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Archive for the ‘OUTBREAKS’ Category

BIRD FLU IN CHINA CAUSES THE SLAUGHTER OF 20,000 BIRDS

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

BIRD FLU OUTBREAK IN CHINA

(Reuters) – Chinese authorities slaughtered over 20,000 birds at a poultry market in Shanghai on Friday as the death toll from a new strain of bird flu mounted to six, spreading concern overseas and sparking a sell-off in airline shares in Europe and Hong Kong.

The local government in Shanghai said the Huhuai market for live birds had been shut down and 20,536 birds had been culled after authorities detected the H7N9 virus from samples of pigeons in the market. Other live poultry markets in the city will be closed down from Saturday, it said.

All the 14 reported infections from the H7N9 bird flu strain have been in eastern China and at least four of the dead are in Shanghai, a city of 23 million people and the showpiece of China’s vibrant economy.

The latest death was of a 64-year-old man in Zhejiang province, state news agency Xinhua said on Friday, adding that none of the 55 people who had close contact with him had shown symptoms of infection.

Shanghai authorities stressed the H7N9 virus remained sensitive to the drug Tamiflu and those who were diagnosed early could be cured.

“We currently have enough reserves of Tamiflu to meet with the current outbreak,” Wu Fan, director of the Shanghai Center for Disease Control & Prevention, told a news conference.

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Tamiflu is made by Roche Holding AG.

Airline shares tumbled in European markets on fears the outbreak could become widespread. The STOXX Europe 600 travel and leisure sector index fell as much as 1.6 percent, the biggest laggard among European sectors.

“The sector is reacting to fears of a new pandemic of bird flu in China, which would hurt air traffic,” said a Paris-based airline sector analyst.

In Hong Kong, the overall index closed at a four-month low, led by falls in airline shares over fears of diminished demand for air travel. Air China slumped 9.8 percent, its worst single-day loss in nearly four years.

“The bird flu issue is at the top of people’s minds now,” said Alfred Chan, chief dealer at Cheer Pearl Investment in Hong Kong.

In Shanghai, the rising death toll prompted some residents to stay away from markets with live chickens and ducks.

“I’m only getting my groceries at the large supermarkets now because I don’t think it is safe to visit the wet markets anymore,” said 38-year-old Shao Linxia, adding she had also stopped buying poultry since news of the bird flu surfaced.

“We all remember SARS and how quickly it could spread, so we are obviously worried.”

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SHADOW OF SARS

The 2002-2003 epidemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) started in China and killed about one-tenth of the 8,000 it infected.

Still, there were few signs of panic in Shanghai with shops remaining open and not many people wearing face masks in public.

The strain does not appear to be transmitted from human to human, but Hong Kong authorities said they were taking extra precautions.

Additional staff would be deployed at immigration points to make random temperature checks of visitors in addition to the infrared full-body scanners already in place, Ko Wing-man, Hong Kong’s food and health secretary, told reporters.

Vietnam banned imports of Chinese poultry.

In Japan, airports have put up posters at entry points warning all passengers from China to seek medical attention if they have flu-like symptoms.

In the United States, the White House said it was monitoring the situation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it had started work on a vaccine if it was needed. It would take five to six months to begin commercial production.

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With the fear that a SARS-like epidemic could re-emerge, China said it was pulling out the stops to combat the virus.

“(China) will strengthen its leadership in combating the virus … and coordinate and deploy the entire nation’s health system to combat the virus,” the Health Ministry said in a statement on its website (www.moh.gov.cn).

China “will continue to openly and transparently maintain communication and information channels with the World Health Organization and relevant countries and regions, and strengthen monitoring and preventative measures”, the ministry said.

The virus has been shared with World Health Organization (WHO) collaborating centers in Atlanta, Beijing, London, Melbourne and Tokyo, and these groups are analyzing samples to identify the best candidate to be used for the manufacture of vaccine – if it becomes necessary.

Any decision to mass-produce vaccines against H7N9 flu will not be taken lightly, since it will mean sacrificing production of seasonal shots.

That could mean shortages of vaccine against the normal seasonal flu which, while not serious for most people, still costs thousands of lives.

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Sanofi Pasteur, the world’s largest flu vaccine manufacturer, said it was in continuous contact with the WHO through the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), but it was too soon to know the significance of the Chinese cases.

Other leading flu vaccine makers include GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis

Preliminary test results suggest the new flu strain responds to treatment with Roche’s Tamiflu and GSK’s Relenza, according to the WHO.

Other strains of bird flu, such as H5N1, have been circulating for many years and can be transmitted from bird to bird, and bird to human, but not generally from human to human.

So far, this lack of human-to-human transmission also appears to be a feature of the H7N9 strain.

“The gene sequences confirm that this is an avian virus, and that it is a low pathogenic form (meaning it is likely to cause mild disease in birds),” said Wendy Barclay, a flu virologist at Britain’s Imperial College London.

“But what the sequences also reveal is that there are some mammalian adapting mutations in some of the genes.”

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Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

HISTORICAL DATA ON PANDEMICS & THE WORLD POPULATION

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

Pandemic-How can we the world survive?

If a disease is to be globally disruptive, it must precipitate into a flare-up of contagion and lethality—As was  the 1918 influenza pandemic, which in the course of two and half years wiped out 50 to 80 million people. If the next influenza pandemic is as bad as that one, then the pro rata toll would be 210 million. “Wiping out that many people at othe one time would disrupt civilization as we know it,” the CDC’s Khan says. He adds, however, that in the past century medical science has developed powerful weapons against disease. “We’re an intelligent species,” he says. “We & resilient, resourceful & can fight back.”

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But what if that intelligence were turned against us? Thanks to advances in biotechnology, it will become increasingly possible to custom-tailor a pathogen’s lethality. “We’re on the cusp of what could be a very frightening time,” says Charles P. Blair, director of the Terrorism Analysis Project at the Federation of American Scientists.
“I think in the very near future you’re talking about a potential extinction event.”
Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

DEADLY KILLER MELONS IN AMERICA CAUSES DEATHS OF 28 PEOPLE

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

FOOD CONTAMINATION CAUSES MANY DEATHS IN THE USA

Debbie Frederick hopes that her father’s death in last September in one of the most lethal outbreaks of food-borne illness in U.S. history will force the federal government to increase the safety of the country’s food supply.

It took more than ten years, a series of deadly outbreaks tied to foods like peanuts, spinach and ground beef, as well as a coalition of odd bedfellows — victims, public health advocates and food industry reps — to push through the first major restructure of food safety laws since the 1930s.

Advocates and other experts say the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) signed by U.S. President Barack Obama last January still has shortcomings and ware concerned that it will be watered down through a lack of finances.

The United States by all account has some of the safest food in the world. Still, approximateley one in six people get sick from eating tainted food products each year, according to the  Disease Control and Prevention groups.

“The whole system was built to react to people getting sick” or to discoveries of contaminated food, said Erik Olson, the Pew Health Group’s director of food programs.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates allmost all of the U.S. food supply, including melons and other produce, requires major structural changes to become primarily focused on prevention, as FSMA envisions. While lawmakers recently have given FDA more money for food programs, it still has a lot of catching up to do, Olson said.

Eighty-seven-year-old William Beach, Frederick’s father, lived in Oklahoma and was one of the 28 people killed by listeria infection after eating cantaloupe contaminated in what regulators called an “unsanitary” Jensen Farms packing plant in Colorado.

“My father was terrified … nobody should have to go like that,” said Frederick, a Phoenix aesthetician and newly minted activist who is the driving force behind her family’s lawsuit against Jensen Farms. “The system broke down. It shouldn’t have happened. This is very much a preventable thing.”

Herb Stevens, of suburban Denver, also became ill after eating tainted cantaloupe, but had survived. The World War Two veteran, 84, lived at home with his wife before falling ill and now requires full-time care.

“We’d like to see better food safety laws and more inspectors,” Jeni Exley, Stevens’ daughter, said in an interview. Her family is suing for current and future medical expenses.

THE TIGER HAS NO TEETH?

FSMA aims to be a step in the right direction.

The law requires FDA to set standards for produce safety and mandates more frequent inspections of domestic and foreign food processing facilities. It also gives FDA stronger enforcement tools, such as mandatory recall authority and the ability to cancrl the registration of a processing plant.

While inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture must be present at meat and poultry plants they regulate during operating hours, FDA had no frequency mandate for inspections prior to FSMA. As a result, lapses of as long as 10 years were not uncommon.

All high-risk domestic facilities, or those that handle foods with a high potential to cause harm, must be inspected within five years of enactment and no less than every three years thereafter, according to the FDA. In addition, the law rapidly steps up the number of required inspections for foreign facilities.

Jeff Almer and Randy Napier, who lost their mothers to the salmonella outbreak blamed for killing nine people and sickening 700 others who ate contaminated products from Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) in 2008 and 2009, fought to get FSMA passed and now are pushing more FDA funding.

“The needs are substantially greater than what is covered by current funding,” said Steven Grossman, deputy executive director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, which said FDA’s food funding rose $52 million to $836 million in fiscal 2011.

The U.S. House of Representatives wants to cut that funding to $750 million in fiscal 2012, while the Senate is proposing increasing funding to $867 million. It is still not known where the final number will come out.

The issue is personal for Almer and Napier, who frequently work with reporters and button-hole lawmakers.

PCA, now bankrupt, is accused of knowingly shipping contaminated products in violation of federal law. The men want to see company President Stewart Parnell criminally charged & convicted.

Handing down an indictment of Parnell would “send a loud and clear message to producers of food to literally clean up their acts,” Almer said.

“We believe there is absolutely no basis for criminal prosecution,” said Parnell’s attorney Bill Gust, a partner at – Gentry Locke Rakes & Moore.

Napier said he has made at least six trips to Washington, D.C., since his mother’s death. Almer testified before Congress in 2009 and said he met with federal law enforcement representatives regarding the PCA criminal case.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha