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FluWrap: Ominous Mutations Reported

By Kate Walker
Washington (UPI) Nov 14, 2005
Vietnamese scientists say new research suggests that avian influenza has mutated into a form that could be transmissible between humans.

The Ho Chi Minh Pasteur Institute has decoded 24 samples of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza, taken from both birds and humans. The results indicate a number of different mutations in the virus.

A report published on the Institute's Web site said: "The H5N1 type that infected people and waterfowl in early 2005 has several mutations focusing in the important functional parts of the surface proteins. There has been a mutation allowing the virus to breed effectively on mammal tissue and become highly virulent."

These small changes increase the virus' ability to breed in humans.

While this report does not herald the immediate arrival of the pandemic that has been widely feared since the first human death from avian influenza in 2003, it does show that conditions have changed, making the imminent arrival of a pandemic more possible.

Meanwhile, more cases of bird flu have been reported across Asia.

-- Taiwan has found another strain of avian influenza, H7N3, which is highly pathogenic and able to infect humans.

The strain was discovered in droppings left by a migratory bird, and other birds in the area are currently being tested for the presence of H7N3 antibodies. No dead birds have been found in the area around the droppings.

H5 and H7 are the only avian influenza subtypes known to be found in highly pathogenic outbreaks of the disease.

-- Indonesia reported Monday that a 20-year-old woman has died of bird-flu.

In Jakarta, tests for avian influenza are currently being conducted on samples taken from a 13-year-old girl who died over the weekend.

-- Vietnam and China both announced Monday that they were investigating suspected cases of avian flu in humans, although results are yet to be confirmed.

China's Liaoning province, the site of several avian outbreaks last week, is looking into a suspected human case of avian influenza. No human cases have yet been confirmed in the country, but the World Health Organization has sent officials to the southern province of Hunan, where three cases of pneumonia have aroused suspicion.

-- Also in China, the Ministry of Agriculture has confirmed a further outbreak of H5N1 in the country's eastern province of Anhui. Some 126,000 birds have been culled within 3 kilometers (approximately 2 miles) of the outbreak.

All Rights Reserved. 2005 United Press International. Sections Of The Information Displayed On This Page (Dispatches, Photographs, Logos) Are Protected By Intellectual Property Rights Owned By United Press International.. As A Consequence, You May Not Copy, Reproduce, Modify, Transmit, Publish, Display Or In Any Way Commercially Exploit Any Of The Content Of This Section Without The Prior Written Consent Of United Press International.

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Report Offers Tips To Stem Pandemics
Washington (UPI) Nov 10, 2005
A new report on disease outbreak-proofing America contains strategies ranging from the "last resort" option of quarantine to solutions as simple as advising people to wash their hands and stay home from work when sick.



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