UNSIC NewsPouch: Avian and Pandemic Influenza, 7 Jan 2014


  • Influenza A(H1N1)
  • Avian Influenza A(H7N9)
  • Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV)
  • Preparedness and Prevention
  • Monitoring and Surveillance
  • Vaccines and Antivirals
  • Zoonoses & Animal Diseases
  • Around The World


UN System Influenza Coordination (UNSIC) Avian and Pandemic Influenza News Pouch. Articles and resource documents in this news pouch are from media and open sources. None of the reports contained in this news pouch have been verified unless otherwise stated. This news pouch is meant for information sharing purposes only. It does not reflect in anyway the views of UNSIC.
This newsletter and previous ones are available on the UN Influenza Portal at www.un-influenza.org.
Influenza A(H1N1)

CANADA: Flu activity taking off across Canada; year shaping up as normal H1N1 year
TORONTO - Flu season has swung into full gear in many parts of the country, sowing illness, absenteeism and in some places alarm. Reports of deaths of adults in Texas and Alberta have raised questions of whether something new is afoot. And where most years by now flu shot efforts would be winding down, several provinces are leveraging intense media interest and public concern by mounting extra clinics for those reconsidering getting a shot. Is this season shaping up to be a dismal flu season? Or do we, as a society, tend to forget what influenza can do from one season to the next? {The Canadian Press, 6 Jan}

CANADA: Alberta’s flu death toll now 10, health officials say
Alberta Health says 10 people have died in the province after getting the flu, with 40 others in intensive care and another 300 being treated in hospital. Health officials say they are also rethinking the best way to go about distributing flu shots. {The Globe and Mail, 06 Jan}

CANADA: PRO/EDR> Influenza (02): Canada (BC), H1N1, hospitalized patients
Swine Flu H1N1 -- Dr. Paul Van Buynder, with Fraser Health, said Friday [3 Jan 2014] that 15 patients, many of them otherwise healthy young people, were recently admitted to intensive care units in hospitals in the region. By Sunday [5 Jan 2014], he added 5 more to the total for those in intensive care in B.C., where at least 40 people have been hospitalized due to H1N1 influenza this season [2013-14]. Fraser Health says an outbreak of H1N1 flu has sent at least 40 people in B.C. to hospital, with around half of them ending up in intensive care units. {ProMED-mail, 06 Jan}

CANADA: H1N1 flu surge in B.C. Lower Mainland lands people in ICUs
Officials say as many as 20 people are in intensive care and 1 person may have died from H1N1... At least 20 people in B.C. are in intensive care, some of them on ventilators, because of the H1N1 flu virus, according to the chief medical officer for a B.C. Lower Mainland health authority. Dr. Paul Van Buynder, with Fraser Health, said Friday that 15 patients, many of them otherwise healthy, young people, were recently admitted to intensive care units in hospitals in the region. By Sunday he added five more to the total for those in intensive care in B.C., where at least 40 people have been hospitalized due to H1N1 influenza this season. {CBC News, 5 Jan}

CANADA: Calgary and area pharmacists see dwindling supplies of H1N1 flu vaccine
The spike in demand for flu shots has left some pharmacies empty handed in terms of vaccine supply. Alberta Health Services reports five people — two in Calgary and three in Edmonton — have succumbed to H1N1, the most dominant strain this season, and it seems people have been quick to roll up their sleeves in recent days. “Normally we’ve got an ample supply ... but not right now,” said Brian Jones, associate owner and pharmacist at the Shoppers Drug Mart in Roxboro on Sunday. {Calgary Sun, 5 Jan}

USA: Nearly half of America reporting cases of flu linked to H1N1 virus
NEW YORK - Nearly half of the United States is reporting widespread influenza activity, most of it attributed to the H1N1 virus that caused a worldwide pandemic in 2009, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday. Thousands of people die every year from flu, which peaks in the United States between October and March. The flu is spreading quickly this season, with 25 states already reporting cases, the CDC said. {Canoe.ca, 4 Jan}

USA: Flu is now widespread throughout southeast
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says flu in Georgia and much of the southeast is now widespread. Channel 2's Diana Davis talked to one flu patient who nearly died and her doctor who says this is one of the worst flu seasons he's seen in decades. The CDC now says the flu is widespread in the Midwest and southeast, including Georgia. {WSB-TV, 6 Jan}

USA (Alaska): 2 flu deaths reported in Alaska
Two adult Alaskans died from the flu in the past week, according to state health officials. The deaths are the first to be reported during Alaska's 2013-14 influenza season — which has been picking up — and the first since new rules requiring health care facilities to report adult flu deaths to the state took effect in late December. {Anchorage Daily News, 4 Jan}

USA (California): 18 people hospitalized in Kern County from influenza
8 confirmed cases of swine flu... Typically known for hitting the young and the elderly the hardest, this season's flu is sending healthy adults to the emergency room. The Kern County Department of Health has reported 18 people between the ages of 30 and 68 have been hospitalized for the flu. Of those cases, eight have been confirmed as swine flu, also known as H1N1. {23ABC, 6 Jan}

USA (California): Health officials rush to vaccinate as swine flu returns
A resurgence of swine flu is prompting a rush to vaccinate ahead of California's flu season which is expected to peak in the next few weeks. The CDC has confirmed that the H1N1 strain is the prevalent flu strain this year. The dangerous virus caused a pandemic in 2009 and expands the demographic of who is at risk to young adults. {KTVU, 4 Jan}

USA (Colorado): Colorado experiencing alarming prevalence of influenza infections
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced on Tuesday that the prevalence of influenza infections this year is alarming and is asking the public to get vaccinated against the virus now. Colorado state officials said there is still time to get vaccinated and protected against the influenza virus, which is causing more hospitalizations and infections among young adults than last year. The number of flu-associated hospitalizations this year is 448, higher than last year’s count of 373 at this time in 2012. {Vaccine News Daily, 06 Jan}

USA (Michigan): PRO/EDR> Influenza (03): USA (MI, CA) H1N1 deaths
Swine Flu H1N1 -- The flu virus is causing widespread panic again this year [2013-2014 season], with the largest outbreak since the H1N1 "swine flu" pandemic that swept through the US in 2009. Several deaths have already been reported nationwide this season, with 4 dead in Michigan and 5 fatalities already reported in California since [1 Oct 2013]. The H1N1 strain has been one of the most deadly types of the influenza virus ever seen, and is now causing dozens of Americans to be placed on life support in the Michigan area. {ProMED-mail, 06 Jan}

USA (Oregon): Flu now widespread in Oregon and Washington
Most all of the flu cases in Oregon are indeed H1N1 this year, the most common strain seen nationwide. H1N1 is a mix of swine, bird, and typical human flu. The big difference between the H1N1 of today and the H1N1 that caused the pandemic in 2009 is that this year's vaccine can protect against it. Cases have risen dramatically in the past few weeks in the Portland-Metro area. {KATU, 6 Jan}

USA (Pennsylvania): Flu causing dangerous problems in Pittsburgh area
At least 9 suffer damaged lungs... This year's flu season already is showing its dangerous side, especially for relatively young and middle-aged adults who wouldn't normally seem to be vulnerable, according to local health experts. n many years, influenza usually causes complications including hospitalization and death in young children and the elderly. But this year, a ferocious strain of the H1N1 influenza, or swine flu, virus has so damaged the lungs of four Allegheny General Hospital patients aged 35 to 65 that their blood must be circulated through heart-lung machines because their breathing no longer works properly, said Bob Moraca, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Allegheny General Hospital on the North Side. {Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 6 Jan}

USA (Washington): Deadly flu season hitting big in the Pacific Northwest
The flu season is peaking earlier than normal this season, and more deaths have been reported. Snohomish County officials say a Bothell woman in her thirties died last Saturday, and health workers are now urging everyone to get a flu shot. The H1N1 Swine Flu has returned, along with other strains. But, unlike the last outbreak a few years ago, health officials say there's no shortage of vaccine. Young adults take note. {Komo News, 6 Jan}

Avian Influenza A(H7N9)

(WHO) Human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus – update
Disease outbreak news... On 31 December 2013 Taipei Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported a laboratory-confirmed case of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9). The patient is an 86 year-old man from Jiangsu, China who travelled to Taiwan, Province of China, with a tourist group from 17-24 December. He felt uncomfortable on 19 December, and was admitted to a hospital on 24 December after being diagnosed with bilateral pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome. The patient is currently intubated and supported by extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. The other tour members have returned, except for the two daughters of the patient who remained and showed no symptoms. {World Health Organization, 7 Jan}

Four more H7N9 cases reported in China
Chinese health authorities have reported four more H7N9 infections in three different areas of eastern China over the past 3 days, including the first detection in Shanghai since last April. Also, animal health officials in China have reported more positive H7N9 findings in environmental samples from a live poultry market, supporting the suspicion that such markets are fueling the outbreak in humans. {CIDRAP News, 6 Jan}

CHP notified by Guangdong HFPC of two additional human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9)
The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) was notified by the Health and Family Planning Commission (HFPC) of Guangdong Province today (January 6) of two additional human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9). The first case involves a 47-year-old male poultry worker who lives in Foshan. He developed symptoms on December 25, 2013, and was admitted to a hospital in Guangzhou on January 3. {Centre for Health Protection - HKSAR, 6 Jan}

(WHO) Human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus – update
Disease outbreak news... On 18 and 19 December 2013, the National Health and Family Planning Commission, China notified WHO of two new laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus. The first patient is a 62 year old man from Guangdong Province. He became ill on 11 December 2013 and was admitted to hospital on 16 December 2013. He is currently in critical condition. He has a history of exposure to live poultry. {World Health Organization, 6 Jan}

From birds to humans....
Reports indicate 2 new cases of human infection with influenza A H7N9 in Guangdong. The 47-year-old (Foshan) and 71-year-old (Yangjiang) males are both hospitalized and in bad condition. It was only a matter of time since the market testing has been revealing signs of H7N9 circulating. {Virology Down Under, 6 Jan}

PRO/AH/EDR> Avian influenza (03): China (GD) H7N9, live poultry market, goose, NOT
Avian Influenza H7N9 -- Samples from a goose cage taken from a Guangzhou market in south China's Guangdong Province have tested positive for H7N9 avian influenza. Two goose cage samples and one sewage water sample from 2 poultry booths in a wet market in Zengcheng, a satellite city of Guangzhou, tested positive, the Guangdong Provincial Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) confirmed on Sunday [5 Jan 2014]. {ProMED-mail, 06 Jan}

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV)

A global threat or so 2013? Experts read the tea leaves on MERS coronavirus
TORONTO – Infectious disease watchers were worried in the late summer of 2013. The largest annual mass gathering in the world, the Hajj, was approaching. Meanwhile, infections with the new MERS coronavirus were mounting weekly in Saudi Arabia, where more than two million of the Muslim faithful would soon gather. The fear was the event would give the new virus wings – a round-the-world ticket to wherever returning pilgrims might travel. It was easy to imagine MERS taking root in the slums of south Asia or Africa, fuelling outbreaks in overcrowded hospitals in some of the world’s mega-cities. In other words, becoming the next SARS. {The Canadian Press, 6 Jan}

MERS-CoV study supports infection control, suggests camel link
German researchers report that scores of people who had contact with a man who was treated in a Munich hospital last March for Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) escaped infection, suggesting that infection control measures used in the hospital were effective. The report in Emerging Infectious Diseases also says the patient, from the United Arab Emirates, was a camel breeder and had contact with a sick camel shortly before he fell ill. Camels are suspected to be a source of the virus in humans, but the link has not been clearly established. {CIDRAP News, 6 Jan}

Preparedness and Prevention

How our bodies fight off viruses
With the flu season in full swing, some folks don't realize how our bodies protect us from the flu virus, as well as other viral infections. Our bodies have an amazing system of defenses against viral infections, almost like "first responders." Our bodies have marvelous defenses, a complex system commonly referred to as the immune system. This sophisticated system comes into play when our bodies are "invaded" by a virus. This action causes our bodies to produce an "immune response," to fight off the unwanted invader. {Digital Journal, 06 Jan}

Flu 101: To Fight the Flu, Prepare for It
There's good reason to be talking now about influenza. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which monitors global influenza activity with one of the most robust systems of surveillance in all of epidemiology, had indicated that flu is active in the U.S. in at least half of the states now and spreading briskly. Media outlets are spreading the word in tandem with the germ. {U.S. News & World Report, 06 Jan}

Monitoring and Surveillance

U.S. Flu Season Is Here, CDC Urges Vaccination
Significant increases in flu activity in the United States have occurred in the last couple weeks and this week 25 states are reporting widespread flu activity while another 20 are reporting regional activity, indicating that flu season is definitely here. CDC is urging all those who have still not gotten their flu vaccine to get vaccinated! According to CDC’s influenza surveillance report published on January 3, 2013 (Week 52), all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia have reported cases of laboratory-confirmed influenza and, nationally, the percentage of specimens testing positive for influenza continues to rise, up from 13.3% in the week ending December 14, 2013, to this week’s 26.7%. (Regional percentages this week range from 11% to nearly 35%). {Centers for Disease Control, 6 Jan}

Vaccines and Antivirals

Brief fever common in kids given influenza, pneumococcal vaccines together
Giving young children the influenza and pneumococcal vaccines together appears to increase their risk of fever, according to a study led by researchers from Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, the fever was brief, and medical care was sought for few children, supporting the routine immunization schedule for these vaccines, including the recommendation to administer them simultaneously. The study, which looked at children 6-23 months old, was published online on Jan. 6, 2014, in JAMA Pediatrics. {Medical Xpress, 06 Jan}

Flu vaccine found to lower risk of premature or low-weight babies
Pregnant women who get the flu shot are less likely to have premature or low-birth-weight infants compared with those who don’t get vaccinated, a study has found, confirming the results of earlier research. Yet researchers at Dalhousie University in Halifax, where the study was conducted, say vaccination rates among pregnant women remain “disappointingly low.” {The Globe and Mail, 06 Jan}

Zoonoses & Animal Diseases

FMD toll at 4,705, more than 50,000 head of cattle affected
The recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in Kerala has claimed the lives of 4,705 head of cattle across the State and affected 51,581 head of animals since August last year, the Assembly has been informed. Replying to a submission by M.P. Vincent in the Assembly on Monday, Minister for Animal Husbandry K.P. Mohanan said preventive measures had been stepped up to arrest the spread of the disease. {The Hindu, 07 Jan}

Bat-bite victims angry at lack of rabies vaccine
A Melton couple who were scratched and bitten by a bat have been forced to take unregistered medicine after finding out Australia had run out of the usual rabies vaccine. {The Canberra Times, 07 Jan}

PRO/AH/EDR> Foot & mouth disease - India: (KL) bovine, update
Foot and Mouth -- Foot-and-mouth disease has claimed the lives of over 4700 cattle in Kerala [state] after its outbreak a few months ago, State Agriculture Minister KP Mohanan told the state Assembly on Monday [6 Jan 2014]. Replying to a submission in this regard, he said that the disease is now under control due to the effective remedial steps taken by the government. {ProMED-mail, 06 Jan}

PRO> Announcements (01): WAHIS-Wild Interface: OIE's new resource
Not Yet Classified -- The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) announces the public release of a newly developed web application named WAHIS-Wild Interface, available on its website. This interface contains information on non OIE-listed diseases of wild animals collected annually on a voluntary basis by the Member Countries. One of the main missions of the OIE is to ensure transparency of the worldwide animal disease situation, in particular through the legal obligation for all Member Countries to report cases of 116 diseases of domestic and wild animals grouped in an official OIE list. These notifications help to improve animal health and to safeguard safety of world trade without setting up unjustified sanitary barriers. Since 2005, information about OIE-listed diseases of domestic and wild animals has been available through the World Animal Health Information System Interface, WAHID. {ProMED-mail, 06 Jan}

Around The World

AUSTRALIA: Aborigines 'most vulnerable' to bird flu strain
EUROPEANS may have better immune defences than other ethnic groups when facing the latest potential pandemic bird flu from China. A study published today in the journal PNAS suggests Aborigines and other indigenous groups with a history of isolation may be most at risk if the bird flu H7N9 begins to spread widely among humans. And Europeans may be best placed to survive any pandemic because of a long history of exposure to influenza viruses. {The Australian, 7 Jan}

CHINA: Live poultry markets to be closed by month end
Shanghai’s live poultry markets will be shut from the end of this month until April 30 to prevent a recurrence of the bird flu, the Shanghai Agricultural Commission said yesterday. This is the first time that Shanghai will shut all the 117 markets for a period of time after a new provision on the management of live poultry trade was introduced in the city last June. The suspension will be an annual feature for the next five years after its success is evaluated, authorities said. {Shanghai Daily, 7 Jan}

HONG KONG: Baby critical with severe flu
The Centre for Health Protection is investigating a case of severe paediatric influenza A infection affecting a 50-day-old baby boy who is in critical condition. He developed a fever and cough on January 1 and was admitted to hospital the following day. He was transferred to Kwong Wah Hospital's paediatric intensive care unit on January 3. Visit the centre’s website for more information. {Hong Kong Information Services, 07 Jan}

HONG KONG: Seasonal flu under watch
There has been an upward trend in the circulation of H1N1 influenza which the Government is closely monitoring, Secretary for Food & Health Dr Ko Wing-man said.  Speaking to the media after attending a public function today, Dr Ko said the Centre for Health Protection has an effective surveillance system involving public healthcare institutions and private hospitals and medical practitioners. The Government will be able to assess the latest trends regarding flu prevalence and changes in flu viruses, pending data analysis results under the surveillance system, Dr Ko said. A set of clinical guidelines has been provided to frontline medical staff to ensure patients diagnosed with seasonal flu can get the medication they need in a timely fashion, he added. {Hong Kong Information Services, 07 Jan}

HONG KONG: Increase in influenza activity in Hong Kong
The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today (January 6) called on the public to maintain vigilance against seasonal influenza as the latest surveillance data shows an increase in local influenza activity and signalling the impending arrival of the winter influenza season. The Public Health Laboratory Services Branch of the CHP has detected an increase in the number of influenza detections recently. The number of influenza virus detections reported increased from 65 in the week ending December 7, 2013 to 245 in the week ending January 4, 2014. {Centre for Health Protection - HKSAR, 6 Jan}

SRI LANKA: US grants Rs. 110 million for Avian Influenza Surveillance program in Sri Lanka
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided over Rs. 110 million to Sri Lanka to conduct an Avian Pandemic Influenza Surveillance program. The CDC will provide US $852,050 in yearly installments to the Epidemiology Unit of Sri Lanka's Ministry of Health for the next five years (2014 - 2018) to conduct the National Avian / Pandemic Influenza Programme. {ColomboPage, 3 Jan}