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As a biological weapon, H5N1 is for the birds
Amid the furor over the U.S. government’s move to restrict publication of vital research into H5N1 avian flu, no one seems to be challenging a key assumption—that H5N1 could make a useful weapon. It wouldn’t.
...This unprecedented interference in the field of biology could hinder research and hamper responsiveness in distant lands plagued by H5N1. If institutions there don’t know what gene changes to watch for, how quickly will we know if H5N1 replicates a pandemic combination defined by researchers on three continents?
Nanoparticle proteomics: Characterizing protein-nanoparticle interactions in biofluids
…the researchers used nanoparticles that emulate selected characteristics of environmental particles, such as those found in diesel exhaust or urban environments, and can enter the lungs and cause asthma, emphysema, and cancer.
….different nanoparticle sizes and surface chemistries resulted in different adsorbed protein profiles, indicating that different kinds of nanoparticles may have different accumulation, fate, and health effects. Such analyses pave the way for better predictive models about nanoparticle-protein interactions and can influence decisions about nanoparticle use and human health and safety.
Five-year-old girl dies of bird flu, second this year in Indonesia
JAKARTA - Indonesian health officials say a five-year-old girl has died of bird flu in Jakarta - just days after her brother succumbed to the virus. This raised the number of fatalities from H5N1 to five in Asia in the last three weeks.
.....several lab tests confirmed the girl had the virus, making her the second fatality in Indonesia this year.
......Vietnam said on Thursday that an 18-year-old died of the disease on Monday after being hospitalised a day earlier.
.....In Cambodia, a 2-year-old boy died on Wednesday after developing symptoms on Jan 3.
....On Dec 31, a bus driver died in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, a week after being admitted to hospital with fever
Flu Researcher Ron Fouchier: 'It's a Pity That It Has to Come to This'
In a statement posted today on the Web sites of Nature and Science, a group of 39 influenza researchers announced a 2-month moratorium on studies that make the avian influenza strain H5N1 more transmissible between mammals. The moratorium is intended to allow time for an international debate about this type of research, which some people say has the potential to help bioterrorists.
.....Q: Why did you take this step now?
R.F.: We were advised by various organizations, and of course we've followed the press coverage and the political debates. We had the impression, based partly on advice from third parties, that it would be sensible to announce a moratorium.
Q: Which third parties?
R.F.: The organizations that fund our research, but also governments that we are talking to. So much is happening at the moment that it makes sense to take a break, to give the infectious diseases field time to think this over and talk about how to handle this kind of research in the future. This research offers opportunities and challenges, and governments and organizations need time to react.
Q: Are you doing this because if you don't, governments might move to halt the research?
R.F.: The debate is so controversial that we can't rule that out. We'd rather have everybody take a breather to reflect carefully on how to handle this.
Suspected bird flu: Two deaths
After being treated for five days, a suspected bird flu victim from Tangerang died at the Tangerang General Hospital (RSUD) on Wednesday. [later confirmed H1N1 swine flu]
….RV, 3, from Cengkareng district in West Jakarta, died after suffering from high fever for several days.
….Over two weeks, there have been two confirmed deaths from avian flu in Jakarta alone.
Bird flu researcher: H5N1 work is 'urgent'
….Kawaoka argued in Nature that any risks of "misuse and accidental release" do not outweigh the work's benefits.
"I counter that H5N1 viruses circulating in nature already pose a threat, because influenza viruses mutate constantly and can cause pandemics with great losses of life," he wrote. "Because H5N1 mutations that confer transmissibility in mammals may emerge in nature, I believe that it would be irresponsible not to study the underlying mechanisms."
Kawaoka also said that redacting his work would not keep others from also creating mutant H5N1, possibly for misuse, and that the mechanism being discussed by U.S. officials to control dissemination of future research into avian flu transmissibility would prove "unwieldy."
Lab-grown super flu a boon, not threat
….The research shows that H5N1 is just five mutations in two genes away from turning into a highly-infectious killer swarm. The new mutated virus is expected to improve genetic surveillance of H5N1strains in birds and animals for virus mutations as an early warning alert to a potential human pandemic. ….
Health systems — especially in resource-restrained countries such as India, China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Egypt, where the virus now exists in the wild throughout the year — do not have the infrastructure needed to track and kill the virus. At best, the surveillance and vaccination of infected animals is patchy. In most of these countries, it is also largely focused on detecting and controlling outbreaks, with few viral samples being collected and sequenced, which needs to be done real-time to identify a mutation quickly enough to stop a pandemic. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation estimates that even if the governments are willing, with current resources, it would take at least a decade to stamp out the virus from these countries. ….
….The lab grown super-flu virus indicates the worse that lies ahead and challenges us to do the best we can to contain it.
Bioterror is not the biggest threat from bird flu
WHY DO we study flu? So we can protect ourselves from it. We've long since learned that H5N1 bird flu poses real reasons for concern; more recently, that it really does have the potential to become a nightmarish airborne plague. How should we react?
Not by delaying the publication of the research, for fear that it will aid supposed bioterrorists (see "Publish lethal flu virus work, says WHO"). There is surprisingly little evidence that such a threat exists. But there has long been a great deal of evidence that the threat of pandemic flu exists. …..
PM calls for urgent measures to prevent spread of bird flu
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung on February 20 sent an urgent dispatch to all provincial authorities to step up measures and tighten supervision so as to prevent the spread of bird flu (H5N1) virus, which has reoccurred in Vietnam.
The dispatch clearly states of the high risk of a fresh bird flu outbreak in Vietnam. Provincial People’s Committees have been ordered to improve food hygiene, especially in slaughterhouses and processing units and constantly monitor bird flu cases so as to contain the infection. …
Indonesia reports third H5N1 death this year
A 19-year-old Indonesian woman has died of avian influenza on the outskirts of Jakarta, putting the total death toll from the disease to three this year, a statement from health ministry said on Wednesday.
Concerns about H5N1 have risen in the region following reports of deaths in Indonesia, Cambodia, China and Vietnam this year. …
Indonesia was hit hard by H5N1 virus in 2005. Nine people, including two children, were killed last year when the virus started to reoccur.
Influenza Found in Bats
A new subtype of the flu virus is identified in Guatemalan yellow-shouldered bats, and it may share its genes with the human version.
Scientists have discovered another flu strain in a completely novel flu reservoir—bats. According to a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, some bats in Central America harbor a strain of influenza that, while genetically distinct from the one that afflicts the human population on a seasonal basis, may have implications for the evolution of the human virus.
“Despite its divergence from known influenza A viruses, the bat virus is compatible for genetic exchange with human influenza viruses in human cells, suggesting the potential capability for reassortment and contributions to new pandemic or panzootic influenza A viruses,” the authors wrote.
Death Toll Mounts in Indonesia as Battle Rages Over Bird Flu Study
...The latest victim was a 12-year-old boy who died on Saturday at a hospital in Bali’s capital, Denpasar.
It was the fourth bird flu death in the country since the beginning of the year, despite the government’s claim that the disease is under control.
NOTE: This article offers a well-written and interesting overview of the research controversy.
Vietnamese man hospitalized with H5N1 infection
A 22-year-old man in Vietnam is in critical condition with an H5N1 avian influenza infection, according to media reports.
Nguyen Van Vin Chau, Ho Chi Minh City's director of tropical diseases, said the man is from Binh Duong province, located in the southeastern part of the country, Asia News Network (ANN) reported today. He was hospitalized on Feb 23 after experiencing a high fever and respiratory symptoms.
...So far this year Vietnam has reported three H5N1 infections, including two deaths, after recording none in 2011.
Publication Delay Blamed for Bird Flu Fears
Controversial bird flu research has been widely misinterpreted, mainly because the two studies involved have not been published, one of the principal investigators said.
There are "too many misperceptions about this work simply because it cannot be evaluated," according to Ron Fouchier, PhD, of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Among other things, the mutated H5N1 influenza virus under study is nowhere near as dangerous as some reports have suggested, Fouchier said in a panel discussion at a Washington research meeting on biodefense and emerging diseases organized by the American Society for Microbiology.
US seeks new review of easier-to-spread bird flu; scientist says work isn’t as risky as feared
A scientist who created an easier-to-spread version of the bird flu said his work isn’t as risky as people fear. The U.S. government is asking its biosecurity advisers to reconsider if the research should be made public.
...contrary to public perceptions, the airborne bird flu didn’t kill the ferrets, Dr. Ron Fouchier of the Netherlands’ Erasmus University told a meeting of U.S. scientists Wednesday. In fact, he said those previously exposed to regular flu were protected from severe disease.
Fouchier said publishing the research would help other scientists monitor the so-called H5N1 bird flu for similar mutations in the wild, and to test vaccines and treatments.
With new data, NSABB may revisit H5N1 studies
Feb 29, 2012 (CIDRAP News) – The mutant H5N1 virus generated in one of two controversial studies was less lethal and contagious than has been generally understood, and the US government's biosecurity advisory committee will be asked to examine new and clarified data from the study, scientists and government officials revealed today.
Ron Fouchier, PhD, lead author of one of the studies, said the mutant H5N1 virus generated in his experiment was not highly lethal when it spread among ferrets via coughing and sneezing, though it was lethal when intentionally introduced into the ferrets' lungs in high doses. He spoke at a panel discussion hosted by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) and streamed over the Web.
From Egypt Independent: With high-tech system, Egypt hopes to avoid possible pandemic
H5N1, also known as avian influenza or bird flu, has apparently found a perfect environment to thrive in Egypt. Since the initial onset of the virus back in 2006, new outbreaks of the flu have occurred every single year, making Egypt one of the world’s few endemic countries for the virus, along with Indonesia and Peru. The government, taking the threat of a pandemic seriously, has launched annual vaccination campaigns to mitigate the number of fatalities in Egypt...
H5N2 outbreak leads to official's resignation
According to the COA, a dead chicken from Changhua County was sent to the COA on Dec. 27, 2011, which is the earliest report of H5N2 that the COA has received since last year. Tests concluded that chickens in the Changhua farm were infected with highly pathogenic H5N2 bird flu, yet there was no record of deaths at that time and chickens in the Changhua farm continued laying eggs. After reviewing all available reports, the Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) concluded in January that the dead chicken was infected with low-pathogenic H5N2 bird flu. .....
Lee Hui-jen (李惠仁), who has made an award-winning documentary over the alleged cover-up of H5N2 cases by Taiwan officials, has accused Director-General Hsu of forgery. Prosecutors have been investigating this charge since Jan. 16.
According to Lee, Hsu deliberately hid the result of an experiment indicating highly pathogenic H5N2 bird flu and did not report the H5N2 cases to World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
Influenza A virus subtype H5N2
Low pathogenic avian inluenza H5N2 virus in poultry later gained accentuated virulence in the United States  and Mexico. A highly pathogenic strain of H5N2 caused flu outbreaks with significant spread to numerous farms, resulting in great economic losses in 1983 in Pennsylvania, USA in chickens and turkeys, in 1994 in Mexico in chickens and a minor outbreak in 1997 in Italy in chickens. .....
.....In China, inactivated H5N2 has been used as a vaccine for H5N1. .....
......In 2012 a strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza is devastating the South African commercial ostrich industry with 41,000 birds already been reported culled. 
H5N2 and humans
Japan's Health Ministry said in January, 2006 that poultry farm workers in Ibaraki prefecture may have been exposed to H5N2 (which was not previously known to infect humans) in 2005. Data were collected from 257 workers at 35 chicken farms by Ibaraki prefectural government. Using a Wilcoxon signed-rank test, it was determined that the H5N2 antibody titers of the second samples of paired sera were significantly higher than those of the first samples (p
Vietnam's capital reports bird flu outbreak
Hanoi authorities announced an outbreak of bird flu last week, one week after it was known that thousands of culled ducks had tested positive for the H5N1 virus.
Vietnam, Bangladesh report more H5N1 cases
Robert Roos News Editor
Mar 5, 2012 (CIDRAP News) – The World Health Organization (WHO) today reported another human H5N1 avian influenza illness in Vietnam, while an online newspaper reported two more cases in poultry market workers in Bangladesh.
Questions linger over COA's handling of H5N2 outbreak
...Today independent film producer Lee Hui-ren (李惠仁) will appear at the Legislative Yuan to confront Council of Agriculture (COA) Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) to debate his accusation that the COA covered up the outbreak of the H5N2 avian flu strain.
...The COA has yet to answer why it holds a higher bar for identifying outbreaks that requires both the discovery of the high pathogenic avian flu virus and massive poultry death while the World Organization for Animal Health requires only one of the two. It also has to explain why it look over 70 days after receiving Lee's dead chicken to confirm the virus' high pathogenicity.
More confusingly, if the COA believes it did not do wrong in the handling of the H5N2 case, as insisted by former Minister Chen Wu-hsiung (陳武雄) yesterday, why did the COA's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine chief Hsu Tien-lai (許天來) have to resign?
And then there is the comment by Hsu Kuei-sen (許桂森). The head of the COA's Animal Husbandry Department reportedly told a farmer late last December that the COA did not report the Changhua case because there was worry of a “collapse.” Hsu stressed on Sunday that by “collapse” he meant the sever impact of a H5N2 outbreak to the chicken and egg industry, not the collapse of the ruling Kuomintang in the 2012 elections in January.
.......Ironically, without clear information on its decision-making process, the COA's rush of political sterilization only reminds people more of the worst case scenario — a possible cover-up of a major flu outbreak for election reasons.
H5N1 claims fifth victim this year in Indonesia
JAKARTA: A 24-year-old woman has died of bird flu on Indonesia's Sumatra island, the fifth human death from the virus this year, a health ministry official said on Wednesday.
...Nine Indonesians died from the virus last year.
...The virus typically spreads from birds to humans through direct contact, but experts fear it could mutate into a form that is easily transmissible between humans, with the potential to kill millions in a pandemic.