FluWrap: Three new Asian outbreaks

By KATE WALKER, UPI Correspondent  |  Nov. 4, 2005 at 11:42 AM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- Avian influenza affected three Asian countries Friday, with confirmed outbreaks in China and Vietnam and indications of an outbreak in Japan.

China has reported four incidences of bird flu in the past three weeks. The latest occurrence was reported to be in Liaoning province and resulted in the culling of some 370,000 birds in the region.

Vietnam's Bac Giang province saw 3,000 birds die, both from avian flu and the resulting culls. Officials state that the remaining poultry in the region has been vaccinated, the three affected villages and surrounding areas disinfected and the local transport of poultry banned.

Japan's Ibaraki Prefecture has announced that 180,000 chickens will be culled after tests on the farm indicated that the birds had been exposed to H5N1 antibodies. Earlier confirmation of the virus's presence in the region led to the slaughter of 1.5 million birds.

Also in Asia, Cambodian officials have announced that they only have enough Tamiflu to treat 100 people, should a human pandemic occur.

"We currently have just over 100 courses in stock in Phnom Penh," said Ly Sovann, chief of the disease surveillance bureau of Cambodia's Health Ministry. "We have given only one course to each province."

In other news:

-- Roche, the manufacturer of Tamiflu, has told the European Union that it is in talks with other pharmaceutical companies to allow the production of the drug under generic license.

"Patents will not stand in the way of Roche making license agreements with other companies to increase production capacity and they are talking to other companies," an EU spokesman was reported as saying in Australia's Herald Sun.

-- Individual states in the United States have their own bird-flu strategies, in addition to the national strategy unveiled by President Bush earlier this week.

The plans are part of pandemic-preparedness strategies the states have had in place for several years and are not all specific to the possible avian-influenza pandemic dominating the news.

There is a concern that the individual plans may not correspond with the latest national strategy and questions over the resources available and the distribution thereof.

"The plan is useful, and the planning process is useful, but what isn't occurring is any analysis to see whether the staffing required to do the plans is actually there," said Dr. Rex Archer, president of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

"That's the weakness with all of this. I'm afraid that probably 90 percent of the staffing at the state and local level is not there to carry out the plans."

But there has also been support for America's response to avian influenza, notably from Dr. Donald S. Burke, professor of International Health and Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week, Burke warned that a global avian-flu pandemic "will flash and be done in less than three months."

"The new mindset should be one that focuses upstream in the earliest events, emphasizing prediction and prevention before a pandemic begins. Surveillance and response, the hallmarks of epidemiology, should be part, not all, of our strategy.

"The president should be congratulated and his plan supported. Avian influenza is an immediate and real threat to our collective security," Burke wrote.

-- The United Nations and the World Bank will meet next week in Geneva to hold a summit on the perceived threat of avian influenza, identifying means of pandemic control and preparation while assessing the global threat.

An editorial in the British medical journal The Lancet named five areas of concern that should be discussed at the summit: detection and containment of the disease in birds; increasing access to anti-virals currently produced under patent; the optimum use of anti-virals as a means of disease control while avoiding the development of viral resistance to available medications; improving international monitoring and reporting of outbreaks and the spread of the disease; and means of preventing the spread of a pandemic.

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