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EPIDEMICS
H7N9 bird flu: Lancet study confirms poultry as source
by Staff Writers
Paris (AFP) April 25, 2013


Pharma giant Novartis working on H7N9 vaccine
Geneva (AFP) April 25, 2013 - Swiss pharmaceuticals giant Novartis is researching a vaccine for the H7N9 strain of bird flu, its chief executive said Thursday, amid fears that the disease could mutate into a form that spreads among people.

In an interview with the Swiss daily Tagesanzeiger, Joe Jimenez said that Novartis had already analysed the virus' genetic codes, which have been published by Chinese authorities.

Jimenez said that Novartis "would today be in a position to develop a vaccine for initial clinical trials within six to eight weeks".

"The need is theoretical for now," he added.

Since the discovery of the first cases several weeks ago in China, a total of 108 people have been confirmed as being infected with the H7N9 virus, of whom 22 have died, marking the first time the strain has claimed human lives.

Officials from the World Health Organisation have underlined that the strain is therefore one of the deadliest of the many forms of flu carried by birds and posing various degrees of risk to humans.

On Wednesday, Taiwan recorded the first case outside China, in a man who had recently returned from working there.

There have been no recorded cases to human-to-human transmission, but the spectre of a form of the virus being able to jump between people has placed global health officials on alert.

Chinese researchers reporting in The Lancet on Thursday confirmed poultry as a source of H7N9 flu among humans but said they found no evidence of person-to-person transmission.

A probe into four cases of human H7N9 influenza in eastern Zhejiang province determined that all the patients had been exposed to poultry, either through their occupation or through visiting so-called wet poultry markets.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had previously said poultry were the likely source of the virus, which has been linked to at least 22 deaths out of 108 identified cases since February.

A team led by Lanjuan Li of Zhejiang University in Hangzhou and Kwok-Yung Yuen of the University of Hong Kong took rectal swaps from 20 chickens, four quails, five pigeons and 57 ducks all from six live poultry markets likely to have been visited by the patients.

Two of the pigeons and four of the chickens tested positive for H7N9 but the virus was not found in any of the ducks or quails.

The researchers analysed the genetic makeup of H7N9 found in one of the patients and compared it to a sample found in one of the infected chickens.

The similarities "suggest that it is being transmitted sporadically from poultry to humans," The Lancet said.

"This is the first time that definite bird-to-human transmission has been shown for the H7N9 virus."

Doctors also monitored 303 other people who were relatives or co-workers of the patients, as well as 82 healthcare workers.

"Nobody else who came into contact with the H7N9-infected patients began to show any symptoms within 14 days from the beginning of surveillance, suggesting that the virus is not currently able to transmit between human beings," the journal said.

However, further adaptation of the virus could lead to infections with less severe symptoms and "more efficient person-to-person transmission," the researchers cautioned.

The probe was launched after a 39-year-old patient infected with H7N9 was hospitalised.

Li and Yuen carried out tests on 486 other patients who had been admitted to three hospitals with respiratory problems.

This identified three other patients with the virus. Out of the four, two died, the study said.

On Wednesday, Taiwan confirmed its first infection, in a man who had recently returned from working in eastern China where most cases have been reported.

The study added that the virus was presumed to have incubated between three and eight days, and caused fever, difficulty in breathing, coughing and sputum.

The patients were given daily doses of Tamiflu -- the leading pharmaceutical weapon against flu -- and all required breathing support.

The paper recommended "aggressive intervention" to prevent the virus unleashing a pandemic.

"Temporary closure of live bird markets and comprehensive programmes of surveillance, culling, improved biosecurity, segregation of different poultry species, and possibly vaccination programmes to control H7N9 virus infection in poultry seem necessary to halt evolution of the virus into a pandemic agent," it said.

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Related Links
Epidemics on Earth - Bird Flu, HIV/AIDS, Ebola






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EPIDEMICS
H7N9 flu 'one of most lethal' says WHO as spreads to Taiwan
Beijing (AFP) April 24, 2013
International experts probing China's deadly H7N9 bird flu virus said Wednesday it was "one of the most lethal influenza viruses" seen so far as Taiwan reported the first case outside the mainland. China has confirmed 108 cases and 22 deaths since the first infections were announced on March 31 and Taiwan Wednesday confirmed its first infection in a man who had recently returned from working ... read more


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