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Avian Influenza Blog

Related terms: Bird flu, H5N1

Avian Flu In Harbor Seals Could Infect People

Posted 1 day 11 hours ago by Drugs.com

FRIDAY, Sept. 19, 2014 – The avian flu that killed 160 harbor seals in New England in 2011 could be spread through respiratory drops and therefore poses a potential threat to humans, according to a new study. Although no human illnesses have been linked to the harbor seal virus, researchers at St. Jude Children's Research hospital have discovered natural mutations to the avian H3N8 seal virus that might allow it to travel through the air in droplets. Current seasonal flu vaccines wouldn't help in such a scenario, the study's authors added. What's more, the researchers found that humans don't have an evidence of protection against this virus. "The transmissibility of the seal H3N8 virus coupled with the apparent lack of immunity makes this strain a concern," the researchers wrote in the study, which was published in a recent issue of Nature Communications. Deadly cases of avian H5N1 and ... Read more

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Current Bird Flu Has Pandemic Potential

Posted 11 Jun 2014 by Drugs.com

WEDNESDAY, June 11, 2014 – Flu viruses currently circulating in birds closely resemble the one that caused the 1918 pandemic that killed about 50 million people worldwide, researchers say. Only a few differences separate proteins in current flu viruses found in birds and proteins in the virus that caused the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, the investigators found. This suggests that a similar deadly virus could emerge in the near future, according to the authors of the study published June 11 in the journal Cell Host & Microbe. "Because avian [bird] influenza viruses in nature require only a few changes to adapt to humans and cause a pandemic, it is important to understand the mechanisms involved in adaptation and identify the key mutations so we can be better prepared," senior author Yoshihiro Kawaoka, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in a journal news release. "Research ... Read more

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Vaccine Against Bird Flu Readied, Just in Case

Posted 30 Apr 2014 by Drugs.com

WEDNESDAY, April 30, 2014 – A vaccine to protect people against a potential outbreak of H7N9 bird flu has shown promising results, according to a new report. This flu, first seen in humans in China last year, is common among birds and chickens, but so far isn't known to spread from person-to-person. However, people who have come into contact with infected birds have been sickened. "An effective H7N9 vaccine is achievable," said researcher Dr. Niranjan Kanesa-thasan, from Novartis Vaccines in Cambridge, Mass. If H7N9 flu were to become a pandemic, this preliminary work would make it simple to ramp up vaccine production and do larger trials, he said. This flu most commonly infects older people. As of late April, the World Health Organization said 139 cases of H7N9 flu were reported in China. More than 20 percent of those patients have died. Robin Robinson, deputy assistant secretary for ... Read more

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China's New Bird Flu Might Put People at Risk, Report Says

Posted 5 Feb 2014 by Drugs.com

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 5, 2014 – Chinese scientists reporting on the first confirmed human death from a new bird flu virus say the strain has gene mutations that could increase its ability to infect people. An elderly woman living in Nanchang City, China, recently died from infection with a new strain of H10N8 bird flu virus. Testing revealed the virus contained genes from H9N2 viruses circulating in poultry in China, according to the report published Feb. 4 in the journal The Lancet. "A genetic analysis of the H10N8 virus shows a virus that is distinct from previously reported H10N8 viruses having evolved some genetic characteristics that may allow it to replicate efficiently in humans," study author Dr. Yuelong Shu, from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a journal news release. "Notably, H9N2 virus provided the internal genes not only for the H10N8 virus, but ... Read more

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Bird Flu Virus Doesn't Spread Easily to Humans, Scientists Say

Posted 5 Dec 2013 by Drugs.com

THURSDAY, Dec. 5, 2013 – The H7N9 bird flu virus does not yet have the ability to easily infect people, a new study indicates. The findings contradict some previous research suggesting that H7N9 poses an imminent threat of causing a global pandemic. The H7N9 virus killed several dozen people in China earlier this year. Analyses of virus samples from that outbreak suggest that H7N9 is still mainly adapted for infecting birds, not people, according to scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. The study is published in the Dec. 6 issue of the journal Science. "Luckily, H7N9 viruses just don't yet seem well adapted for binding to human receptors," Ian Wilson, a professor of structural biology and chair of the department of integrative structural and computational biology, said in a Scripps news release. "Because publications to date have implied that H7N9 has adapted ... Read more

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H5N1 Bird Flu Vaccine Approved

Posted 25 Nov 2013 by Drugs.com

MONDAY, Nov. 25, 2013 – A new vaccine has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prevent the so-called "bird flu" virus in adults at greater-than-average risk of exposure, the FDA said. While most strains of bird flu don't infect people, the H5N1 virus has caused "serious illness and death in people outside of the U.S., mostly among people who have been in close contact with infected and ill poultry," the agency said in a news release announcing the approval. The shot, called the Influenza A (H5N1) Virus Monovalent Vaccine, has been developed "in the event that the H5N1 avian influenza virus develops the capability to spread efficiently from human to human, resulting in the rapid spread of the disease across the globe," the FDA added. The vaccine, produced by a Canadian subsidiary of GlaxoSmithKline, is not intended for commercial distribution, the FDA said. It's ... Read more

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FDA Approves First Adjuvanted Vaccine for Prevention of H5N1 Avian Influenza

Posted 22 Nov 2013 by Drugs.com

November 22, 2013 – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved the first adjuvanted vaccine for the prevention of H5N1 influenza, commonly known as avian or bird flu. The vaccine, Influenza A (H5N1) Virus Monovalent Vaccine, Adjuvanted, is for use in people 18 years of age and older who are at increased risk of exposure to the H5N1 influenza virus. Avian influenza is an infectious disease of birds caused by certain influenza A viruses. Most avian influenza A viruses do not infect people. However some viruses, such as H5N1, have caused serious illness and death in people outside of the U.S., mostly among people who have been in close contact with infected and ill poultry. When people do become infected with H5N1, about 60 percent die, according to the World Health Organization. H5N1 is an influenza virus with pandemic potential because it continues to infect wild birds ... Read more

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Simple Mutations Could Make Flu Viruses More Deadly: Studies

Posted 6 Jun 2013 by Drugs.com

THURSDAY, June 6 – Genetic mutations in two emerging "bird" flu viruses could turn them into potential sources of pandemics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers report. One expert who was not involved with the new studies, however, said virus changes that may take place in the lab don't necessarily translate to a real-world threat. These two emerging flu strains, H5N1 and H7N9, originated in birds but as yet don't spread easily to humans and aren't transmitted from one person to another. However, that eventually might happen if the strains were to mutate in certain ways, the researchers said. The two reports were published June 6 in the online edition of the journal Cell. The studies looked at specific proteins found on the viruses. "It is important to understand how the 'bird flu' H5N1 virus surface protein known as hemagglutinin (HA) is able to latch on to human ... Read more

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New China Bird Flu May Be Resistant to Tamiflu

Posted 28 May 2013 by Drugs.com

TUESDAY, May 28 – Chinese scientists say they've identified the first cases of resistance to the flu drug Tamiflu in a person infected with the emerging H7N9 avian flu virus. According to BBC News, there have been 131 confirmed cases in China of the new "bird" flu in humans so far, including 36 deaths. No new cases have been identified in over two weeks. According to the new report, published online May 28 in The Lancet, viral samples from three of 14 patients treated for H7N9 in a Shanghai hospital tested positive for resistance to Tamiflu (oseltamivir). These three patients were also the most severely ill – two died, and the third was still on mechanical ventilation at the time the Lancet paper was published. "The apparent ease with which antiviral resistance emerges in A/H7N9 [flu] viruses is concerning; it needs to be closely monitored and considered in future pandemic response ... Read more

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No Evidence That New Bird Flu Passes Between People: Study

Posted 25 Apr 2013 by Drugs.com

THURSDAY, April 25 – A new study is the first to confirm that the H7N9 bird flu virus is passed from birds to people. But the study did not find evidence of person-to-person transmission. In the study, Chinese scientists provide details about four cases of human H7N9 infection in the eastern Zhejiang province. All four patients had been exposed to poultry, either through their jobs or by visiting poultry markets. The study authors tested samples taken from 20 chickens, four quails, five pigeons and 57 ducks at six poultry markets where the patients were likely to have been. Two of the five pigeons and four of the 20 chickens tested positive for H7N9, but the virus was not found in any of the ducks or quails tested. Then researchers analyzed the genetic makeup of H7N9 viruses from one of the patients and one of the chickens and found similarities between the viruses, confirming that the ... Read more

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New Bird Flu No Immediate Threat: U.S. Experts

Posted 9 Apr 2013 by Drugs.com

TUESDAY, April 9 – At this point, there's no reason to believe that the emerging H7N9 strain of bird flu that has sickened at least 24 people and killed seven in China is cause for alarm, health officials in the United States say. For one thing, no cases of human-to-human transmission of the virus have yet been reported – a necessary precursor to a full-blown pandemic. "This is very early in the course of identification of human cases," said Dr. John Midturi, assistant professor of internal medicine at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, in Temple. "We do see something similar every few years with avian [bird] flu," added Richard Webby, a member of the department of infectious diseases at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. But this year's strain does seem a little different. "What's making everyone a little bit more uneasy is that, looking at the ... Read more

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Controversial Bird Flu Research to Resume

Posted 23 Jan 2013 by Drugs.com

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 23 – An international moratorium on bird flu research, instituted a year ago because of concerns that a mutated form of the virus could fall into the wrong hands, has been lifted. In a letter published Jan. 23 in the journals Nature and Science, the 40 scientists who first agreed to halt any study of the H5N1 flu virus until safety guidelines were established now say that labs in countries that have since established such measures can resume their work. However, the United States is not one of those countries, so any bird, or avian, flu research there is still on hold, the group said. "It is believed that all of the conditions the moratorium was initially installed to meet have been met," Ron Fouchier, of the department of virology at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, said during a Wednesday news conference on the decision to lift the ban. "In our opinion, in ... Read more

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Once-Banned Bird Flu Study Yields Sobering Findings

Posted 22 Jun 2012 by Drugs.com

THURSDAY, June 21 – As few as five mutations are enough to make the H5N1 avian influenza virus transmissible via airborne droplets between ferrets, according to a new, highly anticipated report. Because the flu virus affects ferrets and humans in a similar way, the new findings, appearing in the June 22 issue of the journal Science, may shed light on how likely it is that an avian or "bird flu" virus will become pandemic and spread rapidly between humans. If a new virus emerged, humans could essentially be defenseless against it. The paper is the second of two whose publication was banned by the U.S. government, which feared that publishing specifics on a sequence of the H5N1 bird flu might prompt bioterrorists to develop and unleash a pandemic. In April, however, the controversial ban was lifted and the first paper was published in the journal Nature. Bruce Alberts, the ... Read more

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Once-Banned Bird Flu Study Suggests Pandemic Threat Is Real

Posted 2 May 2012 by Drugs.com

WEDNESDAY, May 2 – Data in a formerly banned study detailing how the H5N1 avian (bird) flu virus can morph – with the possibility that it could spread from person to person and cause a global pandemic – may help nations prepare for the impending threat. That's some of the motivation for lifting the ban and publishing the study in the May 2 online issue of Nature, experts say. The initial ban applied to two studies slated to be published in two medical journals, Nature and Science. In December, the U.S. government intervened, requesting that both journals censor some of the data for national security purposes. The concern was that terrorists might use the information to create a lethal biological weapon. The ban was lifted in April, after the U.S. government conducted a risk assessment in March. Nature also commissioned an independent assessment. Both showed that publication would ... Read more

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U.S. Advisers Say It's Now Safe to Publish Bird Flu Studies

Posted 1 Apr 2012 by Drugs.com

SATURDAY, March 31 – Research on a mutated, more contagious form of the bird flu virus can be published in full, U.S. government biosecurity advisers said Friday, despite initial concerns that bioterrorists could use the information to start a pandemic. The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity said two research papers, which have been revised since they were first offered for publication late last year, have been reworked enough so they no longer contain details that might be of value to bioterrorists. The advisers' recommendation now goes to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for a decision, the Associated Press reported. In December, the advisers recommended against publication of the papers because doing so was potentially risky. The two studies at the center of the debate were to be published in the journals Science and Nature late last year. The papers, ... Read more

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