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New bird-flu outbreaks as blogs fear FEMA repeat

By
KATE WALKER, UPI Correspondent

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Romania has announced further outbreaks of avian influenza among birds in Periprava, a village in the Danube River Delta.

The small village, which lacks road access and is easily quarantined, is the place where H5N1 was first detected in Romania in early October.

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Samples taken from the birds have been sent to British laboratories to confirm the presence of the H5N1 strain, but officials have taken the precautionary measures of culling and quarantining.

Meanwhile:

-- As expected, Indonesia has confirmed that the 25-year-old woman who died last week was the country's ninth human death from avian influenza.

-- China reported Thursday its 30th avian-flu outbreak among the nation's bird flocks since mid-October.

The recent outbreak occurred in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, where 300 birds died. All poultry within a 3-km radius of the site of the outbreak have been culled.

-- Also in China, the quarantines imposed on the regions surrounding poultry outbreaks in Liaoning province three weeks ago have been lifted, as no further indications of outbreaks or infection have been found.

-- In China's Anhui province, all 41 people under medical observation since coming into contact with the country's second human victim of avian influenza have been released.

Although declared symptom-free, all will be required to submit to follow-up examinations for a further seven days.

-- The Hong Kong government Thursday discovered 2,700 doses of an avian-flu vaccine illegally smuggled into the country from China.

Cindy Lai, Hong Kong's assistant director for health, said, "We found there were 2,700 doses brought in by a trading company from China without any import certificate. We have retrieved 1,109 vaccines and about 1,600 were either used or distributed to clinics and health centers."

-- There have been murmurs on the blogosphere regarding the suitability -- or lack thereof -- of a Bush appointee responsible for overseeing aspects of the Department of Health and Human Services' response to public health issues, including bioterrorism and emergency preparedness.

Stewart Simonson, assistant secretary for public health and emergency preparedness, was named in a fact sheet issued by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., entitled "Cronyism in the Bush Administration" and was No. 7 on The New Republic's list of 15 Team Bush Hacks, defined by "waifish resumes padded like the Michelin man, whose political connections have won them important national responsibilities."

Simonson's resume includes a post at Amtrak and a period spent advising the governor of Wisconsin on issues relating to crime and policy. His previous experience is mainly as legal counsel, a role he filled for HHS between 2001 and 2003. He has also served as special counsel to the secretary for public health and human preparedness.

While there is no doubt as to his suitability for positions involving legal counsel, his work history, as published on the HHS Web site, does not suggest a wealth of experience in pandemic preparedness, disaster management or emergency situations -- health-related or otherwise.

A vaccine-manufacture program Simonson helped supervise was recently criticized by the Washington Post as a program that "has by most accounts bogged down and shown few results."

Workingforchange.com cites Simonson's critics: "The Lonewacko Blog acerbically pointed out that Simonson is 'obviously qualified if we have an outbreak of litigation.' And Douglas Drenkow, a researcher, writer and political commentator, summed up the situation in a recent column posted at OpEdNews.com: "The person in charge of our country's public health -- in the event of any sort of bio-emergency is a lawyer, not a doctor or anyone else with an iota of formal training in the field."

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