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Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases

2012 World News

Pigs in Southern China Infected With Avian Flu

Dec 21, 2012


Researchers report for the first time the seroprevalence of three strains of avian influenza viruses in pigs in southern China, but not the H5N1 avian influenza virus. Their research, published online ahead of print in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, has implications for efforts to protect the public health from pandemics. Influenza A virus is responsible both for pandemics that have killed millions worldwide, and for the much less severe annual outbreaks of influenza. Because pigs can be infected with both human and avian influenza viruses, they are thought to serve as "mixing vessels" for genetic reassortment that could lead to pandemics, and pigs have been infected experimentally by all avian H1-H13 subtypes. But natural transmission of avian influenza to pigs has been documented only rarely. Read More

BSE infected cattle have prions in saliva

Dec 14, 2012


ROGUE proteins responsible for mad cow disease have been discovered in the saliva of cows infected as part of an experiment. The finding might pave the way for a simple test for BSE before the symptoms are apparent. The result from a team led by Yuichi Murayama at the National Institute of Animal Health in Tsukuba, Japan, also suggests, not for the first time, that saliva may be one way some prion diseases can spread. This group of diseases includes scrapie, chronic wasting disease and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), the human form of mad cow disease. However, all available evidence suggests this method of transmission is highly unlikely. So far, the team stress there is no epidemiological evidence that saliva, milk, blood or spinal fluid from BSE-infected animals is infectious. Read More


Draft criteria for US funding of H5N1 research spark debate

Dec 5, 2012


Researchers are giving mixed reviews to a draft U.S. government plan to subject some grant requests for studies involving the H5N1 avian influenza virus to special reviews-and perhaps even require the work to be kept secret. Elements of the plan have been "very controversial within [the] U.S. government" committee that developed it, Amy Patterson, associate director for science policy at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, told a meeting of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) earlier this week. Patterson unveiled the proposal-formally known as A Proposed Framework for Guiding HHS [the Department of Health and Human Services] Funding Decisions about Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 Gain-of-Function Research-at the 27 November meeting of NSABB, which advises the U.S. government on overseeing "dual use" biological research that could be used for good and evil. Read More


Transmission of Ebola virus from pigs to non-human primates

Nov 19, 2012

Ebola viruses (EBOV) cause often fatal hemorrhagic fever in several species of simian primates including human. While fruit bats are considered natural reservoir, involvement of other species in EBOV transmission is unclear. In 2009, Reston-EBOV was the first EBOV detected in swine with indicated transmission to humans. In-contact transmission of Zaire-EBOV (ZEBOV) between pigs was demonstrated experimentally. Here we show ZEBOV transmission from pigs to cynomolgus macaques without direct contact. Interestingly, transmission between macaques in similar housing conditions was never observed. Piglets inoculated oro-nasally with ZEBOV were transferred to the room housing macaques in an open inaccessible cage system. All macaques became infected. Infectious virus was detected in oro-nasal swabs of piglets, and in blood, swabs, and tissues of macaques. This is the first report of experimental interspecies virus transmission, with the macaques also used as a human surrogate. Our finding may influence prevention and control measures during EBOV outbreaks. Read More


Rift Valley Fever Kills 17 of 34 Cases in Mauritania Outbreak

Nov 8, 2012


An outbreak of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) in Mauritania has now infected 34 humans and caused 17 deaths in the region, according to an update from the WHO. Although cases began appearing in mid-September, officials declared an official outbreak on Oct. 4. RVF is an insect-borne and zoonotic virus that primarily infects animals, but can also infect humans. It was named for the place it was first identified in 1931, Kenya's Rift Valley. While non-human animals are typically infected through Aedes mosquitoes, humans are more often infected through contact with contaminated animal blood or organs, which may occur during animal births, slaughter, or the practice of veterinary medicine. Read More


Study: Fair-related swine and human H3N2 viruses closely match

Oct 26, 2012


Researchers report that swine and human influenza A/H3N2 viruses associated with an Ohio county fair held in July make a nearly perfect genetic match, suggesting that there is almost no biological barrier to prevent such viruses from passing between humans and pigs. The authors sequenced the genomes of H3N2 viruses isolated from pigs that were exhibited at the fair and from several people who were infected with strains of variant H3N2 (H3N2v, the term for the human version) after participating in or visiting the fair. They found that the genomes were more than 99% the same, according to their report in Emerging Microbes and Infections. The human cases were among 306 H3N2v cases reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) since Jul 12 of this year. The vast majority of these occurred in young people who were involved in agricultural fairs. The cases have mostly been fairly mild, and no sustained human-to-human transmission has been seen. But they have prompted health officials to warn people at risk for flu complications to stay out of swine barns at fairs, and fair visitors and participants have been urged to take special precautions if they have exposure to pigs. Andrew S. Bowman, DVM, of The Ohio State University (OSU), first author of the new study, said it is the first study in a peer-reviewed journal to compare the genomes of H3N2 viruses recovered from people and pigs in connection with county fair-related cases. The research team also included scientists from Minnesota and Iowa. The H3N2 viruses in the fair-related cases, both swine and human, carry the M or matrix gene from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus. In the current study, the authors call the swine-origin strain H3N2pM. Read More


Avian influenza A H5N1 virus: a continuous threat to humans

Oct 1, 2012

A 59-year-old woman, who had no known underlying disease, first presented at the accident and emergency department on 12 November 2010, with 1 week of fever associated with haemoptysis, dyspnea, sore throat and rhinorrhea. She travelled to Shanghai, Nanjing and Hangzhou for 10 days and returned to Hong Kong on 1 November 2010. She visited a wet market while she was in Shanghai, but she denied any direct contacts with birds or poultry. Upon admission, her body temperature was 38.7 C, with a respiratory rate of 24 breaths per minute and oxygen saturation of 96% while breathing ambient air. Chest radiograph revealed left middle zone consolidation. The clinical diagnosis was acute community-acquired pneumonia, for which she was treated as an outpatient with 1 g of oral amoxicillin-clavulanate twice daily. Read Full Review at nature.com 

Schmallenberg virus: First Welsh case in Ceredigion

Sept 26, 2012


A virus affecting cattle, sheep and goats has been detected for the first time in Wales, the Welsh government has confirmed. Schmallenberg virus (SBV) antibodies have been discovered in three cows and one calf on premises in Ceredigion. SBV produces fever, diarrhoea and loss of milk production in adult cattle, though animals recover. It is thought to pose no risk to humans. The disease was first seen last year in northern Europe. It is named after the German town, about 50 miles (80km) east of Cologne, where it was identified. Read More


Notes from the Field: Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A (H7N3) Virus Infection in Two Poultry Workers- Jalisco, Mexico, July 2012

Sept 14, 2012


During June-August 2012, Mexico's National Service for Health, Safety, and Food Quality reported outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A (H7N3) virus in poultry on farms throughout the state of Jalisco (1,2). This report describes two cases of conjunctivitis without fever or respiratory symptoms caused by HPAI A (H7N3) virus infection in humans associated with exposure to infected poultry. Patient 1. On July 7, a poultry worker aged 32 years complaining of pruritus in her left eye was examined at a clinic in Jalisco. Physical findings included redness, swelling, and tearing. Conjunctivitis was diagnosed; the patient was treated symptomatically and recovered fully. Because the patient had collected eggs in a farm where HPAI A (H7N3) virus was detected, the Institute for Epidemiological Diagnosis and Reference, Mexico, tested ocular swabs from both of her eyes for influenza A (H7) by real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR), and embryonated chicken eggs were inoculated for viral isolation. The swab material was positive for influenza A (H7) virus by rRT-PCR and virus was isolated from each eye. These findings were reported to the World Health Organization on July 19, and full genome sequences (CY125725-32) were uploaded to GenBank. The virus was closely related by nucleotide sequence to previously reported HPAI A (H7N3) viruses collected during poultry outbreaks in Jalisco with sequences available in GenBank (JX397993, JX317626). . Read More


Threatwatch: Swine flu evolves under the radar

Sept 12, 2012


Two weeks ago, a woman died after catching flu from a pig at an agricultural fair in Ohio. Now a new study has found that pigs in Korea are harbouring a similar strain of flu that is more lethal and contagious -at least in animals- than the experimental bird flu that caused intense controversy last year. Robert Webster and colleagues at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, put an H1N2 flu virus, from the lungs of a pig slaughtered in South Korea in 2009, into the noses and windpipes of three ferrets. All the animals died, which is worrying, as ferrets catch and develop flu in a similar way to humans. What's more, the virus was transmitted via airborne droplets to three ferrets in nearby cages, killing two of them. In passing between the ferrets, the H1N2 acquired two mutations that made it more contagious and more virulent in the animals. The mutated version also grew faster than the original pig virus in cells cultured from the human nose and lung, and in fresh samples of human alveoli. In an intact lung, this alveolar growth could cause lethal pneumonia. Read More


Vietnam hit by new 'highly toxic' bird flu: reports

Sept 10, 2012 Posted by Claudinne


Times Live A new highly-toxic strain of the potentially deadly bird flu virus has appeared in Vietnam and is spreading fast, according to state media reports. The strain appeared to be a mutation of the H5N1 virus which swept through the country's poultry flocks last year, forcing mass culls of birds in affected areas, according to agriculture officials.


UN warns over swine fever outbreak in Ukraine

Aug 29, 2012


Medical Express The United Nations food agency on Tuesday warned that an outbreak of African swine fever in Ukraine could pose a risk for animal health in the region as a whole despite swift moves to limit its spread.



Swine flu present in many 'healthy' farm-show pigs, UF researchers report

Aug 16, 2012

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Despite their healthy appearance, several pigs on show at a 2009 U.S. state fair competition were infected with swine flu, according to a new study by University of Florida infectious disease experts. Up to 20 percent of show pigs at the 2009 Minnesota state fair were infected, and an infected animal was also found at the 2009 South Dakota fair, the researchers report in the September issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Emerging Infectious Diseases journal. The findings come in the wake of recent CDC warnings to fairgoers and reports of new swine flu strains, called H3N2 variants, in people who had direct or indirect contact with pigs at agricultural fairs."The new H3N2 variant viruses that are circulating now in pigs and apparently affecting people at pig shows are offsprings of the 2009 pandemic virus that spread throughout the world," said lead investigator Dr. Gregory Gray, chairman of the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions department of environmental and global health, and a member of UF's Emerging Pathogens Institute. "It mixed with the viruses that were already present in pigs and out has come a new progeny virus." Read More

"No surprise" that deadly Schmallenberg Virus has over-wintered

Aug 16, 2012


UK News News that the sheep and cattle disease Schmallenberg Virus has over-wintered in this country and will almost certainly bring fresh outbreaks next spring is disappointing - but not a surprise to the industry. Scientific experts gathered from across the animal health and welfare industry at a conference organised by the NFU last week to discuss animal health and the Schmallenberg Virus. NFU animal health adviser, Catherine McLaughlin, said more needed to be done to identify where the disease was circulating, to help farmers plan and avoid livestock contact with midges that bite and infect the animal with the virus. "Scientists from the Royal Veterinary College and the Institute of Animal Health have confirmed that the Schmallenberg Virus has over-wintered," she said. "This is concerning for our members who will be planning autumn breeding, a critical time. Animals infected with the virus during these early months of pregnancy are most at risk of producing deformed offspring and of having abortions. "But early reports do show us that livestock that had the disease this year and last will have developed immunity and this will help build a natural resistance here in the UK. "What we need is more efficient and effective diagnostics on the ground, identifying where the Schmallenberg Virus is, and therefore likely to cause potential problems. This will be the best tool to help farmers in the fight against this disease this year. "We also need to have the vaccine, which we understand has been developed, to be licensed and approved as soon as possible." NFU vice-president Adam Quinney, who chaired the animal health conference, said: "The report from the IAH and the Royal Veterinary College on Schmallenberg has confirmed what we always suspected. The midge has over-wintered and will cause problems for livestock farmers next spring. But from the advice we have received today we are hoping there will be a low incidence rate on-farm. "That said, there will be some tough decisions that need to be made, not least about tupping and managing the all-important breeding season for autumn." According to the latest figures, the total number of affected farms in the UK was 276. There have been three outbreaks confirmed in Cornwall, nine in Devon, seven in Dorset and three in Somerset. Carl Padgett, president of the British Veterinary Association, said: "Work on a vaccine is progressing well, but it is unlikely to be available for some months."


Mexico destroys 8 million chickens amid bird flu outbreak

Aug 8, 2012 Posted by Claudinne

Eight million chickens have so far been slaughtered in Mexico and 66 million more were vaccinated in a bid to contain a bird flu outbreak in the west of the country, authorities said. The agriculture ministry said in a statement that during the vaccination process in the Los Altos region of Jalisco state, diseased chickens were identified, leading to the destruction of the flu-carrying fowl. Food safety officials say the outbreak, which was first detected on June 20, is confined to Los Altos, which is an egg-producing area. Inspections in other parts of the country have not turned up any signs of the disease. A national animal health emergency was declared at the beginning of July, and the prices of both eggs and chickens have skyrocketed. Mexican authorities hope to vaccinate 80 million fowl in the first phase of its program, and then analyze the results before proceeding to phase two. The virus responsible for the outbreak, H7N3, has occasionally caused human disease in various parts of the world, according to the United Nations, but has not shown itself to be easily transmittable between humans. Some bird flu strains, such as H5N1, have caused serious infections in people. The World Health Organization has documented 607 human cases of bird flu since 2003, 358 of which were fatal, according to July data. Authorities in Guatemala have stepped up safety checks on its border with Mexico to keep bird flu from spreading into the country.


The Evolution of Bird Flu, and the Race to Keep Up

Aug 6, 2012 Posted by Claudinne

On May 20, a 10-year-old girl in rural Cambodia got a fever. Five days later, she was admitted to a hospital, and after two days of intensive care she was dead. The girl was the most recent documented victim of the influenza virus H5N1, a strain that has caused 606 known human cases and 357 deaths since it re-emerged in 2003 after a six-year absence. H5N1 can race through bird populations, and the World Health Organization suspects the girl was infected while preparing chicken for a meal. While humans are not ideal hosts for H5N1, bird flu viruses do sometimes manage to adapt for easy transmission from human to human, and the results can be devastating. In 1918, one such transformation led to the Spanish flu pandemic, a global outbreak that claimed an estimated 50 million people. To better understand the possibility of H5N1 making a similar transformation, two teams of scientists recently manipulated the virus until it could spread through the air from one ferret to another. If a flu virus can infect a ferret, then it could theoretically infect other mammals, including humans. Last fall, the scientific community became embroiled in a debate about whether the details of this research should be published; security experts, among others, feared that the information could be used to develop a biological weapon. After months of arguments, a federal advisory board recommended in March that the results be published in full. In May, Nature published the first of the two controversial papers; now the second team has published the results of their experiments in the journal Science. link to full text article in New York Times

Novel H3N8 strain found in dead seals may pose human threat

Aug 3, 2012 Posted by Claudinne


A research team that analyzed the strain of H3N8 influenza linked to a baby seal die-off in New England last year found that it originated in birds and has adapted to mammals, signaling a possible threat to humans and animals alike.

The study, which appeared today in mBio, the online journal of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), also revealed mutations that are known to make flu viruses more transmissible and able to cause severe disease.

In December 2011, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that an investigation of 162 seal deaths that fall revealed the H3N8 virus in samples from all five animals studied, the first time the strain had been linked to large-scale mortality in marine mammals. Study authors include researchers from NOAA, Columbia University, and several other institutions. [CIDRAP news for full article]

For more information on the Emergence of Fatal Avian Influenza in New England Harbor Seals please visit asm.org. 

Schmallenberg vaccine 'desperately needed'

A vaccine to protect sheep from the Schmallenberg virus is "desperately needed to prevent a catastrophe" in the UK flock, sheep industry leaders have warned.

The National Sheep Association and Sheep Veterinary Society joined forces to warn that tupping, the most infective period for the virus in ewes and their unborn lambs, was getting close, but although a vaccine had been developed, it was moving too slowly through the Veterinary Medicines Directorate's approvals process. [Farmers Weekly for full story]

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Confirmed in Mexico

Jul 1, 2012 Posted by Claudinne
  • Poultry producers have experienced an  outbreak of avian influenza near Guadalajara.
  • Disease is responsible for the death of nearly a quarter million chickens since early June.
  • Officials in Mexico and U.S. are working to prevent its spread to poultry houses and processing plants in both their countries.

Southwest Farm Press--Mexican veterinary authorities are confirming this week there has been an outbreak of avian influenza near Guadalajara that has caused the death of nearly a quarter million chickens since early June and so far has forced a quarantine zone around three poultry processing facilities in the Mexican state of Jalisco.

In a follow-up report submitted to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), Mexican animal health officials said intravenous pathogenicity tests revealed a highly pathogenic H7N3 subtype that is the cause of the current outbreak. Mexican veterinary authorities are intensifying avian influenza control efforts in the region, which houses several large commercial farms. Southwest Farm Press for full story

Fouchier Study Reveals Changes Enabling Airborne Spread of H5N1

Jun 21, 2012 Posted by Claudinne

A study showing that it takes as few as five mutations to turn the H5N1 avian influenza virus into an airborne spreader in mammals—and that launched a historic debate on scientific accountability and transparency—was released today in Science, spilling the full experimental details that many experts had sought to suppress out of concern that publishing them could lead to the unleashing of a dangerous virus.

In the lengthy report, Ron Fouchier, PhD, of Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands and colleagues describe how they used a combination of genetic engineering and serial infection of ferrets to create a mutant H5N1 virus that can spread among ferrets without direct contact.

They say their findings show that H5N1 viruses have the potential to evolve in mammals to gain airborne transmissibility, without having to mix with other flu viruses in intermediate hosts such as pigs, and thus pose a risk of launching a pandemic. CIDRAP news for full story

Hong Kong Human case of H5N1 Confirmed

June 13, 2012 Posted by Claudinne

CNTV--Hong Kong health authority says a two-year-old boy has been confirmed as having H5N1 Influenza, or bird flu. The boy was admitted to a Hong Kong hospital on Monday with convulsions after arriving from Guangzhou and is now in a stable condition. He had been in contact with a live duck between May the 17th and 19th at a farmer’s market in Guangzhou. Related Video

Link to full text article

Rethinking science on pandemic-potential viruses

May 31, 2012 Posted by Claudinne

Duke University--Making mutant forms of bird flu and publishing the results caused a major squawk in the public and in the political and scientific communities over the last year.

The issue was whether the new mutants could ward off a major pandemic of bird flu or start one, explained Stephanie Holmer, a graduate student in Duke’s Department of Cell Biology.

Link to full article

Egypt's Real Crisis: The Dual Epidemics Quietly Ravaging Public Health

Posted May 16, 2012 by Chris Miller

Lost in the recent political jockeying and protest violence leading up to Egypt's May 23 presidential elections is the unfolding public health disaster there. Avian flu and foot and mouth disease are running rampant, killing people and livestock as well as inflating the price of food. It's a serious health and economic issue, but it has potentially much larger implications for Egypt. This little-discussed crisis is beginning to resemble those that occur in failed states.

full article at The Atlantic

Weapons of Mass Disease: UW Gets $8.1 Million to Study Ebola, Yellow Fever, and More for Biodefense

Posted May 14, 2012 by Chris Miller

"There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise." Albert Camus wrote that in his classic The Plague back in 1947, and the words are as true now as they were then. That's one reason why a UW lab is collaborating with a local biotech company to study some of the world's most lethal pathogens: to help prevent mass casualties in the unlikely event of germ warfare.

Read more here


Report details changes that may boost H5N1 spread in mammals

Posted May 4, 2012 by Chris Miller

The first of two controversial H5N1 avian influenza studies to see print suggests that just four mutations in one of the virus's surface proteins may be enough to equip it to spread among mammals, but the findings are freighted with qualifiers. After months of debate and discussion, Nature yesterday published the report by Yoshihiro Kawaoka, DVM, PhD, and colleagues describing a lab-derived hybrid virus, with elements of H5N1 and pandemic H1N1, that spread among ferrets via respiratory droplets. Kawaoka works at the University of Wisconsin. The authors say their findings answer the "fundamental question" of whether flu viruses wearing the H5 hemagglutinin (HA) surface protein found in H5N1 can spread in mammals.

Read more on CIDRAP website

Roberts, Brownback Say "Mad Cow" Safeguards Work

Posted April 25, 2012 by Chris Miller

The discovery of a dairy cow in California with a form of so-called “Mad Cow” Disease has federal and state officials scrambling to assure the public that the incident poses no threat to the nation’s food supply, or to human health. Kansas Public Radio’s Bryan Thompson reports.

Listen to radio interview with Dr. Juergen Richt

Israel Update: Health Officials Plan 20,000 Turkey Cull--Third case discovered at Moshav Zavdeil

Posted April 1, 2012 by Claudinne Roe

Times of Israel--The Agriculture Ministry plans to slaughter 20,000 turkeys from the same coop after avian flu was discovered there.

The coop, on Moshav Zavdiel, near Lachish in the lower Judean plain, is the third farming community discovered in Israel in recent weeks with an avian flu outbreak.

Officials hope they can stem the spread of the disease by killing the birds.

A number of cats were found dead before the last cull, with signs pointing to them having eaten the carcasses of infected turkeys near Shalva, in the south, according to a report by the World Organization for Animal Health.

In 2006, southern Israel’s poultry industry was brought nearly to the brink of collapse, growers said, after a number of culls following the discovery of bird flu.

The H5N1 virus, as this strain of avian flu is officially known, can be deadly if transferred to humans. It has lead to the deaths of millions of birds in Europe and Asia as health officials attempt to contain the virus.

Israel: Stray Cats Confirmed with H5N1

Posted March 24, 2012 by Claudinne Roe

Three stray cats found by the Veterinary Service and Health Ministry inspectors at Shalva and Holit in southwest Israel were confirmed as having died from eating poultry infected with avian flu.

The carcasses were sent for examination, and the diagnosis was confirmed. As a result, the health authorities on Thursday said it expects to catch 30 more stray cats in the area near Eilat.

The public was asked to avoid contract with stay cats in the area and to report to the local veterinary services any sick-looking cats just in case, even though the disease is not known to affect humans.

HPAI outbreaks in Hadarom

posted March 14, 2012 by Ashley Layton
Article date: March 12, 2012

ISRAEL - The Israeli veterinary authorities have reported two new outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Hadarom. Link to article

The World Organisation for Animal Health received an immediate notification on Friday, 9 March. The outbreaks were initially observed on 7 March and confirmed on 8 March. 12-week-old and 8-week-old turkeys constitute the affected population.


Finland is now on ASF alert

posted March 7, 2012 by Ashley Layton
March 6, 2012

ANALYSIS - The country's food safety authority has put out an alert over African swine fever (ASF), which has been reported from the first time in the region of Russia that borders Finland, writes senior editor, Jackie Linden. The disease represents a growing threat to the European pig industry.