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Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases

2013 World News

Indiana reports four fair-linked H3N2v cases

July 2, 2013


Indiana health officials yesterday reported four variant H3N2 (H3N2v) influenza infections in people who attended the same county fair, which could herald a wave of similar infections that occurred last summer. All four of the people visited the Grant County Agricultural Fair from Jun 16 to Jun 22 before they got sick, and at least two had contact with swine, according to a statement from the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH). Grant County is in central Indiana, and the fairgrounds are located in Marion. The Indiana State Board of Animal Health said 13 pigs at the fair tested positive for H3N2 and that pigs infected with swine influenza viruses sometimes don't show any signs of illness. Flu viruses aren't transmitted by eating pork or pork products. H3N2v was first detected in people in July 2011, and only 12 cases were detected from five states that year. But the number of cases skyrocketed over the summer of 2012, with hundreds of infections in 12 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The H3N2 strain was first detected in swine in 2010. Read More


Potential Hot Spot for Avian Flu Transmission Identified in Western Alaska

July 2, 2013


ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Low-pathogenic avian influenza viruses with Eurasian genes have been found among birds in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta of western Alaska, supporting the theory that the area is a potential point of entry for foreign animal diseases such as the more highly pathogenic H5N1 strain, according to a new study by U.S. Geological Survey scientists. The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta is an important breeding ground for many bird species and is located where multiple migratory flyways converge, providing opportunities for avian pathogens to spread. Among these pathogens are H5N1 avian influenza, which occurs in both low-pathogenic and the more dangerous highly pathogenic forms. After the outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of avian influenza in wild birds of China in 2005, the USGS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in cooperation with the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, the Kawerak Tribal Corporation and other partners, conducted four years of testing wild migratory birds in western Alaska for the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain. Read More

H7N9 bird flu kills about 1/3 hospitalized patients - study

June 24, 2013


PARIS - The H7N9 bird flu that hit China this year killed over a third of hospitalized patients, said researchers Monday who labelled the virus "less serious" but probably more widespread than previously thought. They warned watchdogs not to take comfort from a lull in new infections, as the virus may reappear in the autumn. In what they described as the most complete picture of the virus' severity, researchers in Beijing and Hong Kong found that H7N9 proved fatal in 36 percent of patients admitted to hospital in mainland China. This was a lower fatality rate than H5N1-type bird flu which emerged in 2003 and killed about 60 percent of hospitalised patients. Read More

How Nature Builds A Pandemic Flu Virus

June 7, 2013


Here's a sobering thought: Wild birds - including city pigeons and ubiquitous Canada geese - carry 170 different types of bird flu. You know, all those viruses with the Hs and Ns in their names, like H1N1 and H5N1. Only a dozen of these viruses have infected humans so far, but many of those have been deadly, and three of them have caused global flu pandemics. Does every bird flu that leaps into people have the potential to turn into the next "big one" that spreads rapidly around the world? That's the "critical but currently answerable question," writes Dr. Anthony Fauci, who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Read More

Association between adverse clinical outcome in human disease caused by novel influenza A H7N9 virus and sustained viral shedding and emergence of antiviral resistance

May 29, 2013


On March 30, a novel influenza A subtype H7N9 virus (A/H7N9) was detected in patients with severe respiratory disease in eastern China. Virological factors associated with a poor clinical outcome for this virus remain unclear. We quantified the viral load and analysed antiviral resistance mutations in specimens from patients with A/H7N9.


We studied 14 patients with A/H7N9 disease admitted to the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre (SPHCC), China, between April 4, and April 20, 2013, who were given antiviral treatment (oseltamivir or peramivir) for less than 2 days before admission. We investigated the viral load in throat, stool, serum, and urine specimens obtained sequentially from these patients. We also sequenced viral RNA from these specimens to study the mutations associated with resistance to neuraminidase inhibitors and their association with disease outcome.


All patients developed pneumonia, seven of them required mechanical ventilation, and three of them further deteriorated to become dependent on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), two of whom died. Antiviral treatment was associated with a reduction of viral load in throat swab specimens in 11 surviving patients. Three patients with persistently high viral load in the throat in spite of antiviral therapy became ECMO dependent. An Arg292Lys mutation in the virus neuraminidase (NA) gene known to confer resistance to both zanamivir and oseltamivir was identified in two of these patients, both also received corticosteroid treatment. In one of them, wild-type sequence Arg292 was noted 2 days after start of antiviral treatment, and the resistant mutant Lys292 dominated 9 days after start of treatment.


Reduction of viral load following antiviral treatment correlated with improved outcome. Emergence of NA Arg292Lys mutation in two patients who also received corticosteroid treatment led to treatment failure and a poor clinical outcome. The emergence of antiviral resistance in A/H7N9 viruses, especially in patients receiving corticosteroid therapy, is concerning, needs to be closely monitored, and considered in pandemic preparedness planning.


National Megaprojects of China for Infectious Diseases, Shanghai Municipal Health and Family Planning Commission, the National Key Basic Research Program of China, Ministry of Science and Technology, and National Natural Science Foundation of China. Read More

North Korea Culls Birds in Effort to Contain Flu

May 24, 2013


North Korea has culled hundreds of thousands of birds in an effort to contain a deadly strain of bird flu found in a Pyongyang farm, the state media said, throwing the spotlight back on the country's vulnerable food supply. The state news agency said this week that its scientists found ducks in the Tudan Duck Farm in the North Korean capital infected with the H5N1 virus from migratory birds. About 164,000 ducks were killed since the first case was observed last month, according to the state report filed at the World Organisation for Animal Health. Read More




Weekly Overview: New Pig Viral Disease Confirmed in US

May 21, 2013


ANALYSIS - Porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus (PEDV) has been found for the first time in four states in the US, while Foot and Mouth disease (FMD) has been reported in Kazakhstan (in cattle). In advances in disease control, there is a new vaccine against African Swine Fever in Kenya and a promising diagnostic tool for FMD from USDA ARS. There has been official confirmation of porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus (PEDV) in the US for the first time. This is not a new virus, according to USDA, nor is it a regulatory/reportable disease. Since PEDV is widespread in many countries, it is not a trade-restricting disease but rather a production-related disease. Read More




New reports yield clues about H7N9 detection, links to poultry


May 16, 2013 (CIDRAP News) - Though the steady stream of new H7N9 cases has tapered, the pace of publications on the new virus is still brisk, with new reports today on Taiwan's case, a link between markets and human cases, and risk assessment and planning for possible scenarios in Europe. All three reports were published in today's issue of Eurosurveillance.

Lessons from Taiwan's H7N9 case:

In the report on Taiwan's only case, officials from the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control wrote that they learned several useful lessons from the case involving a man in his 50s who got sick in the middle of April after traveling for work to China's Jiangsu province, where the virus had already sickened people and been detected in live-market poultry. Within days of the announcement of the first cases in China, Taiwanese officials made H7N9 a notifiable disease and prepared for suspected cases to be detected through its influenza surveillance system, as well as the surveillance system for community-acquired pneumonia of unknown cause. The enhanced surveillance activities helped flag the man's illness. His was the only H7N9 infection confirmed in Taiwan among 358 suspected cases and 41 severe pneumonia illnesses from Apr 3 through May 10. Read More


Scientific Committee on Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases meets on risk assessment and local response to human infection of avian influenza A(H7N9) virus

May 1, 2013


Hong Kong (HKSAR) - The Scientific Committee on Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases (SCEZD) of the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (April 30) convened a meeting to assess the risk and local response in view of the recent human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) in the Mainland. The SCEZD reached a consensus view that the emergence of human infections with the novel avian influenza virus reported in the Mainland since March 31 is of concern as further human sporadic infections and expansion of geographic spread in the Mainland and other countries/areas is anticipated. Read More


Does H7N9 Chinese Flu Pose a Threat for Pigs?

April 30, 2013


A recent outbreak of avian influenza virus in China has made headlines in the mainstream media during the last several weeks. As of April 28, 24 people have died and 122 have been reported as being infected. Influenza viruses are classified in subtypes based on the two main proteins that coat the virus: hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N). The avian influenza virus causing the current outbreak has been characterized as subtype H7N9. Avian influenza viruses typically affect poultry and wild birds. Birds infected with avian flu can sometimes develop severe disease, but at other times they remain asymptomatic, but can still transmit the virus. Some strains of the virus have the ability to infect humans while others don't. The current H7N9 virus is difficult to control because it does not cause disease in birds, although it can prove fatal to humans. Read More


CDC activates emergency center over H7N9

April 10, 2013


The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Atlanta yesterday to support the response to the H7N9 influenza outbreak in China, CDC officials said in an e-mailed statement today. The EOC was activated at level 2, the second of three levels. Level 1, the highest, signals an agency-wide response. "This is a limited activation that allows for the use of additional resources and staff to meet the technical needs of a public health response," the agency said. Activation was prompted because the novel H7N9 avian influenza virus has never been seen before in animals or humans and because reports from China have linked it to severe human disease, the agency said. Read More


Biodiversity Does Not Reduce Transmission of Disease from Animals to Humans, Researchers Find

March 25, 2013


More than three quarters of new, emerging or re-emerging human diseases are caused by pathogens from animals, according to the World Health Organization. But a widely accepted theory of risk reduction for these pathogens -- one of the most important ideas in disease ecology -- is likely wrong, according to a new study co-authored by Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment Senior Fellow James Holland Jones and former Woods-affiliated ecologist Dan Salkeld. The dilution effect theorizes that disease risk for humans decreases as the variety of species in an area increases. For example, it postulates that a tick has a higher chance of infecting a human with Lyme disease if the tick has previously had few animal host options beyond white-footed mice, which are carriers of Lyme disease-causing bacteria. If many other animal hosts had been available to the tick, the tick's likelihood of being infected and spreading that infection to a human host would go down, according to the theory. Read More


Researchers Explain How Prion Diseases May Spread

March 13, 2013


Medical researchers at the University of Alberta have made a discovery that may explain how prion diseases, like chronic wasting disease and mad cow disease, adapt in order to spread between various types of animals. The research team, led by neurologist Valerie Sim, discovered that a miniscule change in the prions' makeup appears to give the disease the ability to adapt - to mimic and recreate new strains with which it comes into contact. The team has been studying this area for two years. Read More


Schmallenberg found in UK goats and alpacas

March 1, 2013


The Schmallenberg virus has been found in goats and alpacas in Britain for the first time. The Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) reported two cases of the virus in goats in East Sussex and one case of Schmallenberg antibodies in an alpaca in Northamptonshire. An AHVLA spokesman said: "We were aware the Schmallenberg virus can affect goats and alpacas, but these are the first confirmed cases we have had in the UK so far. They are both serological results [from blood and plasma] which show that the antibodies to Schmallenberg are in the blood stream which does not mean that the disease has manifested itself. Although this development is not entirely unexpected, with any new presentation of the disease, it's a concern." The AHVLA has asked farmers with goats and alpacas to look out for the symptoms of Schmallenberg virus and report any suspicious cases to vets. Read More


Cambodia sees spike in bird flu deaths

March 1, 2013


Hong Kong (CNN) -- In the last two months, eight people in Cambodia have died from bird flu, a rare but deadly disease causing concern among health authorities. Six of the victims have been children. The H5N1 virus, known to be highly contagious to poultry, typically resembles the flu when contracted by humans. But it kills more than half the people it infects, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the nine confirmed H5N1 cases in Cambodia this year, only an 8-month old infant has survived. The infant had received medical attention early, said Dr. Ly Sovann, the Ministry of Health's deputy director for communicable diseases control in Cambodia. The eight bird flu deaths in the last six weeks -- considering that Cambodia has had 19 reported deaths from the disease in the last 10 years -- has sparked increased surveillance efforts. Health officials are warning people to wash their hands often, to keep children away from poultry and to avoid eating sick poultry. Read More


Farm virus 'can infect wild animals'

February 20, 2013


A livestock virus sweeping through British sheep flocks and cattle herds has infected wild deer, say scientists. The disease, which is spread by insects, causes birth defects in lambs and can reduce milk yields in cattle. Outbreaks have been reported in farm animals in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Spain and the UK. European scientists say wild deer can catch the virus, and are calling for the impact on wildlife to be monitored. Read More


Catching the Next H5N1 Before it Hits

February 14, 2013


When the bird flu, or H5N1, began sweeping across three continents in 2004, it caused a worldwide panic, killing more than 50 percent of its 600 human victims and 100 million birds. It also added to growing fears about the unpredictability of such epidemics, which were taking an increasingly more significant economic and human toll. Although H5N1 seemed to come out of nowhere, the early 2000s was not the first time the world had encountered the virus. Five years earlier, H5N1 left plenty of so-called "viral chatter"-small outbreaks that precede large outbreaks-killing six of the 18 people who were infected in Hong Kong, China. If scientists had recognized these infections before they turned to outbreaks and then a global pandemic, the story of H5N1 would have been much different. Read More


FAO urges stronger measures on global health threats

February 5, 2013


29 January 2013, Rome - The world risks a repeat of the disastrous 2006 bird flu outbreaks unless surveillance and control of this and other dangerous animal diseases is strengthened globally, FAO warns. "The continuing international economic downturn means less money is available for prevention of H5N1 bird flu and other threats of animal origin. This is not only true for international organizations but also countries themselves," says FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Juan Lubroth. "Even though everyone knows that prevention is better than cure, I am worried because in the current climate governments are unable to keep up their guard." Continued strict vigilance is required, however, given that large reservoirs of the H5N1 virus still exist in some countries in Asia and the Middle East, in which the disease has become endemic. Without adequate controls, it could easily spread globally as it did at its peak in 2006, when 63 countries were affected. Read More


Serological evidence of ebolavirus infection in bats, China

January 17, 2013


Background: The genus Ebolavirus of the family Filoviridae currently consists of five species. All species, with the exception of Reston ebolavirus, have been found in Africa and caused severe human diseases. Bats have been implicated as reservoirs for ebolavirus. Reston ebolavirus, discovered in the Philippines, is the only ebolavirus species identified in Asia to date. Whether this virus is prevalent in China is unknown. Findings: In this study, we developed an enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for ebolavirus using the recombinant nucleocapsid protein and performed sero-surveillance for the virus among Chinese bat populations. Our results revealed the presence of antibodies to ebolavirus in 32 of 843 bat sera samples and 10 of 16 were further confirmed by western blot analysis. Conclusion: To our knowledge, this is the first report of any filovirus infection in China. Read More

Calls for virus vaccine fast, as still births and deformities increase

January 17, 2013


As sheep farmers in the region experience higher than normal losses, still births and deformities, the NFU says every effort must be made to ensure a vaccine is available later this year to help combat the spread of the deadly Schmallenberg virus. The disease has spread across England and Wales to the Scottish border region, and has now been confirmed on more than 1,000 UK farms. Although it is still being recognised by Defra and the European Commission as 'low impact' on a national scale, the cost for individual businesses can run into thousands of pounds. It comes at the same time as lamb prices have hit their lowest level for three years and livestock producers are facing rising production costs due to the extreme weather in 2012. Read More


Avian Influenza Found in New York Live Bird Market; Japan and Taiwan Halt Poultry Exports from New York

January 14, 2013


USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratories has confirmed H5N1 (presumably low pathogenic) from a live bird market in New York. According to USDA's agreement with Taiwan, FSIS has been notified to amend the FSIS Export Library to state that the export of poultry meat and meat products from the State of New York to Taiwan is prohibited effective immediately. Read More


Scientists engineer the Schmallenberg virus genome to understand how to reduce disease caused by the virus

January 11, 2013


Researchers from the MRC Centre for Virus Research at the University of Glasgow in Scotland have developed methods to synthesize and change the genome of Schmallenberg virus (SBV). SBV is a recently discovered pathogen of livestock such as cattle, sheep and goats. The researchers have laid bare important ways by which this virus causes disease. The full report about the study publishes on January 10 in the Open Access journal, PLOS Pathogens. SBV is of great concern because it causes stillbirths, abortions and fetal defects in pregnant cows and ewes. It has spread rapidly throughout Europe since its discovery in Germany less than eighteen months ago (in October 2011). Read More


Threat of African Swine Fever Spread in Eastern Europe: Urgent Need for International Collaboration

January 2, 2013


One of the main recommendations of an FAO regional meeting on African Swine Fever (ASF) was that the disease should be considered as a top priority animal health problem by all affected countries and a threat for the whole Europe. According to FAO, a regional consultation in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, in early December 2012, resulted in a number of recommendations. The group discussed the progressive spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) in the Russian Federation, in Georgia, Armenia and in some other south Caucasian countries, and the threat of further spreading to Europe and Asia. It was assessed that the effects include the socioeconomic impact of the disease affecting the pig production sector, particularly poor rural families, the financial losses due to high mortality and trade restrictions, the high cost of controlling outbreaks, and the negative impact on the development of the pig sector. Read More