring West Virginia also has responded by suspending all poultry shows and sales for the next 30 days, according to The Associated Press.

Code Red

Poultry farms are on "code red" security alerts, Lidholm said, and have stepped up surveillance, monitoring and biosecurity measures.

She said the farm where the virus was detected, which could not be identified due to security concerns, is under quarantine and that only workers can enter or leave the premises.

Bauhan said the flock owner is working with Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, USDA, VDAC and Shenandoah County officials to exterminate the birds properly and compost the carcasses. The composting process, which Bauhan said will produce a substance free of the virus, can be applied to the land.

Lidholm said officials will exterminate the birds this evening because they are concerned about people working in daytime temperatures forecast to reach the mid-90s.

"Normally, we would’ve put that flock down already," she said.

The flock owner and state officials are following standards established by the Virginia Poultry Disease Task Force, a group that formed after bird flu hit the Valley in April 2002, Bauhan said.

During that outbreak, the virus cost Virginia farmers $130 million on nearly 200 farms and the death of 4.7 million birds.

Bird Flu Blues

Lidholm said the restrictions on poultry shows and sales, which could be extended if necessary, will affect flea markets, 4-H competitions, commercial sales and country fairs that run from July to August.

But poultry-litter haulers may be hit even harder.

State Veterinarian Richard Wilkes ordered that no poultry litter, manure or bedding removed from poultry houses be applied to land at any location or moved from the farm of origin in 17 counties until July 30. Affected counties include Rockingham, Shenandoah, Page and Augusta, according to a press release.

Officials hope the restrictions will limit the spread of the virus, which can spread through infected birds’ saliva, nasal secretions and feces, which other birds then come in contact with, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

But Mark Deavers of Broadway, manager of Deavers Lime and Litter, said it’s unfair to restrict poultry-litter application and not the birds being sent to the processing plants.

"If the birds are good enough to go to market, the manure is good enough to spread," Deavers said.

Deavers, who operates four trucks that move 1,000 pounds of poultry litter a month along Interstate 81 from Winchester to Roanoke, said he’ll have to house the litter at storage sheds on the farms where it is produced until the end of July.

He said he’ll have to pay $6 for every ton he stores in the sheds, in addition to losing $20,000 a month while his trucks are idled.

"The trucks will have to sit and I’ll have to see if I can make the payments," he said. "I’ll just have to dig it all back out in a month and put it back on the trucks."

But Bauhan said the measures are necessary to prevent an outbreak and that restrictions on the movement of litter could be lifted once tests show the virus isn’t spreading.

"In the early days, we need to do whatever we can to make sure this doesn’t turn into a widespread outbreak," he said.

For More Information

To find out more about safety on the farm, visit www.vapoultry.com.

Contact Hannah Northey at 574-6274 or hnorthey@dnronline.com


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

International summit on bird flu amid rising fears of pandemic

John Ross
The Scotsman
Tue, 26 Jun 2007 16:01 EDT

An International summit on bird flu opens in Scotland today, amid growing fears that the deadly virus could cause a pandemic.

About 30 experts from 15 countries will gather in Aviemore for the two-day event following a similar meeting in Nairobi last year.

It has been organised by the Avian Flu Task Force under the United Nations' international convention on migratory species, and includes delegates from Europe, Africa, South America and Asia.

They will review outbreaks of avian flu around the world, which have led to the deaths of 191 people since 2003, and examine issues including the surveillance of wild birds in relation to the disease.

Delegates will also discuss contingency planning and response strategies for outbreaks and what information is needed to understand potential infection routes and further local spread.

Professor Colin Galbraith, director of policy and advice at Scottish Natural Heritage, who is a member of the task force, said: "Bird flu is one of the biggest international challenges that exists today. It knows no boundaries. Scientists across the world must work together to understand the nature of the disease and to contain any outbreaks.

"It is crucial there is ongoing contact between countries and we share and learn from each other. The range of delegates and countries represented is a reflection of the seriousness of this issue across the world.

"In Scotland, we have a valuable contribution to make in terms of our contingency planning and in relation to the monitoring of wild birds."

More than 300 people worldwide have been affected by the avian flu virus, with 191 deaths since its discovery in Asian poultry stocks in 2003.

To date, there have been three confirmed cases of bird flu in Britain. In February, 159,000 birds were slaughtered on a Suffolk farm belonging to Bernard Matthews after the H5N1 virus was discovered. In April 2006, a dead swan was found on the slipway of the harbour at Cellardyke in Fife.

The death of 15 chickens on a farm in Conwy, North Wales in May, was caused by a less virulent strain of avian flu -H7N2.

Last week, a four-year-old boy in Cairo tested positive for bird flu, bringing to 37 the number of people in Egypt infected with the virus, including 15 who died.

Most of the fatalities have been women or girls whose families raise poultry and who had daily contact with chickens or turkeys.

Egypt is one of the countries most affected by the H5N1 strain outside Asia as it lies on a main route for migratory birds, which are believed to have brought the disease.

The Czech Republic's first case of bird flu in poultry was reported in Prague last week; about 1,800 turkeys died in the outbreak. Until now, bird flu has been detected there only in wild swans.

Earlier this year, three outbreaks occurred near Moscow.



Bird flu cases increase to six in Germany

Germany confirmed the H5N1 bird flu virus in three more wild birds in the southern state of Bavaria on Monday, bringing the total infected cases to six since last weekend.

Since three wild bird found dead in Nuremberg in northern Bavaria tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain on Sunday, three more cases have been confirmed, with five swans and one goose infected, the Friedrich Loeffler Institute, a veterinary institution, said on Monday.

Local authorities in Nuremberg has established a restricted zone within a radius of about four km and ordered local poultry farmers to confine all poultry to closed stalls. Nuremberg officials also warned dog owners not to allow their pets to run freely in the quarantine zone.

Although the German government did not expect the Nuremberg outbreak to spread to other regions, German Agriculture Minister Horst Seehofer warned that the virus was still present in the environment.

The H5N1 bird flu virus has been found in geese and turkeys in a total of four farms in Hungary, Britain and the Czech Republic this year, but not yet in wild birds.

According to the World Health Organization, the H5N1 virus has killed nearly 200 people out of more than 300 cases globally since 2003. Health experts fear that H5N1 could some day develop the characteristics of seasonal flu and begin spreading easily among people, causing a global outbreak that could kill millions.
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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Hospital workers receive pandemic training

Staff at Johnstown's Memorial Medical Center are preparing for the worst-case scenario by conducting a five-day mock training session.

Staff kicked off the training by preparing for the bird-flu virus. The scenario was that the H5N1 virus was confirmed in Thailand, then a man who recently visited China came to Memorial Medical Center with respiratory symptoms similar to the H5N1.

In the scenario, the patient had also infected some of his family and co-workers. Next, the staff practiced for a massive influx of patients.

Hospital officials said the hypothetical situation prepares staff members for many components that come along with a pandemic.

Pandemics have broken out twice in the past 150 years: the Spanish flu in 1918 and the Asian flu in 1957.



Sunday, May 06, 2007

Philippines Bans U.S. Poultry After Bird Flu Virus Found In West Virginia Fowl

May 6, 2007 11:28 a.m. EST

Komfie Manalo - AHN Correspondent

Manila, Philippines (AHN) - Philippine Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said the Philippine government is imposing a ban on poultry importations from West Virginia in the U.S. after authorities there confirmed of an outbreak of the deadly H5N2 bird flu virus in a turkey farm.

Yap said the ban on imports include domestic and wild birds and their products, as well as day-old chicks and eggs from West Virginia. He said the ban is aimed at preventing the entry of avian influenza into the country.

The Philippines and Singapore are the only Asian countries that remain free of the deadly virus.

H5N2 virus is considered milder that the H5N1 bird flu virus, which has killed at least 172 out of 291 people known to have been infected since it began ravaging Asian poultry stocks in 2003, according to the World Health Organization.

The Philippines is one of the major importers of poultry from the United States. The countries of Cuba, Japan, Russia and Taiwan have already imposed similar bans on poultry or poultry products from West Virginia.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Laos teenager dies from bird flu

A 15-year-old girl from Laos has died from the virulent H5N1 strain of bird flu, becoming the country's first official fatality from the disease.

The Laos health ministry said the girl, who lived near the capital Vientiane, died while undergoing treatment at a hospital in neighbouring Thailand.

A 42-year-old woman, who also lived close to Vientiane, died of suspected bird flu a few days ago.

Tests have yet to confirm whether she died of the H5N1 virus.

A World Health Organization spokeswoman said last week that there was no link between the two cases.

Globally, more than 160 people have died of bird flu since late 2003. Most have been in East Asia, with Indonesia registering more human deaths than any other country.

But the virus has also spread to Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Millions of birds across the world have died or been culled because of the disease.

At the moment, the virus is essentially confined to birds and remains hard for people to catch.

But there is a fear that it could mutate to a form which is easily passed from human to human, triggering a pandemic and potentially putting millions of people's lives at risk.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

WHO Still Hoarding H5N1 Sequence Data

Recombinomics Commentary
July 12, 2006

One possibility is that the father simply caught a different strain of virus from birds, although other mutations in his virus are similar to those in the strain isolated from his son.

None of the sequence data from the Indonesian cluster has been deposited in public databases - access is restricted to a small network of researchers linked to the WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.

But Paul Gully, who joined the WHO two months ago as senior adviser to Margaret Chan, head of the agency's pandemic-flu efforts, defends the agency's position. He points out that the WHO's priority is investigating outbreaks, not academic research. And he adds that although calls for more complete genome data and wider sharing of samples are "a valid point", labs are stretched during outbreaks, and don't have the time or resources to do high-quality sequencing.

He agrees that sharing samples with other researchers would allow such work to be done. But he says the WHO must work within the constraints set by its member states - they own the data, and decide whether to share it. "As more countries share data, hopefully that research will get done," he says.

The WHO has not formally asked Indonesia to share the sequences, Gully adds. "We would rather wait and see what Indonesia decides."

The above comments from tomorrow's Nature highlight the dangers of H5N1 spread in large familial clusters, and clearly demonstrates WHO's unwillingness to release the sequence data they are hoarding at the Los Alamos flu database.

The large number of polymorphisms in the father of the nephew supports a dual infection in the father, He acquired one of the rare polymorphisms from his son via recombination. The polymorphisms were not evenly distributed, indicating there was also reassortment. Dual infections lead to rapid genetic change. Moreover, testing of patients in Indonesia remains poor.

Most of the human sequences in Indonesia do not match any published avian sequence, although a large number of bird sequences from Indonesia have been made public in databases or have been presented at scientific meetings. H5N1 bird flu is rapidly evolving in Indonesia, but the evolution may not be in avian hosts.

The testing remains poor because a connection with dead or dying birds is required for H5N1 testing, yet the only match for the human H5N1 has been H5N1 from a cat (see phylogenetic tree)..

Indonesia has already indicated the data can be released, but WHO refuse to make such a request, so the data hoarding continues.

These sequences should be released immediately.

Philadelphia Bird Market Closed After Positive Bird Flu Tests

A live bird market in Philadelphia was temporarily closed Wednesday after birds there tested positive for a type of avian influenza, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture said in a press release.

Stephanie Meyers, press secretary for the state agriculture department, told Dow Jones Newswires the signs point to a mild, or low-pathogenic, strain of avian influenza.

There have been no bird deaths and no birds are sick, she said.

The discovery of the avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, was the result of routine surveillance, the release said.

"Mild strains of avian influenza are very common in poultry, and we have no reason to think this strain is any different," Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff in the release.

Meyers said while the exact strain of avian influenza isn't known yet, the department has sent samples to be tested and expects to have the results in three to five days.

The closure of the bird market was simply a routine precaution, the department said.

"We have the measures in place to detect avian influenza quickly, and this occurrence shows that our procedures are working," Wolff said. "As soon as the department was made aware of the positive test, state and federal veterinarians were sent to the site to close the market, dispose of the birds and clean the facility according to state protocols."

The department is investigating the distribution channels to and from the market to ensure isolation of all sources of the virus, the release said.

Source: Angie Pointer; Dow Jones Newswires; 312-750-4075; angie.pointer@dowjones.com

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

New York unveils bird flu emergency plan


Mon July 10, 2006

NEW YORK - New York officials unveiled an emergency response plan to limit the havoc a global flu pandemic might wreak on one of the world's densest, busiest cities.

The plan, drawn up by the Department of Health with input from all the main city agencies, covers critical health areas involved in a pandemic, including disease monitoring, laboratory capacity, vaccine and medicine delivery, as well as hospital preparedness.

"We have to be ready for the possibility -- no matter how remote," said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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