Killer bug in the system
THE CANBERRA scientist who argued against details of a new strain of potentially apocalyptic bird flu being published has warned of inadequate security at the lab where the virus was developed and says the virus should not have been developed at all.
Professor Ian Ramshaw also says the new airborne H5N1 virus, modified in a way many believe will transmit it more easily between humans, has not been researched in a laboratory with the highest possible security level.
''With research such as this you better be entirely sure the benefits outweigh the risks,'' Professor Ramshaw said.
A decade ago, Professor Ramshaw, now director of Australia's National Centre for Biosecurity, decided to publish details of a deadly mousepox his team had created. It was done after many internal discussions within the research team and the final decision was made so the findings could be debated.
Now two separate groups of researchers, one in the Netherlands and the other in the United States, have each developed similar strains of H5N1 avian flu and have agreed not to publish specific details about them. Coughs and sneezes between laboratory ferrets have reportedly passed on the flu between the animals during research. Professor Ramshaw said the American lab that produced the flu strain, which many believe would kill half the people who contracted it, only had level three biosecurity as opposed to level four. Both level three and level four are highly controlled environments. People defending the research have argued no pathogens have escaped from a level three facility in the United States.
''The question now has to involve what's going to happen with international controls,'' Professor Ramshaw said.http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/lo ... 43947.aspx
Canadian research on lab-made bird flu must be done in top biosecurity
If Canadian scientists want to conduct research on H5N1 flu viruses modified to enhance their ability to spread, the work will have to be done in laboratories with the top level of biosecurity, the Public Health Agency of Canada says.
The agency said in a statement that any research on the viruses in this country would need to be done in labs designated as Containment Level 4 — known as BSL4 labs elsewhere. The only Level 4 labs in Canada are located at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.
That requirement is a step up from the one governing research on regular H5N1 viruses. Canadian scientists are allowed to work on those viruses in Level 3 laboratories.
For the time being, the advice is moot; the viruses in question are locked up in labs in the Netherlands and the United States. And while controversy rages over whether the teams that created them should be able to publish their work in scientific journals, it's unlikely those labs will share samples, especially across international borders. http://www.citytv.com/toronto/citynews/ ... iosecurity
Flu cases hit 1.7 mln amid H3N2 virus outbreak in Japan
TOKYO, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- Influenza cases expanded by 620,000 to hit an estimated 1.73 million in the past week beginning Jan. 29, a major Japanese newspaper reported on Sunday, citing the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.
Patient numbers roared in all 47 prefectures as the nation experienced its first outbreak of H3N2, a subtype of the influenza A virus, in five years, The Japan Times reported.
About 90 percent of the patients were diagnosed with the strain, the paper said.
It added that some 260,000 babies and infants under 4, who were born after the previous H3N2 outbreak, had been diagnosed with the virus.http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/healt ... 392006.htm
Nepal in mass poultry cull after bird flu found
Health workers in Nepal are to cull thousands of chickens following the discovery of the H5N1 strain of bird flu in the southeastern part of the Himalayan country, officials said Sunday.
"We sent samples for investigation to London after chickens started to die of a mysterious disease in commercial poultry farms," said Ram Krishna Khatiwada, of the government's Directorate of Animal Health.
"We have received the test reports today that confirms infection of bird flu in poultry farms in Khanar and Ithari of the Sunsari district."
Bird flu has also been confirmed in the eastern hills of Panchathar district and the tea-producing area of Ilam, Katiwada told AFP, adding that surveillance of farms was to be stepped up and 4,000 chickens would be killed in the affected areas.
"There has not been infection to humans in the area so far," he added.
"Some have complained of itching and vomiting but that is only panic. We will get the situation under control in one or two days."http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/ar ... 6b05b64.41
Bird flu case surfaces in Bhubaneswar
Saturday 4th February, 2012
Odisha has banned the movement of poultry and related products from an area in the capital Bhubaneswar after a bird flu case surfaced in the city, an official said Saturday.
The state authorities had recently sent three poultry samples from the government-run Central Poultry Development Organisation (CPDO) to the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL) in Bhopal after several chickens suddenly died.
One of these samples tested positive for the deadly H5N1 virus, state animal resources development department director Benudhar Dash told IANS. The CPDO has nearly 30,000 poultry birds.
Dash said to prevent the spread of infection, the movement of poultry and related products has been restricted from the area within a three km radius of the firm.http://www.calcuttanews.net/story/20322 ... hubaneswar
Bird flu may be rearing its ugly head again
ISLAMABAD: Eight peacocks have died in Lahore mysteriously. While the cause is still being investigated, fears that it could be some strain of bird flu are being suppressed.
The fears in the agricultural sector and poultry are confirmed from the recurrences in past few months of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1) in in India (where thousands of birds have been culled), Bangladesh (that culled 50, 000 chickens), China (where a death in January from the deadly H5N1 has been confirmed) to across Iran (in September 2011) and as far down in Indonesia and Australia. Experts with the agriculture and poultry sectors fear that Pakistan’s Rs300 billion poultry industry faced certain threat of the pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5N1) that knew no borders and could spread.
What makes Pakistan vulnerable to the deadly virus is the absence of any surveillance system to detectmonitor and control the virus that has mutated into more than 260 different forms from spreading in farm chickens.
Following H5N1 outbreak in 2005, the avian influenza surveillance launched at the Animal Sciences Institute, NARC at the National Reference Lab for Avian Influenza (NRLPD) was another casualty of devolution. The surveillance work at NRLPD helped control further spread of avian influenza and eventually eliminated it by July 2008. However, the early warning programme was terminated in June 2011 under the 18th Amendment.http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/04/bird-flu ... again.html
Scientists call for curbs on own research on deadly bird flu virus
Virus experts in the US say outbreak of genetically engineered bird flu could be worst influenza pandemic in history
A group of the leading virus experts in the US has called for new, permanent restrictions on research in the face of a new genetically engineered flu virus that could kill half the population of the world.
Scientists are currently observing a 60-day moratorium on research into the bird flu virus, after two groups found a way to make it infectious through airborne transmission.An outbreak of this virus could be worse than the 1918 Spanish flu that killed tens of millions of people
, warned Michael Osterholm – who has led research into previous dangerous outbreaks – at a public meeting on censorship in science in New York on Thursday night.
"Frankly, I don't want a virus out there that, even if it was 20 times less lethal, would still be the worst influenza pandemic in history," he said.
Professor Osterholm is a member of the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, which in December asked the journals Science and Nature not to publish the full research on the virus.
Bird flu, or H5N1, has so far infected 583 people according to World Heath Organisation figures, mostly in South East Asia, and killed 344 – though it is believed the proportion of fatalities to infections might be lower, as some may have caught the virus but not been hospitalised.
It can currently only be caught by close exposure to infected birds.However, the new research demonstrated that the virus could be mutated, through genetic manipulation and other methods,
into a form that was transmitted between ferrets in airborne droplets from coughs and sneezes.
Ferrets are considered a good model for human-to-human virus transmission.
The NSABB said this posed a huge risk to the world.
"If this virus were to escape by error or by terror, we must ask whether it would cause a pandemic,"
said NSABB chair Paul Keim in an interview published in Nature this week.
"The probability is unknown, but it is not zero. There are many scenarios to consider, ranging from mad lone scientists, desperate despots and members of millennial doomsday cults, to nation states wanting mutually assured destruction options, bioterrorists or a single person's random acts of craziness."
Professor Osterholm said he considered the new virus a worse threat than the return of smallpox.
"I wouldn't like to see smallpox get out of the lab, but if it did it wouldn't overly concern me," Osterholm said. "We could contain it. The same thing is true with Sars. But influenza would scare the hell out of me, because it is the most notorious, the 'Lion King' of transmission."
"Once it's out there, it's gone, it's worldwide."
However, he said the research could have positive results, such as finding a better vaccine, or improving virus detection in the early stages of a pandemic if it emerged naturally. He said virus surveillance at the moment was "like a whole lot of broken smoke alarms".
The meeting agreed that restricting research, and access to research data, would have bad consequences for science, because new advances often come from unexpected places.
These viruses were generated in the laboratory … when these things get out and they recombine with existing strains, I think it will be very unpredictable, and this is a risk I think is very high."
But she added that the more laboratories around the world worked on the virus, the greater the risk it would escape – even in the US, there were hundreds of breaches of quarantine in the highest-level labs.
Alan Ruldolph, from the US Department of Defense's Defense Threat Reduction Agency, said information on the virus was "relatively uncontrollable", and the focus on bird flu should be on how to prepare for
and respond to an outbreak.http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/fe ... ts-warning
Two women die mysteriously in Brevard County(Florida)
Titusville, Fla. —
Brevard County investigators are trying to figure out if a mysterious illness is to blame for the bizarre deaths of a mother and daughter. Sheriff’s detectives revealed the two women were experiencing flu like symptoms before they died.
The women’s bodies were discovered in a house on Hallum Drive, just off of U.S. 1, north of Titusville on Monday afternoon. Deputies believe the women may have been dead for a few days.
“There is no signs of trauma, no signs of foul play. It is suspicious only because we located two decreased within the same residence,” Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Major J.J. Woolsey said.
Investigators would not enter the home without hazmat suits because they were afraid the women were carrying something deadly.
WFTV learned the victims had been experiencing flu-like symptoms for the last two weeks.
When emergency crews arrived, they took the victims’ father and husband to the hospital for respiratory problems. Neighbors were not sure what to think.
“I have no idea, it is pretty scary, pretty scary,” neighbor Phillipa Compton said.
The 911 call came in from the elderly man in the home who found his wife and daughter in their beds. Detectives said he is suffering from dementia and could not remember when he last checked on them.
Both women were found dead in their separate bedrooms, both fully dressed. One was in bed and the other was lying on top of the covers. One of them was watching a movie when she died.
Detectives told WFTV they ruled out carbon monoxide poisoning and they will have to wait for an autopsy result for answers.http://www.wftv.com/news/news/local/two ... nty/nHWWx/