Continuing to track H5N1

25 January 2004
I started to collect H5N1 material last week and made a summary for last Thursday's class, saying that the outbreak could turn out to be the most important thing for our future, and in any case was a useful example of the intersection of 'geography of human culture' (or, as I prefer, 'human geography') with the worlds of resources and food production and globalization and so on. It seems necessary to have a place to follow that up, as long as it remains an emerging story, so here's where I'll cache what I find. There's an archive of news extracts, though the most recent harvest of news can be found at the bottom of this page. Also on this page are extracts from articles in the scientific literature, most of which are in the nature of background and not "breaking news".

1 April: a general chronology ["Key Dates"] of the outbreak

31 January 2005: I've set up a page with links to a year ago... not sure to what end

A basic tool I've used to follow the reported events is a Google news search for H5N1, but there are other monitoring sites like WHO Disease Outbreak News (see chronology of key events to 12 February 2004), FAO Newsroom and FAO Special Report (with detailed maps), and CDC (a date-search for 'H5N1') worth keeping an eye on. There's also Poultry News, based in India but supplying world news,, USDA's International Egg and Poultry Review, and's News, all good for industry insider updates. There's also a Poultry Ring that links mostly-enthusiast Web sites.

Guardian Unlimited has a Flash presentation which might be a good on-ramp to the issues, and a cool example of the technology. For general coverage of epidemiology, Science's Epidemiology Collection is a handy source. A tangentially related topic is civet and SARS.

By mid-March the reportage was calming down --often, nothing of sufficient interest to collect. There's still a sense that we know very little about the avian flu episode, its details or its ramificatory consequences. What about such black holes of news as Laos and Burma? Hard to believe that they are unaffected... or is this primarily a disease of a particular kind of building: a modern industrial poultry house (and as such not a problem where chickens aren't produced industrially)? Should the world be asking the disturbing questions about that Mode of Production? Time will tell...

Pathogen Alert is following the fine details (added 8 Jan 2005) and Effect Measure is another good source for epidemiologically informed commentary.

Some basic background on zoonotic diseases (those which can be transmitted from animals to humans):

Zoonotic Diseases: Animal and Food-related Health Risks (WHO) --see EMERGING FOODBORNE DISEASES

Zoonotic Diseases Tutorial

The Emergence of Zoonotic Diseases: Understanding the Impact on Animal and Human Health - Workshop Summary National Academies Press 2002 (full text online)

Infectious Animal and Zoonotic Disease Surveillance from Federation of Amerian Scientists

Zoonotic avian influenza

Avian influenza in South East Asia from World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) --see home page for current updates, and Highly pathogenic avian influenza details

Influenza Virus Infections of Pigs Part 2: Transmission between pigs and other species by Dr. Ian H. Brown

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza

Characterization of a highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza A virus isolated from duck meat Tumpey TM et al. J Virol. 2002 Jun; 76(12): 6344-55. (PubMed record --link to 'Related Articles ')

transcript of the question and answer session by the Hong Kong Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food, Dr Yeoh Eng-kiong, after visiting Fu Cheong Estate, Sham Shui Po (January 15, 2004)

Thailand insists poultry industry free from bird flu (20 January) (cached)

Influenza Fact Sheet (WHO)

Global pandemic fear as flu kills man, infects son (February 2003 story on H5N1)

Human factors in emerging infectious diseases Scott B. Halstead Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal Volume 2, Issue 1, 1996, Page 21-29

ABSTRACT When the underlying causes and mechanisms of emerging infectious disease problems are studied carefully, human behaviour is often involved. Even more often, the only methods of control or prevention available are to change human behaviour. Several major recent emerging disease problems can be cited. It is sometimes emphasized that it is human carelessness, human excesses, human ignorance or human habits of conquest or leisure which contribute directly to the biological niches that microorganisms are all too capable of exploiting. We must look at ourselves as the engines of microbial opportunism. It is not likely that we will ever conquer the microbial world; we must look instead to control the human factors that contribute to emergence.

I did a Web of Science search for 'webster rg' and found these:

Are we ready for pandemic influenza? Webby RJ, Webster RG SCIENCE 302 (5650): 1519-1522 NOV 28 2003

The quest of influenza A viruses for new hosts Liu M, Guan Y, Peiris M, He S, Webby RJ, Perez D, Webster RG AVIAN DISEASES 47: 849-856 Suppl. S 2003

Abstract: There is increasing evidence that stable lineages of influenza viruses are being established in chickens. H9N2 viruses are established in chickens in Eurasia, and there are increasing reports of H3N2, H6N1, and H6N2 influenza viruses in chickens both in Asia and North America. Surveillance in a live poultry market in Nanchang, South Central China, reveals that influenza viruses were isolated form 1% of fecal samples taken from healthy poultry over the course of 16 months. The highest isolation rates were from chickens (1.3%) and ducks (1.2%), followed by quail (0.8%), then pigeon (0.5%). H3N6, H9N2, H2N9, and H4N6 viruses were isolated from multiple samples, while single isolates of H1N1, H3N2, and H3N3 viruses were made. Representatives of each virus subtype were experimentally inoculated into both quail and chickens. All the viruses replicated in the trachea of quail, but efficient replication in chickens was confined to 25% of the tested isolates. In quail, these viruses were shed primarily by the aerosol route, raising the possibility that quail may be the "route modulator" that changes the route of transmission of influenza viruses from fecal-oral to aerosol transmission. Thus, quail may play an important role in the natural history of influenza viruses. The pros and cons of the use of inactivated and recombinant fowl pox-influenza vaccines to control the spread of avian influenza are also evaluated.
Reassortants of H5N1 influenza viruses recently isolated from aquatic poultry in Hong Kong SAR Guan Y, Peiris JSM, Poon LLM, Dyrting KC, Ellis TM, Sims L, Webster RG, Shortridge KF AVIAN DISEASES 47: 911-913 Suppl. S 2003
Abstract: The H5N1 virus (H5N1/97) that caused the bird flu incident in Hong Kong in 1997 has not been isolated since the poultry slaughter in late 1997. But the donor of its H5 hemagglutinin gene, Goose/Guangdong/1/96-like (Gs/Gd/96-like) virus, established a distinct lineage and continued to circulate in geese in the area. In 2000, a virus from the Goose/ Guangdong/1/96 lineage was isolated for the first time from domestic ducks. Subsequently, it has undergone reassortment, and these novel reassortants now appear to have replaced Gs/Gd/96-like viruses from its reservoir in geese and from ducks. The internal gene constellation is also different from H5N1/97, but these variants have the potential for further reassortment events that may allow the interspecies transmission of the virus.
Land-based birds as potential disseminators of avian/mammalian reassortant influenza A viruses Perez DR, Webby RJ, Hoffmann E, Webster RG AVIAN DISEASES 47: 1114-1117 Suppl. S 2003
Abstract: Chickens, quail, and other land-based birds are extensively farmed around the world. They have been recently implicated in zoonotic outbreaks of avian influenza in Hong Kong. The possibility that land-based birds could act as mixing vessels or disseminators of avian/mammalian reassortant influenza A viruses with pandemic potential has not been evaluated. In this report, we investigated whether chickens and Japanese quail are susceptible to a mammalian influenza virus (A/swine/Texas/4199-2/98 [H3N2]). This virus did not grow in chickens and replicated to low levels in Japanese quail but did not transmit. Replacing the H3 gene of this virus for one of the avian H9 viruses resulted in transmission of the avian/swine reassortant virus among quail but not among chickens. Our findings demonstrated that Japanese quail could provide an environment in which viruses like the A/swine/Texas/4199-2/98 [H3N2] virus could further reassort and generate influenza viruses with pandemic potential.
Influenza - The world is teetering on the edge of a pandemic that could kill a large fraction of the human population Webster RG, Walker EJ AMERICAN SCIENTIST 91 (2): 122-129 MAR-APR 2003
The issues extend beyond science into the realms of international and local politics, national budgets, and deeply entrenced cultural traditions. (122)

Hong Kong's 1997 "bird flu" was an avain influenza virus that probably attained viulence through reassortment of genes from geese, quail, and teal. many bird species were housed together in the Hong Kong poultry markets, and this was an ideal environment for reassortment. (123)

The influenza virus contains eight separate RNA segments that encode genes for at least 10 proteins. This unusual genetic structure explains why reassortment happens so often. If two different viruses infect the same cell, an exchange of gene segments can easily take place, yielding up to 256 (or 2&super8;) different offspring. (123)

Influenza's unpredictability springs from its ability to alter its HA and NA surface proteins and so avoid identification by the host's immune system... (124)

In DNA-based genomes a proof-reading enzyme carefully scrutinizes the process of copying a strand of DNA, catching and correcting any mistakes made during replication. But, like other RNA-based viruses, the influenza virus lacks a proofreader, so mistakes made during replication go uncorrected and the virus can mutate swiftly. (124)

Lethal H5N1 influenza viruses escape host anti-viral cytokine responses Seo SH, Hoffmann E, Webster RG NATURE MEDICINE 8 (9): 950-954 SEP 2002

Abstract: The H5N1 influenza viruses transmitted to humans in 1997 were highly virulent, but the mechanism of their virulence in humans is largely unknown. Here we show that lethal H5N1 influenza viruses, unlike other human, avian and swine influenza viruses, are resistant to the antiviral effects of interferons and tumor necrosis factor. The nonstructural (NS) gene of H5N1 viruses is associated with this resistance. Pigs infected with recombinant human H1N1 influenza virus that carried the H5N1 NS gene experienced significantly greater and more prolonged viremia, fever and weight loss than did pigs infected with wild-type human H1N1 influenza virus. These effects required the presence of glutamic acid at position 92 of the NS1 molecule. These findings may explain the mechanism of the high virulence of H5N1 influenza viruses in humans.
Emergence of multiple genotypes of H5N1 avian influenza viruses in Hong Kong SAR Guan Y, Peiris JSM, Lipatov AS, Ellis TM, Dyrting KC, Krauss S, Zhang LJ, Webster RG, Shortridge KF PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 99 (13): 8950-8955 JUN 25 2002
Abstract: Although A/Hong Kong/156/97 (H5N1/97)-like viruses associated with the "bird flu" incident in Hong Kong SAR have not been detected since the slaughter of poultry in 1997, its putative precursors continue to persist in the region. One of these, Goose/Guangdong/1/96 (H5N1 Gs/Gd)-like viruses, reassorted with other avian viruses to generate multiple genotypes of H5N1 viruses that crossed to chickens and other terrestrial poultry from its reservoir in geese. Whereas none of these recent reassortants had acquired the gene constellation of H5N1/97, these events provide insight into how such a virus may have been generated. The recent H5N1 reassortants readily infect and kill chicken and quail after experimental infection, and some were associated with significant mortality of chickens within the poultry retail markets in Hong Kong. Some genotypes are lethal for mice after intra-nasal inoculation and spread to the brain. On this occasion, the early detection of H5N1 viruses in the retail, live poultry markets led to preemptive intervention before the occurrence of human disease, but these newly emerging, highly pathogenic H5N1 viruses provide cause for pandemic concern.
The importance of animal influenza for human disease Webster RG VACCINE 20: S16-S20 Suppl. 2 MAY 15 2002
Abstract: Influenza is a zoonotic disease caused by a constantly varying RNA virus resulting in a need for continuous surveillance to update human vaccines. Our knowledge indicates that the intermittent pandemics of influenza originate from influenza viruses or gene segments from influenza viruses in lower animals and birds. These pandemics can be mild to catastrophic. While we have learned a great deal about the ecology and molecular properties of "animal" influenza viruses, we do not have a system for comprehensive international surveillance. The 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic that originated from lower animals and the recent H5NI bird flu incident in Hong Kong serves to remind us that influenza is an emerging disease. The challenge for the 21st century is to accumulate the necessary epidemiological data on animal influenza viruses so that an international surveillance system can be devised. This epidemiological data may provide clues on how to reduce interspecies transmission of influenza. The separation of aquatic birds from other "land based" domestic poultry in Hong Kong after the H5NI bird flu incident indicates that animal husbandry practices could influence the interspecies transmission of influenza viruses. (C) 2002 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.
Emergence of influenza A viruses Webby RJ, Webster RG PHILOSOPHICAL TRANSACTIONS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF LONDON SERIES B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES 356 (1416): 1817-1828 DEC 29 2001
Abstract: Pandemic influenza in humans is a zoonotic disease caused by the transfer of influenza A viruses or virus gene segments from animal reservoirs. Influenza A viruses have been isolated from avian and mammalian hosts, although the primary reservoirs are the aquatic bird populations of the world. In the aquatic birds, influenza is asymptomatic, and the viruses are in evolutionary stasis. The aquatic bird viruses do not replicate well in humans, and these viruses need to reassort or adapt in an intermediate host before they emerge in human populations. Pigs can serve as a host for avian and human viruses and are logical candidates for the role of intermediate host. The transmission of avian H5N1 and H9N2 viruses directly to humans during the late 1990s showed that land-based poultry also can serve between aquatic birds and humans as intermediate hosts of influenza viruses. That these transmission events took place in Hong Kong and China adds further support to the hypothesis that Asia is an epicentre for influenza and stresses the importance of surveillance of pigs and live-bird markets in this area.

Another from the scientific literature:
The influenza virus gene pool in a poultry market in South Central China
Liu M, He SQ, Walker D, Zhou NN, Perez DR, Mo B, Li F, Huang XT, Webster RG, Webby RJ
VIROLOGY 305 (2): 267-275 JAN 20 2003

Live bird markets bring together a number of hosts in a high-density setting, providing an ideal environment for viral reassortment and interspecies transfer. Similar studies of live poultry markets in the United States, particularly in New york City, have shown that these markets play a pivotal role in the distriution and genetic interaction of influenza viruses. These findings le senne et al. (19930 to hypothesize that live poultry markets constitute "a missing link in the epidemiology of avian influenza". (267)

This report establishes the gene pool of influenza viruses in the markets, the continual evolution of influenza viruses in domestic avian species, the extent of reassortment between isolates, and the pathogenicity of these viruses in experimentally infected domestic poultry. (267)

In 1998, practices in the live poultry markets in Hong Kong were altered to reduce the possibility of transmission of influenza viruses from aquatic birds to humans. The changes that were made included the importation of ducks and geese to a separate wholesale market where they were slaughtered and refrigerated before sale. Chickens, quail, and other terrestrial birds continued to be housed together in the live poultry markets. After H5N1 viruses were detected in 2001 and live poultry were again slaughtered, a rest day during each month was mandated to allow each retail market to be emptied and sanitized, and quail were no longer permitted in the live poultry markets. However, these changes have not been instituted in Southern China outside of Hong Kong. (272)

More scientific literature, from a PubMed search:

The epidemiology and clinical impact of pandemic influenza.
Nguyen-Van-Tam JS, Hampson AW. Vaccine.
2003 May 1; 21(16): 1762-8.
ABSTRACT: It is impossible to predict when the next pandemic of influenza will occur; however, it is almost 35 years since the last pandemic, and the longest inter-pandemic interval recorded with certainty is 39 years. The next pandemic virus is likely to emerge in southeast Asia, as have two of the last three pandemic viruses. Complete global spread is likely to occur in 6 months or less, due to increased travel and urbanisation. It is likely that the usual inter-pandemic pattern of age-specific mortality will deviate temporarily towards higher mortality in younger adults. The extent to which this will happen is unclear, as the shift was extreme in 1918-1919 but less so in subsequent pandemics. Nevertheless, this may have important implications for the protection of essential workers such as health care, emergency service and military personnel. The extent to which elderly persons will be affected will depend upon previous exposure to similar influenza viruses. It is impossible to predict the likely increase in excess mortality that will occur when a new pandemic virus emerges. However, whilst mortality on the scale experienced in 1918-1919 is probably unlikely, there was a high level of mortality among those infected with the A/H5N1 virus in 1997, so it cannot be assumed that a future pandemic will be as mild as those in 1957-1958 or 1968-1969. There is likely to be more than one wave of infection and health services in most countries will be hard pressed to provide vaccines or to manage populations with clinical attack rates of approximately 25-30% and concomitant increases in demand for both primary and secondary health care services.

The next influenza pandemic: lessons from Hong Kong.
Shortridge KF, Peiris JS, Guan Y. J Appl Microbiol. 2003; 94 Suppl: 70S-79S.
Pandemic influenza is a zoonosis. Studies on influenza ecology conducted in Hong Kong since the 1970s in which Hong Kong essentially functioned as an influenza sentinel post indicated that it might be possible, for the first time, to have influenza preparedness at the baseline avian level. This appreciation of influenza ecology facilitated recognition of the H5N1 'bird flu' incident in Hong Kong in 1997 in what was considered to be an incipient pandemic situation, the chicken being the source of virus for humans and, if so, was the first instance where a pandemic may have been averted. The 2001 and 2002 H5N1 incidents demonstrated that it was possible to have an even higher order of baseline preparedness with the recognition in chicken of a range of genotypes of H5N1-like viruses before they had the opportunity to infect humans. Investigations of these incidents revealed a complex ecology involving variously precursor avian H5N1 virus in geese and ducks, and H9N2 and H6N1 viruses in quail, the quail possibly functioning as an avian 'mixing vessel' for key genetic reassortment events for onward transmission of H5N1 viruses highly pathogenic for chicken and humans. These findings highlight the importance of systematic virus surveillance of domestic poultry in recognizing changes in virus occurrence, host range and pathogenicity as signals at the avian level that could presage a pandemic. For example, there is now an increasing prevalence of avian influenza viruses in terrestrial (in contrast to aquatic) poultry. Prior to 1997, no particular virus subtype other than H4N6 would have been considered a candidate for pandemicity and this was based, in the absence of any other data, on its high frequency of occurrence in ducks in southern China. Now,with the isolation of H5N1 and H9N2 viruses from humans supported by genetic, molecular and biological studies on these and other avian isolates, there is credible evidence for the candidacy, in order, of H5N1, H9N2 and H6N1 viruses.These viruses have been made available for the production of diagnostic reagents and exploratory vaccines. The 1997 incident upheld the hypothesis that southern China is an epicentre for the emergence of pandemic influenza viruses. However, the intensification of the poultry (chicken) industry worldwide coupled with the spread of viruses such as the Eurasian lineage of H9N2 suggest that the genesis of a pandemic could take place elsewhere in the world. This re-emphasizes the importance of systematic virus surveillance of poultry globally for international public health and for economic and food concerns. Faced with an incipient pandemic in 1997, Hong Kong brought in international experts to join the investigative effort. Good teamwork at all levels is essential in dealing with the many facets. The threat of a pandemic should not be minimized, nor should governments be lulled into a sense of false security. The media is a powerful channel and has the responsibility and the avenues to convey and influence public perception of events. Close liaison between the media and those on the operational side ensures effective, accurate and timely dissemination of information. This will enhance public confidence in the investigative process and in steps taken for its safety and health.

and, still warm:

Wet markets––a continuing source of severe acute respiratory syndrome and influenza?
Prof Robert G Webster, FRS
The Lancet Volume 363, Issue 9404 , 17 January 2004, Pages 234-236
Abstract: Context Live-animal markets (wet markets) provide a source of vertebrate and invertebrate animals for customers in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Wet markets sell live poultry, fish, reptiles, and mammals of every kind. Live-poultry markets (mostly chicken, pigeon, quail, ducks, geese, and a wide range of exotic wild-caught and farm-raised fowl) are usually separated from markets selling fish or red-meat animals, but the stalls can be near each other with no physical separation. Despite the widespread availability of affordable refrigeration, many Asian people prefer live animals for fresh produce. Wet markets are widespread in Asian countries and in countries where Asian people have migrated. Live-poultry markets were the source of the H5N1 bird-influenza virus that transmitted to and killed six of 18 people in Hong Kong.
This one introduced me to the term "wet markets", which I expect to see more of soon.

There's also an Editorial in the 24 January issue of The Lancet:

Avian influenza: the threat looms
(last paragraph:) The possibility of a human pandemic with a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus must be taken very seriously indeed. With the latest outbreak in birds in Vietnam, teams from WHO, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization were quickly in country. One thing is clear: given that all new infectious diseases of human beings to emerge in the past 20 years have had an animal source, veterinary science and animal husbandry are as important for disease control as clinical medicine. When funding and resources are allocated, animal experts must not be overlooked.

(previous days' news reports archived in a separate file)

6 February

China's provincial transport network could spread bird flu: officials (Channel News Asia)

XIANGFAN, China: Lax quarantine and inspection of poultry transported across China's provinces point to one likely conduit of the bird flu sweeping the country, health officials say.
Although there is no definitive theory on how the avian flu affecting Asia has spread, China's massive network of transport links could be to blame for the rapid rise of the disease within its own borders.
Xiangfan, a city of 5.7 million people in China's central Hubei province, reported its first case of suspected bird flu on February 4, at a small farm some 25 kilometres (15 miles) from the city centre.
Officials here are confident that its defences are adequate, although open-air trucks loaded with caged poultry routinely pull into the city's two wholesale markets from other provinces.
Even though Hubei has banned imports from several outbreak areas in China, birds are still being hauled from Xinye county, some two hours away in neighbouring Henan province, which has one case of reported bird flu.
Officials here do not think it poses any risk but some say it highlights the continued risk in a transport system that could have spread the disease before health officials were aware it was there.

Racing pigs to replace culled performing ducks (Ananova)

A circus troupe of performing ducks in Vietnam has become the latest victim of the bird flu epidemic in the region.
The 150 ducks, members of the Cu Chi Ecological Tourism Park circus troupe, have been destroyed as part of Vietnam's mass cull to contain the epidemic.
The park's deputy director, Nguyen Hoang Thanh, said the ducks, who have been a star attraction for a year, are to be replaced by a team of racing pigs.
"I am very sad because we trained the ducks for three months, but we have no choice. Tourists, especially kids, were very keen on the show," he said.
It would take at least six months to train another flock of ducks, he said. The web-footed artists were trained to slide down a chute into a pond and assist in other circus performances. Some 50,000 visitors toured the park last year, he said.

Singapore to cull all poultry if bird flu strikes: minister

SINGAPORE, Feb. 6 (Xinhuanet) -- Singapore will kill all its 2.1 million chickens immediately if the deadly bird flu virus strikes any of its seven poultry farms, said Singapore's National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan on Friday.
The government will not wait for laboratory results, which usually take five to seven days, to confirm that the virus is the H5N1 strain before starting culling, Mah added.
If avian influenza is detected in poultry imported from Malaysia, Singapore's largest supplier of live chicken, "import will cease immediately and all birds imported on that day will be slaughtered and safely disposed of," the minister said.
...The city-state has stepped up checks on imports of live chicken from Malaysia -- 120,000 birds or so everyday - as well as at its own poultry farms.

Bird Flu Surfaces In Delaware

DOVER, Del. (AP) Delaware officials ordered the destruction of some 12,000 farm chickens on Friday after confirming that the flock was infected by avian influenza.
State agriculture secretary Michael Scuse said the flu strain is different from the one that has spread to the human population in Asia, and that there is no threat to human health.
Scuse would not disclose the location of the infected chicken houses or identify the grower, saying only that it was an independent operation in Kent County.
The strain, known as H7, has the potential to cause severe economic damage if it spreads to the commercial broiler industry, a linchpin of the region's agricultural economy.
7 February

Thailand expects to stamp out bird flu in days - PM By Khettiya Jittapong

BANGKOK, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Thailand hopes to clear its last bird flu outbreak within the next two days and the country's fast growing economy will not take a major hit from the epidemic, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said on Saturday.
Thailand, the world's fourth biggest chicken exporter has slaughtered 26 million fowl and was confident the virus was under control, Thaksin said.
"There is only one red zone, in Bangkok at Lat Krabang. We hope to clear that within one or two days," Thaksin, accused by newspapers and the political opposition of covering up the outbreak, said in his weekly radio address to the nation.
Last week, Thailand, one of the worst hit of the eight Asian countries struck by the H5N1 virus which has also killed 18 people, had more than 140 of the "red zones", the five-km (three-mile) area around a confirmed outbreak within which the government orders the slaughter of all poultry.

South Korea bans import of chicken from US

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea on Saturday temporarily banned the import of birds from the United States after the state of Delaware confirmed that the chicken population at a farm there was confirmed hit by bird flu. "We impose a temporary ban on the import of chicken and ducks and their products from the United States," the Agriculture Fisheries Ministry said in a press statement. The move came after Delaware officials reportedly ordered the destruction of some 12,000 farm chickens on Friday after confirming that the flock was infected by avian influenza.

... Last year alone, South Korea imported 40,107 tonnes of chickens, which accounted for 49 percent of all chicken imports, and 87 tonnes of ducks from the United States or four percent duck imports. The United States on Wednesday banned the import of birds from eight countries in Asia, where the disease has killed 18 people. The ban applies to all birds and bird products, unless they have been processed to remove the disease, from Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, China including Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

Migration menace? Academics have a field day tracing source of bird flu (The Nation, Thailand)

...Kaset Sutasha, of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Kasetsart University, says he does not believe migratory birds are carriers and there has been little evidence supporting this theory.
"The possibility is very low as the dead birds which I've examined have not tested positive for bird flu," he said. Smuggling and indigenous fighting cocks may be better explanations, he suggests.
"The outbreak could be caused by the smuggling of birds from places such as China and countries bordering Thailand. The movement of fighting cocks, both in and out of the country, might also be a cause," Kaset said, noting that not all fighting cocks or birds ordered from overseas were properly vaccinated.
Petch Manopawitr, training and education coordinator of the Wildlife Conservation Society, agrees that the chance of farm poultry getting bird flu from migratory birds is very low.
"Normally migratory birds frequent wetlands, where you wouldn't site a poultry farm," he said.
Petch explained that wild birds from Indonesia, China and South America smuggled in for sale on the black market had a higher risk of viral infection.
"These birds are usually crammed together in a confined space and so can easily become infected," he said.
China has been a major source of birds imported by illicit traders, according to a survey by the WWF and the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand.
However, Viroj na Bangchang, chairman of the Asia Environment Council, is sure that migratory birds are the more likely carriers.
"This year the cooler climate in Thailand has been very favourable to viral growth and spread. There is also scientific proof, from certain authorities, that migrating birds from Siberia carry the H5N1 virus, the same strain found in Vietnam, China and Hong Kong, countries which these birds have crossed," Viroj said.
He suspects migrating birds could have brought the virus in their droppings, passing it on to domestic poultry, which have relatively weak immune systems.
8 February

Bird Flu Twice as Deadly as Last Outbreak-Doctor By Christina Toh-Pantin

HANOI (Reuters) - Up to 70 percent of people who have contracted bird flu in the latest Asian outbreak have died from the virus, making it twice as deadly as the last outbreak in 1997, a Hong Kong doctor said Sunday.
Eighteen people have died so far -- 13 in Vietnam and five in Thailand -- and the virus has been reported in 11 countries.
China confirmed the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu had been detected in a further six provinces Sunday, while Japan banned chicken imports from the United States after a milder strain of bird flu was discovered in Delaware.
"The data suggests it (mortality rate) is in the range of 60 to 70 percent, so we are quite shocked by this," David Hui, a specialist in respiratory medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told Reuters Television. "Last time (in 1997), the mortality rate was 30 percent."
Hui said there was little evidence that the virus was being spread by anything other than contact with sick poultry, but it was unclear why the H5N1 strain was this time more lethal or why only two countries had reported human deaths.
"This is a puzzle...we are trying to find out: Is the virus changing in structure? Is it becoming more virulent? Is the clinical spectrum different from 1997?" he said.
... The virus has struck virtually all of Vietnam's 64 provinces and major cities. Hanoi has ordered a nationwide ban on the transport of poultry and a cull of all fowl in the capital.
China confirmed outbreaks in six provinces -- Hubei, Shaanxi, Gansu, Hunan, Guangdong and Zhejiang -- previously suspected of harbouring the H5N1 strain, China Central Television (CCTV) reported Sunday.
Thirteen of China's 31 provinces have confirmed or suspected outbreaks of avian influenza. Chinese TV said there had been no reports of human infections.

China confirms six new bird flu outbreaks Australian Broadcasting Corporation

... China so far has 34 suspected or confirmed outbreaks in 13 of its 31 provinces.
China's Ministry of Agriculture confirmed H5N1 bird flu outbreaks in Xiangfan city, Hubei province; Xi'an city, Shaanxi province; Gaolan county, Gansu province; Pingjiang county, Hunan province; Haifeng county, Guangdong province and Yongkang city, Zhejiang province, CCTV news said.
The ministry also received reports of three new suspected bird flu outbreaks in Guangxi province's Nanning city and Guangdong province's Zhuhai and Maoming cities, CCTV said.

Korea halts U.S. poultry, eases on beef (Korea Herald)

Korea has halted imports of U.S. poultry after an outbreak of bird flu in Delaware state, a move that dropped the nation's chicken imports to virtually zero.
Meanwhile, the government partially lifted a nearly 2-month-old ban on all U.S. beef products, allowing imports of beef fat, or tallow, for industrial use, such as production of soap and candles.
With no end to the beef ban in sight, local manufacturers had complained increasingly of a shortage in raw materials.
On U.S. poultry, the government announced a temporary ban Saturday, halting customs inspection of all American chickens and ducks. The move came two days after Delaware announced the discovery of H7 bird flu at a farm, where more than 12,000 chickens were subsequently destroyed.
Last year, the United States supplied 49 percent of Korea's chicken imports, or 40,000 tons, second to Thailand, which supplied 50.3 percent. Korea earlier banned chicken imports from Thailand, where the H5N1 bird flu has ravaged the poultry industry and jumped to humans.
The same strain also has hit the Korean poultry farmers to a lesser extent but has swept through Vietnam and China with as much deadly force as in Thailand. So far, 18 people have died in Asia from the avian disease.
The H7 strain is less of a threat to humans but is as deadly to poultry as the H5N1 strain. Korean officials said they were researching the seriousness of the Delaware case to decide any further steps.
"If the virus found in Delaware turns out to be highly pathogenic, the temporary ban on the import of chicken and duck from the United States will become an official one," said Kim Chang-seop, head of the agriculture ministry's animal quarantine department.
Japan also suspended all imports of U.S poultry during the weekend.
The U.S. agricultural sector already was reeling from worldwide bans on beef, following the discovery of mad cow disease in December. Korea joined the beef ban, but yesterday said it would lift the ban on U.S. beef fat this month to help alleviate a raw material shortage.
9 February

Bird flu may be widespread in Cambodia

Experts say an abnormal number of poultry deaths in Cambodia suggests the outbreak of the deadly bird flu virus is far more widespread than authorities have acknowledged.
Their worry was reinforced by Sunday's announcement of Cambodia's first suspected human death from the H5N1 virus.
A 24-year-old female farmer died with disease symptoms in Takeo province, which borders Vietnam.
...Cambodia, wedged between the two countries, has so far identified only three contaminated areas, all within the vicinity of the capital, Phnom Penh.

Avian Tests Negative on 5 Delaware Farms-Official by David Morgan

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Tests for avian flu performed on Saturday at five Delaware poultry farms within a two mile radius of an infected flock have shown no signs of the disease, a Delaware state official said on Monday.
The farms were among 12 facilities that state veterinarians were due to check for infection by late Monday, after discovery of the disease in a noncommercial grower's flock on Feb. 6 forced authorities to destroy 12,000 birds over the weekend.
The state official, who asked not to be identified, said veterinarians tested five commercial farms on Saturday and three on Sunday, and were scheduled to test another on Monday. The remainder of the 12 facilities were said to contain chicks too young to be affected by the flu strain.
"Everything was cool in the results of the tests from Saturday. It showed no spread of the disease to those poultry farms," the official said.

Laos issues warnings on 'laap' dishes (the Nation, Thailand)

As bird flu continued to spread around the region, Laos yesterday issued nationally broadcast warnings about eating under-cooked poultry, particularly the popular dish "laap" usually made of minced raw or semi-cooked chicken or duck.
Laos's Nation Radio monitored in Bangkok urged restaurants around the country to stop serving the raw poultry dish because it could easily spread the avian-influenza virus to humans.
Laotians and Thais in the North and Northeast provinces are particularly fond of laap, which can be made from any kind of meat and is sometimes mixed with fresh blood in a dish called laap leut.
In Laos, local people especially like duck laap, which is made with minced raw duck meat mixed with fresh duck blood and known locally as laap ped leut paeng. The dish is commonly cooked at homes and served in restaurants. In Vientiane, many laap ped restaurants are found near the popular That Luang temple.
Chicken laap is usually made a bit differently in Laos, in that it is semi-cooked and usually without fresh blood. Since late last month, Laos has destroyed nearly 15,000 birds in the capital after the bird-flu epidemic broke out there.
11 February

Genetic analysis probes bird flu's history news service Scientists analysing the genetic sequence of the H5N1 flu virus that killed a person in Vietnam say it is highly similar to sequences isolated recently from ducks and geese in China.
They are careful to warn that this does not necessarily prove that the avian influenza epidemic currently raging across east Asia started in China. But the new analyses do show that this kind of H5N1 virus has been circulating widely in the region over the past several years.
Recent work also reveals that the virus has been mutating rapidly in response to "unusual selective pressure" from an unknown source. Prominent virologists have warned that widespread vaccination of poultry against bird flu - as has been the case in China - could have this effect.
Earl Brown, a flu virologist at the University of Ottawa in Canada, compared the genetic sequence of the virus isolated from a Vietnamese person who died of bird flu in January, to other gene sequences using a program called "BLAST". This assesses the degree of similarity in the nucleotide sequences posted to a centralised computer database, Genbank. He compared all eight genetic strands from the Vietnamese virus with every other sequence in the database.
Smuggled duck: The ones that matched closest all came recently from poultry from China. Five of the eight strands were 96 to 99 per cent identical to an H5N1 flu virus found in duck meat smuggled from eastern China and intercepted in Taiwan in 2003.
The remaining three were 98 per cent the same as sequences obtained from a goose in Hong Kong in 2000. Geese and ducks in Hong Kong are imported from large, intensive poultry producers in Guangdong province, China.
"This shows that this virus has been in China recently, and it has the scars to prove it," Brown told New Scientist.
...Flu virologist Richard Webby, of St Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, sounds a note of caution. He points out that there are no virus sequences from elsewhere in east Asia, partly because until recently all affected countries denied having bird flu.
"So just because this virus is similar to Chinese samples we can't say this particular outbreak started there, because we have no samples from anywhere else," he says.
...The major surface protein on the virus that killed six people in Hong Kong in 1997 was different from the one on the lethal human infection in 2003. "Everyone was surprised by that," Webby told New Scientist, but now the Vietnam virus protein "is very different again."
Other genes are diverging too, he says. "We have a bucket of evolution going on. This shows that H5 is circulating fairly widely somewhere, under some kind of unusual selective pressure."
The explosion in variation coincides with the period during which Chinese farmers have practiced widespread vaccination of chickens. gainst flu.

Four HK sisters test positive for type-A influenza (Xinhua)

Four Hong Kong sisters, aged between two to 17 years old, have tested positive for type-A influenza, said a spokesman of Princess Margaret Hospital Wednesday.
12 Feruary

Bird Flu Found at NJ Live Poultry Markets- Report

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bird flu has been detected at four live poultry markets in New Jersey, but the strain is not the same as the deadly Asian virus and the findings were not unusual for live poultry markets in the state, the Star-Ledger newspaper reported on Thursday.
The report quoted state officials as saying the strain was H7N2 and stressed it was not known to be harmful to humans. The strain was the same one detected in Delaware, where a total of 84,000 chickens have been killed since Saturday after the virus was found on two farms.
The Newark, New Jersey, newspaper report could not be immediately confirmed because state government departments were closed for the Lincoln's Birthday holiday.
...New Jersey officials said the state typically finds bird flu at 40 percent of the live poultry markets, the Star-Ledger report said. The markets are popular among Hispanic immigrants who prefer freshly killed poultry.

Vietnam's first foie gras falls foul of bird flu

HANOI (Reuters) - It would have been Vietnam's first homemade, commercial production of foie gras, but the deadly bird flu has forced the slaughter of Hugh Adam's entire flock of geese.
"I'm not in the geese business today," lamented the American consultant who is also a gourmet chef. Earlier this week, he turned over his flock of 500 to 600 birds to local authorities for slaughter.
They joined more than 20 million poultry in Vietnam already killed by the H5N1 virus or culled. At least 14 people in Vietnam and five in Thailand have caught the virus and died.
Mass slaughter of poultry is believed to be the most effective way of containing the virus, strains of which has spread to 11 countries and has been reported in nearly all of Vietnam's 64 provinces and cities.
Adams, a resident of Hanoi, had begun the production of the goose liver delicacy with a local partner on a trial basis, but was approaching the end of the process, that of feeding the poultry large amounts of food to enlarge their livers.
He even played soothing Mozart music to the geese to keep them in fine fettle.
"We were on our third set of (20) geese," he said on Thursday. He had already agreed to supply foie gras to some local Hanoi restaurants from his first batch.
Now, Adams also doesn't even have eggs, as 3,000 that were being incubated had to be destroyed. He put his losses in the thousands of dollars.
But he said he wants to try to rebuild his inventory if the outbreak doesn't spiral out of control. "For me it's a little setback," he said, adding that he will import geese from China if Vietnam's bird stock is too depleted.

Bird Flu Found in Flocks in Two More U.S. States

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A strain of bird flu which is devastating to commercial chicken flocks but not harmful to humans has spread into Pennsylvania and more cases may be found in Delaware, agriculture officials in both states said on Thursday. The disease was also confirmed in four small poultry markets in northeastern New Jersey, a state which has had the disease for a dozen years and does not have any large, commercial flocks, according to its state officials.
15 February

Top chicken processing company files for bankruptcy protection

One of the nation's top poultry processing plants is on the brink of bankruptcy amid the Asia bird flu epidemic, which has drastically lowered chicken and duck consumption.
Last Tuesday, Cherrybro Food Co. filed for bankruptcy protection at the Cheongju District Court, according to reports released by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and related industries yesterday.
Average daily sales have declined to 50 million won from pre-flu sales of between 200 million and 250 million won, according to Kim In-sik, chief executive officer.
"Sales have plummeted with the bird flu epidemic, and as we suffer from lack of funds to keep the businesses going, our banking agency has refused to extend our loan payments," he told Yonhap News Agency. "We are thus on the brink of bankruptcy."
The company says it is Korea's second-largest company processor of chicken-based products, after Halim.
Since its establishment in 1999, Cherrybro has experienced phenomenal growth, playing a major role in expanding the chicken nugget market, as well as various other processed poultry products, while building its brand name, "Deliqueen." Between 2000 and 2003, Cherrybro's growth exploded from 44 billion won to 1.1 billion won.
17 February

Thai leopard was fed chicken from bird-flu zone By Noppawan Bunluesilp

BANGKOK, Feb 17 (Reuters) - A rare Thai leopard, believed to be the first exotic animal to die from a bird flu virus which has killed 20 people in Asia, was fed raw chicken from two infected areas, zoo officials said on Tuesday.
The case has alarmed experts studying the H5N1 virus, which has afflicted millions of chickens and has now apparently made the leap into another animal species.

Japan, China Report Fresh Outbreaks of Bird Flu By Miho Yoshikawa

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan confirmed a new outbreak of bird flu Tuesday, thwarting its plans to declare an end to the scourge there, while China confirmed two more outbreaks among poultry in a central province.
The cases came a day after hard-hit Thailand's hopes of declaring victory in its war against the disease were dashed after it reported fresh outbreaks of the virulent H5N1 strain in nine provinces.
"This thing is still not under control," Hans Wagner, a senior official with the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told Reuters in Bangkok.
"We have outbreaks in new geographical regions and recurring outbreaks where we had bird flu already. You can't expect to clear it up with one go."
In Japan, an Agriculture Ministry official said the fresh outbreak was reported at the southern end of the main island of Honshu, just a day before Japan expected to declare its sole outbreak of the virus over.
There was no immediate word on whether the deaths of seven chickens were, like the first outbreak, caused by the H5N1 virus that has killed at least 20 people in Thailand and Vietnam, the official said.
China confirmed Tuesday two outbreaks of the H5N1 strain among poultry in central Hunan province. Fifteen of China's 31 provinces and major cities have confirmed outbreaks of the avian influenza.
Officials had said Japan was set to declare Wednesday an end to its one confirmed outbreak of bird flu on a farm at the southern end of the main island of Honshu, if there were no new cases.
Thailand had been similarly hopeful, saying it could declare victory by the end of this month over a virus that has led to the slaughter of 80 million poultry in eight countries afflicted by H5N1, which can leap between species.
But Monday, it said the virus had been found in fighting cocks in areas of eight provinces where mass slaughters were carried out and in ducks in one not struck by the first wave of infections.
The infected fighting cocks -- valuable birds hidden or moved around by owners to avoid the cullers -- were found in former "red zones" where the government had ordered the slaughter of poultry within a five-km (three-mile) radius of an outbreak.
Deputy Agriculture Minister Newin Chidchob appealed to owners of fighting cocks -- which can sell for up to $12,000 but are worth just $1 in compensation if culled -- to hand them over and to neighbors to turn them in if they didn't.
"If people wake up in the morning and find fighting cocks in the backyard of their neighbor, ones that were not there before, they should report them to the authorities," he said.
Thailand has banned the sport, popular across much of Southeast Asia, until the epidemic ravaging its $1 billion chicken export industry is over.
But in Vietnam, which, like Thailand, has culled around 30 million poultry, cock fights were held openly in downtown Hanoi parks at the weekend, even though authorities had ordered all poultry in the capital killed.
18 February

World Reaction to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza from International Egg and Poultry Review

On February 13, FAO said around 80 million chickens had been culled in Indonesia (15 million), Thailand (30 million), Vietnam (30 million) and Pakistan (4 million). Information on China was not available. Asia has around 40 percent of the world's poultry population and accounts for 25 percent of world trade in poultry.
Control strategies include surveillance, movement control within the country, and closing some live markets. Thailand, Vietnam , Indonesia, Pakistan, China and Taiwan are using mass slaughter to control the spread of avian influenza. Hong Kong SAR, China, Indonesia and Pakistan are using vaccinations.
China is using a combination of culling, vaccinations, and quarantines. On February 10 China reported 2,287,000 birds had been culled and 5,484,500 had received compulsory vaccination. China processes over eight billion birds a year, about 22 million head daily...
Countries that have not been affected by the outbreak reviewed or created contingency plans in case of future outbreaks in their countries.
Singapore planned to hold a mock cull to evaluate procedures for an actual cull if avian influenza reaches their country. They planned to gas and incinerate 5,000 healthy chickens at an isolated farm.
Hong Kong is prepared to cull the entire poultry flock (2.7 million birds) at the first sign on an outbreak.
In 2002, Brazil established a program to monitor migration birds from the South Pole, Argentina, and Paraguay. Since 2003 the program was expanded to monitor and test birds with the potential to carry the Avian Influenza virus. Brazil has tightened controls at ports and airports for tourists and visitors arriving from Asia and prohibited visitors from Asia from visiting Brazilian farms.
Trade Restrictions
Japan announced temporary suspensions on poultry and poultry products from Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia and China. Saudi Arabia Ministry of Commerce banned imports of live birds and chicken meat from China, Vietnam, South Korea, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand and Pakistan. The Saudi government also banned imports of live birds from Guinea and Ghana.
Effective February 3, India banned imports of birds, bird products (including feathers) and live pigs and pig meat products from all countries.
Brazil prohibited imports of paddy rice from Asian countries and added new restrictive import requirements for imported poultry genetics.
The EU responded by taking safeguard measures to ensure adequate protection against disease via imports of live birds and poultry products from the concerned countries. Member states already have contingency plans in place.
Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza in the U.S.
Japan, China, Hong Kong SAR, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Poland, and Saudi Arabia banned imports from the U.S. after low pathogenic avian influenza was detected in Delaware. Russia, Mexico and the Philippines only banned poultry products from Delaware. Some countries allowed continued imports of canned and fully cooked product. On November 5, 2003, the Saudi Ministry of Agriculture banned imports of live U.S. birds, including day-old-chicks, due to fears they might be infected with the West Nile Virus.

Prevention of contact, not killing of wild birds, needed to fight bird flu - UN

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today that killing wild birds is not an appropriate measure to control the spread of bird flu, which has already ravaged domestic poultry farming in nine Asian countries and led to 29 human cases, 20 of them fatal.
What is needed is a prevention system based on control and surveillance to ensure that any contact between wild birds and poultry is avoided or at least monitored, the Rome-based agency said.
“Experience has shown that this has been a good strategy and that the destruction of wild birds is unnecessary,” FAO said. The outbreak of the H5N1 strain of bird flu has already led to the culling some 80 million chickens but the agency reported last week that the spread of the virus was still not under control.
Among measures FAO recommended for preventing infection from wild birds are steps by commercial poultry owners to ensure that poultry pens and drinking water cannot be contaminated by migrating species. If this cannot be done, then measures should be taken to ensure that the drinking water is safe.
Such steps include erecting pens to keep domesticated poultry away from wild birds and keeping domestic waterfowl separate from poultry where both have access to the same water sources.
Commercial poultry producers should also apply good biosecurity measures such as maintaining a high level of security regarding all traffic coming onto poultry farms and a very high standard of hygiene to minimize the disease’s spread. "Good biosecurity is a must," FAO said. “If we understand when, how and where wild birds migrate, then we are better prepared and know when we should be more vigilant and have better surveillance in place.”
19 February

Bird Flu May Have Killed Cattle The Scotsman

Thailand launched a probe today into whether bird flu killed scores of cattle, while health experts said migratory birds, fighting cocks and farmers’ lorries could be behind the disease’s persistent spread through Asia despite massive culls.
...The UN agency cited ways the bird flu may be spreading despite the culls: prized fighting cocks hidden by their owners, migratory birds who carry the virus but are not sickened by it and contaminated farming vehicles.
“Countries need to maintain a high level of vigilance, and must not relax their surveillance and detection efforts,” WHO said in a report in Bangkok. “Complete elimination of the virus is becoming increasingly challenging.”
Thai officials launched a probe into the deaths in early February of 196 cows and buffalos in the country’s northeast. Samples of manure from the animals, eaten by local residents, were being collected for testing.
27 February

Despite discovery of Texas bird flu as high path, threat to humans remains small (Lisa Foust Prater, Agriculture Online)

Although preliminary clinical information suggested that the recent discovery of avian influenza in Texas was a low pathogenic strain, yesterday that flock of chickens tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza, according to Dr. Ron DeHaven, deputy administrator for the USDA's Veterinary Services Program.

The flock of 6,600 broiler chickens was located about 50 miles east of San Antonio, and after being quarantined, all the birds were depopulated on Saturday.

"The epidemiological investigation is underway, and we're looking for any connections between this and any other flocks, both in terms of source of the infection to this flock as well as potential spread from it," DeHaven says. Testing is being conducted within a 10-mile radius, and the USDA has discovered that birds from the infected flock went to two live bird markets in Texas. Preliminary tests suggest some of the birds from the index flock were found to be positive at both live bird markets, but those results have not yet been confirmed. Both markets are under a hold order and are being depopulated.

5 March
The nature of the news reports has shifted in the past couple of weeks, so there's been less "new" news to catch --but still no thoughtful overviews have appeared, putting the whole episode into context. Ron Nigh sent me the following link, and I've also included his commentary below it:
Size of Asian Bird Flu Outbreak Unprecedented, Health Agency Says

The 'hospital' logic of the WHO and other officials is based on assumptions that, curiously, leave the factory farm model without questioning and place the blame on small growers.

What are the conditions that have provoked the "unprecedented" nature of this outbreak. Ah it would seem:

"Unique features in the present situation include:
?? Concentration of poultry in backyard farms. In several countries experiencing outbreaks, up to 80% of poultry are produced on small farms and backyard holdings in rural areas, where poultry range freely. In China, 60% of the country's estimated 13.2 billion chickens are raised on small farms in close proximity to humans and domestic animals, including pigs. This situation makes implementation of strict control measures, essential to the control of previous outbreaks, extremely difficult. These control measures ?? including bird?proof, ecologically controlled housing; disinfection of all incoming persons, equipment, and vehicles; and prevention of contact with insects, rodents, and other mechanical vectors
?? cannot be applied on small rural farms and backyard holdings."

Oh. So, it farmers methods that have not only sustained but generated the incredible diversity of poultry varieties for 10,000 years that is responsible for this. Note that the assumption is that the 'problem' is that of "implementation of strict control measures". I am not saying that strict control measures are unnecessary, only that "bird proof, ecologically controlled housing etc." are 'closing the barn door after the horse has escaped' and do not address the underlying cause of the problem.

What is the underlying cause? What is different about Asia poultry growing today? The recent introduction of megasized poultry farms with thousands of chickens and the participation in the 'global poultry market'. In particular these farms buy chicks on the global market that are genetically uniform, therefore uniformly susceptible to disease. The abuse of antibiotics, the inhumane (inavian?) conditions underwhich poultry are kept in these farms (stress, etc.) and inadequate "balanced" diet. Why Thailand and Vietnam? ditto. Why not India? Because the don't and rely on the 'global' market for sale or for chicks but on their own.

The WHO report says:

"Culling remains the first line of action, as recommended by FAO, OIE, and WHO, for bringing the current outbreaks under control. Unlike other economically important domestic animals, poultry?raising takes place in a very short production system. Provided sufficient resources are available to replace culled poultry stock, countries should not postpone aggressive culling because of fears of long?term consequences on poultry production."

OK, but on one level, this is myopic folly. If the official atmosphere is hostile to replace traditional stock, relies on the 'global' poultry market for chicks, favors further construction of megafarms ("bird proof and ecologically controlled" the language is too surreal). The effect of such policies could be a devastating genetic erosion of poultry in the cradle of poultry domestication, leading to further vulnerability and, of course, giving a deadly blow to small farmers.

It is important to establish realities. Can we trace the history of the 'global' poultry industry in Asia? How much do we know about small poultry production in Asia? What do we know about India, in particular?

8 March

Japan bird flu boss kills himself By Jonathan Head BBC correspondent in Tokyo

The chairman of a poultry company in Japan that failed to report bird flu on one of its farms has committed suicide with his wife.
The bodies of Hajimu Asada and his wife were found close to one of his chicken farms near the city of Kyoto.
Mr Asada had been blamed for shipping live birds and eggs even after chickens had already died from the virus.
...In their suicide note, Hajimu Asada and his wife Chisako apologised for having caused a great deal of inconvenience to society.

12 March

Japan stops eating crow 11/03/2004 12:28 - (SA)

Tokyo - Japan took new measures Thursday to monitor crows and other wild birds amid fears they are behind the emergence of bird flu in the country.
Tokyo and Osaka set up hotlines for citizens to report suspect dead or crippled animals, while the central government dispatched two experts to survey wild birds,.
Since Sunday, three wild crows found within 40km of a massive outbreak at a Kyoto prefecture poultry farm have tested positive for avian flu, with two confirmed as carrying the virulent H5N1 strain.
...Twenty birds were tested for the disease from four surrounding poultry farms late on Wednesday, but all tested negative, he said.
"The people of Osaka are worried and so phone calls are coming to me," he said. "We've received 70 to 80 this morning alone. We are explaining things to ease people's anxiety."
...Even in Tokyo, 400km east of Osaka, new action was taken in a city where a campaign has been going on for years to eliminate the large garbage-eating crows with a reputation for attacking picnickers.
"Because Tokyo now fears it may be affected by bird flu, we have decided to form a special headquarters combining all our agencies" if a case is discovered, Tokyo government spokesperson Shigeyuki Mori said.
... Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara - famously once advocating the merits of crow pie - has sworn to rid the city of crows and the metropolitan government said that it had reduced the population from a peak of 36 400 in 2001 to 23 400 at the end of 2003 mainly by destroying nests and removing eggs.
Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party was also considering subsidies for poultry farmers that build chicken houses without open windows to prevent wild birds getting in, a farm ministry official said.
(This one pointed out by Ron, who commented "One can't help wondering which way the causality flows here." My response: "Right. I've spent enough time around broiler operations to KNOW that dead chickens (and there are ALWAYS dead chickens in a broiler operation) get thrown out onto the surrounding ground... they aren't put into coffins for decent Christian burial, or into sanitizing body baggies. And I know enough about "garbage-eating crows" to know that they are quite omnivorous, and not too choosy about what they eat. And I'll bet the crows don't cook the chicken before they eat it..."

26 March

Gov't may disallow corn imports from flu areas (Christine A. Gaylican)

THE DEPARTMENT of Agriculture may not allow the importation of corn from countries affected by the avian flu, as local feed millers look for other sources of the 350,000 metric tons of corn that they need to acquire in April.
Corn from Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, China and the Assam State of India should be excluded from the possible list of countries where local feed millers and hog raisers could acquire their corn imports.
"The latest advisory from the Food and Agriculture Organization shows that avian flu is prevalent in said countries (which happen to be) major corn producers," Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo said in a memorandum. "Import of the corn commodity should also be banned from these countries."
The memo also recommended that corn imports should only be sourced from the United States.
Local authorities have been extremely cautious so that the deadly H5N1 virus will not affect the local poultry sector. The Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei Darussalam are the only remaining countries free of the said virus.
The high prices of corn in the international market might discourage importers from participating in the bid for the National Food Authority's tariff-free importation of 350,000 metric tons of corn on April 2, local corn producers said.
According to Roderico R. Bioco, president of the Philippine Maize Federation Inc. (Philmaize), traders would rather purchase local corn, which is traded at 9.50 pesos in Bulacan province, where most feed mills are located. In comparison, the landed cost of corn from the US and Argentina is estimated at 12 pesos per kilogram.

B.C. couple cry foul over chicken cull By MARK HUME From Friday's Globe and Mail

Abbotsford — Chris Croner is wishing he'd lied, because if he had — if he'd hidden his small flock of chickens from the federal agents scouring the avian flu hot zone in the Fraser Valley — his friends Lulu and Nellie might not be facing death now.
“I told the truth. Now I'm going to be punished,” a distraught Mr. Croner said Thursday, as he contemplated an edict from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that has condemned to death all the chickens in a high-risk zone near Abbotsford.
When CFIA agents came to his door on March 20 and asked if he had any chickens, he told them he had. They called Thursday to tell him they were coming back to kill them, as part of a drastic attempt to stop the spread of avian flu, first detected last month.
Lulu, Nellie, Jack and Jill and 36 other birds raised by hand and named by Mr. Croner and his partner, Jennifer Cichanovich, are to be rounded up and destroyed along with 265,000 other birds in the area. Some 90,000 have already been killed.
Most of those birds were from 10 huge poultry farms, five of which were confirmed to have avian flu outbreaks, but the government's edict is so sweeping it includes all chickens in the zone, even those considered pets.
Mr. Croner, a former road manager for musician Jimi Hendrix and the creator of rocker Frank Zappa's light shows, runs an organic blueberry farm with Ms. Cichanovich.
The couple save “burned-out” chickens from the big poultry farms in the area, rehabilitate them and turn them loose in the blueberry patch to pluck weeds and eat insects.
Their diligent practices have made Matsqui Blue Farms the supplier of some of the most coveted organic blueberries on the West Coast, featured in Starbucks coffee outlets from B.C. to Oregon, and in high-end grocery stores such as Vancouver's Capers Community Markets.
But the outbreak of a highly contagious avian flu in the Abbotsford area, centred on an agricultural plain known as Matsqui Prairie, has doomed the farm's small flock — and perhaps put at risk the operation's organic certification, because the chicken coop will be disinfected after the birds are killed.
“This could be jeopardized, our whole livelihood. I mean to go back and start over again, you've got to be five years chemically free and this has always been an organic farm. It's a sad situation. We don't know who to talk to or where to turn,” Mr. Croner said.
He and Ms. Cichanovich said the most distressing thing for them is that the birds they have come to love will be gassed, and their bodies disposed of by CFIA officials who are systematically working their way through the zone.
“They are our pets,” Mr. Croner said.
“We saved them out of chicken barns where they can't even walk because they've been in cages all their lives. We teach them how to walk, and they do all of our weeding in the fields. You know, we are pretty attached to them.”
Ms. Cichanovich fought back tears as she described growing up on the farm where she was born and which she inherited from her father.
“I've been raising chickens here since I was a kid,” she said. “They are burned-out chickens when we get them...some don't even have feathers. Now they are so beautiful...they are our workers; they are our pals. We talk to them every day.”
Asked if she could imagine her farm without chickens, Ms. Cichanovich gasped.
“It's devastation. I feel like I want to cry,” she said.
“If the chickens were sick I'd be all for this. But they came and did blood tests and the chickens are all healthy.
“We are a long way from any of those chicken barns. I don't know why this has to happen.”
Mr. Croner said he couldn't believe it when he heard on the news that a chicken kill had been ordered for the six-square-kilometre zone where avian flu had been detected in a cluster of five poultry farms.
“I had to call about eight different people to find out [what's happening]. Nobody wanted to be the leader.
“I ended up talking with this guy and he says, ‘Yeah, you're in the zone. We're going to get your chickens, and if you hide them there's a fine...and we're going to find them.' It's sad because these are a part of our trip at the farm...they are healthy and they lay beautiful eggs.”
Cornelius Kiley, regional veterinarian officer for the food inspection agency, said all chickens in the zone are to be killed. “No exceptions,” he said.
Pet birds will be spared, but the agency's definition of pets is narrow.
“Pet birds that are strictly pet birds, that are within the home, like budgies and canaries, they are not part of the order. They are not known to be a part of the problem, the world over, in dealing with avian influenza. They are not considered to be a risk But outside chickens that exist in outside flocks, then they are part of the order,” Dr. Kiley said yesterday.
Asked why healthy birds are being killed, he replied: “We have five farms that are a grouping of farms together, where we now know that this avian influenza virus has spread. We have depopulated four of those farms, and the fifth farm will begin this afternoon The decision made Thursday, in full co-operation with the industry, was to pre-emptively remove these birds as a potential fuel for further spread of the virus.
“This is a control measure that has been taken, which is consistent with how avian influenza has been tackled in other parts of North America and the world over.”
Mr. Croner said he is still hoping that someone will intervene to save his flock.
“This is going to be really sad for us when they come and take these birds away,” he said.
3 April

Decision coming on massive cull of B.C. poultry [n.b.: H7N3, not H5N1]

Government officials in B.C. huddled Saturday to decide what to do with millions of commercial poultry in the avian flu-ravaged Fraser Valley of B.C.
A spokesman for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said a decision on a total cull won't be made until Sunday or Monday.
An estimated 400,000 chickens and turkeys have been killed so far in an effort to contain the highly contagious disease's spread.
But it was announced Friday the disease had spread beyond the so-called "hot zone", infecting 18 farms, when it had been detected on only seven farms as of Thursday.
Poultry producers say it may be necessary to slaughter as many as 16 million birds to keep the highly-contagious virus in check.
The rapid spread of the virus beyond an initial "hot zone" is being blamed mainly on human contact and improperly-treated equipment.
5 April
Canada to Cull 16 Mln Birds in Flu Outbreak
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada is set to cull 16 million chickens, turkeys and other commercial poultry in British Columbia to halt the rapid spread of bird flu, and will likely offer aid to farms covered by the order, two government sources said on Monday.
The cull is to be announced by Agriculture Minister Bob Speller at a briefing at 1 p.m. (1700 GMT), the sources said.
"Compensation would be probably announced along with the announcement of the cull itself," one source said.
Avian influenza has been diagnosed on 18 poultry farms in the Fraser Valley east of Vancouver. Although the strain of the virus does not cause serious illness in humans, one health official said last week the government wants to eradicate it before it mutates into a more serious strain.
6 April
Avian flu feared in birds migrating to Russian Far East (ChannelNewsAsia)
Environmentalists said they feared that the returning flocks might bring in the deadly bird flu after wintering in neighboring China, hard hit by an outbreak of the disease.
Wild ducks spending the winter in China and coming back to the banks of the Amur river in Russia could be infected with the bird flu and contaminate Russian fowl, health officials said.
The whole of Russia's Far Eastern region is taking steps to protect poultry farms from possible contamination, they added.

Vietnam's biggest city bans sale of live chickens (reuters)

HANOI, April 6 (Reuters) - One week after Vietnam declared it had stamped out bird flu, its biggest city has barred the sale of live chickens at markets and near homes to prevent the repeat of the virus that claimed 16 human lives in the country... Under the new rules, Ho Chi Minh City, home to around eight million people, will insist that abattoirs be enclosed and use separate entrances for the transport of live and processed poultry, the newspaper said.
7 April
Thai poultry industry to restock (food Production Daily)
The Thai poultry industry could be about to restock on a massive scale after the devastation of the avian flu epidemic earlier this year. The country’s feed industry is set to import cargoes of Argentine soybeans as the country prepares to declare itself free of the deadly virus.

Thailand is also looking to soymeal cargoes from India. The decimation of the poultry sector in Thailand, which accounts for over half of commercial feed consumption, has resulted in a steep decline in feed demand, but this looks set to change.

One Thai trader told Reuters that the domestic the domestic supply of feed is not sufficient to satisfy the demand to restock. "There is no other alternative," he said. "Domestic meal supplies are not adequate."

...Last month, reported that Vietnam was seeking to import between 500,000 to 600,000 tonnes of corn for feed, even though the FAO warned the country not to resume poultry farming too quickly. According to the Vietnamese ministry of trade, there is a possibility that import tariffs on corn purchase may be waved, opening the door to grain exporters from Australia, Europe and the US.

The move is supported by the Vietnam Husbandry Feed Association, which represents 138 feed processors in the country. It has warned of a possible rise in feed prices of up to 1.5 per cent, with processors looking to offset losses caused by bird flu.

No more chickens for every pot (Globe and Mail)

Amid warnings that a mass poultry slaughter in B.C. will cause shortages and higher prices, representatives from the industry are to meet in Ottawa on Tuesday to discuss how best to fill the gap.
The federal government announced Monday that 19-million chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys will be killed to prevent the spread of H7 avian influenza in British Columbia's Fraser Valley, home of more than 80 per cent of the province's poultry industry.
...The slaughter — which will eradicate all commercial poultry in a 6,500-square-kilometre area — will take at least six to eight weeks, followed by a three-week decontamination period. Other estimates are that the industry will be put on hold for up to six months.
...The unprecedented scale of the slaughter — which affects hundreds of farms and could spark thousands of layoffs — is sparked fears that this particular strain of bird flu could spread to other provinces or mutate into a form more harmful to humans. The H7 variant of avian influenza is considered much less risky than the H5 form that killed several dozen people in Asia last year, but scientists are worried that its danger could grow.
The World Health Organization has raised Canada's "pandemic preparedness level" to put it on a level with Asia.
12 April

A flu threat harder to stop than SARS (Robert Bonte-Friedheim and Dr. Karl Ekdahl IHT)

GENEVA Avian influenza has disappeared from the headlines, as rapidly as it began. But this is not because the threat has receded. The risk of H5N1 avian influenza mutating into a humanly transmissible strain is as high as ever - and this could potentially threaten human populations all over the world.

.We believe every government should prepare a plan against an an influenza pandemic - an epidemic over a wider geographic area - with basic preventive measures to minimize the consequences to its inhabitants should a new and deadly influenza emerge.


Dhanin Chearavanont isn't ashamed to say he wants to retire...

Dhanin says CP began warning Thai farmers about the possibility of avian flu in November. That's when company officials showed him a newspaper photo of birds dying in central Thailand. Dhanin says he had no idea it was the deadly H5N1 virus, but he knew he had to act. Orders went out to seal up all of CP's chicken plants by further restricting access to plant premises — even delivery trucks were kept out. On Jan. 23, government officials announced that two young boys had tested positive for avian flu. The next day, CP's stock plummeted 12.5%. But share prices have since rebounded. And CP says no birds on the factory farms it operates have got sick. Investors expect CP to weather the damage done to its chicken operations, which account for 10% of the group's revenues.

Though company officials have not said how much the outbreak will cost CP, Dhanin is once again digging in to fight for his business. After all, he comes from a family that started with next to nothing. Dhanin's father and uncle emigrated from China's Guangdong province in 1921, settled in Bangkok and scraped together enough money to open a seed shop. That sprouted operations in animal feed and fertilizer. When Dhanin, the youngest of four sons, took over the company in 1964, he moved aggressively into poultry farming. A tie-in with Arbor Acres Farm of the U.S. added new technology and the concept of vertical integration — from feed to fowl to distribution, retail and fast-food outlets. And when Deng Xiaoping began the first capitalist reforms in China in 1978, CP was literally first in the door.

15 April

HK to implement live chicken importation pilot scheme

"Given that the outbreak situation in the mainland is now under control and that surveillance has been stepped up, we proposed to pilot the importation of live poultry in suitable quantity on a trial basis in order to evaluate the new system before May 12," Yeoh said.

The first phase of the pilot arrangement will last three days from April 20 to 22. Not more than 6,000 live chickens will be imported per day. April 23 to 25 will be the rest days of the wholesale and retail markets and no live chickens would be imported, the government will evaluate the first phase importation within that period so as to arrange importation in the second phase.

Yeoh said, if the results of the first phase are satisfactory, the government would consider gradually increasing the daily quantities of imported live poultry on a step-by-step basis.

27 April
ASIAN STOCK FOCUS: Thai CPF Is Recovering From Bird Flu By Suttinee Yuvejwattana Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
Thailand's major producer and exporter of chickens Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF.TH) is showing signs of recovery from a bird flu outbreak that ravaged chicken farms across the country earlier this year, prompting analysts to start reviewing their sell recommendations...

"It may look a bit dim for the stock in the first half of the year due to the lingering effect of bird flu, but the second half will be a lot better. When the bird flu is completely out of the way, CPF will likely be the main beneficiary from the recovering chicken industry," said Terapatr Mathanukraw, an analyst at Seamico Securities.

CPF's price tumbled 28% to as low 3.20 baht ($1=THB39.600) during the peak of the bird flu outbreak in late January and started to recover gradually. The current price at THB3.78 at Monday's close is still below Phatra's target price of THB5.60 and Seamico's THB4.34 per share. Since the beginning of the year CPF has lost 17% compared with a 14% fall in the main index.

CPF used to be a top-rated stock in the buying list of most major brokerages thanks to its status as the flagship company of the country's agricultural conglomerate Charoen Pokphand Group. However, most analysts changed their recommendations to sell late January when the company suffered a big blow from the avian influenza epidemic which prompted the destruction of millions of birds...

Dhanin Chearavanont, the chairman of Charoen Pokphand Group, has said the performance of CP Foods this year won't be worse than last year, when SARS had more of an impact on the overall economy than bird flu has had this year.

The company expects consolidated sales revenue for 2004 to grow by 5%, from THB83.1 billion last year. Chicken products account for 30% of total sales, pork 12% and shrimp 9%, while the rest comes from animal feed and other food products, Tisco Securities said.

Capital Nomura has revised down its forecast on CPF's 2004 net profit by 31% to THB2.31 billion, but it's still higher compared with THB2.24 billion last year.

The company has invested THB8.5 billion on an integrated chicken manufacturing complex in northeastern Thailand, to ensure high quality "farm-to-table production" and to meet food safety requirements of importing countries. The plant will open around the middle of this year, and the company hopes it will help compensate for the shortfall in the first half.

Another concern for CPF is possible U.S. antidumping measures related to shrimp imports from a number of countries, including Thailand. The U.S. is expected to make a verdict on the case in the second half of the year.

However, many analysts believe that the potential antidumping duties on Thailand may not be as high as earlier anticipated.

Looking forward, CPF's earnings should rise in line with growing food consumption. Phatra Securities projected the company's net profit will rise to THB4.81 billion in 2005 and THB6.02 billion in 2006.

28 May

Bird Flu Found at Texas Chicken Farm

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A strain of bird flu has been found at a chicken farm in northeast Texas and the affected flock has been destroyed, Pilgrim's Pride Corp., the No. 2 U.S. poultry producer, said on Friday.
...Pilgrim's Pride said routine blood tests found the bird flu strain in a 52-week-old commercial chicken breeder flock that lays eggs for hatching. The farm, operated by a contract breeder, is west of Sulphur Springs in Hopkins County, Texas.
The company said tests conducted by state and federal officials indicated the disease may have been the H7N3 subtype of avian influenza.
7 July

Scientists raise alarm on bird flu in Asia : Disease is now seen as long-term threat to human beings (International Herald Tribune/NYT)

HONG KONG Scientists voiced growing alarm on Wednesday that avian influenza may have become impossible to eradicate in Asia and could eventually spread easily among humans. The warning came as China, Thailand and Vietnam, which all found chickens dying of the disease again in the past week, began killing thousands of birds in the hope of preventing a human outbreak. The poultry deaths in the three countries confirm that the disease was not stamped out earlier this year, when 10 countries reported cases in poultry and more than 100 million chickens were killed, international health officials said. They warned that the latest infections, and hints that wild birds might be spreading the disease, made it increasingly likely that it would not be possible to eradicate the disease, so that it could become a long-term problem in Asia and a continuing threat of a global pandemic in people. ...
The reappearance of the virus coincides with an article in Nature, a British science journal, by researchers at Shantou University Medical School in mainland China and at Hong Kong University. Based on extensive genetic testing, the article concludes that the disease is firmly rooted in domesticated ducks in southern China and that it poses a potentially serious threat of starting a global pandemic among people...
.The poultry deaths in the three countries confirm that the disease was not stamped out earlier this year, when 10 countries reported cases in poultry and more than 100 million chickens were killed, international health officials said. They warned that the latest infections, and hints that wild birds might be spreading the disease, made it increasingly likely that it would not be possible to eradicate the disease, so that it could become a long-term problem in Asia and a continuing threat of a global pandemic in people.

The evolution of H5N1 influenza viruses in ducks in southern China (H. Chen et al., PNAS

Abstract: The pathogenicity of avian H5N1 influenza viruses to mammals has been evolving since the mid-1980s. Here, we demonstrate that H5N1 influenza viruses, isolated from apparently healthy domestic ducks in mainland China from 1999 through 2002, were becoming progressively more pathogenic for mammals, and we present a hypothesis explaining the mechanism of this evolutionary direction. Twenty-one viruses isolated from apparently healthy ducks in southern China from 1999 through 2002 were confirmed to be H5N1 subtype influenza A viruses. These isolates are antigenically similar to A/Goose/Guangdong/1/96 (H5N1) virus, which was the source of the 1997 Hong Kong "bird flu" hemagglutinin gene, and all are highly pathogenic in chickens. The viruses form four pathotypes on the basis of their replication and lethality in mice. There is a clear temporal pattern in the progressively increasing pathogenicity of these isolates in the mammalian model. Five of six H5N1 isolates tested replicated in inoculated ducks and were shed from trachea or cloaca, but none caused disease signs or death. Phylogenetic analysis of the full genome indicated that most of the viruses are reassortants containing the A/Goose/Guangdong/1/96-like hemagglutinin gene and the other genes from unknown Eurasian avian influenza viruses. This study is a characterization of the H5N1 avian influenza viruses recently circulating in ducks in mainland China. Our findings suggest that immediate action is needed to prevent the transmission of highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses from the apparently healthy ducks into chickens or mammalian hosts.

29 July
Botanical Extract Found to Completely Inhibit the Bird Flu Virus (H5N1)

HONG KONG, July 28 /Xinhua-PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- PRB Pharmaceuticals (PRB) and Lee's Pharmaceuticals (Lee's) announced today the discovery that PRB'S patent pending botanical extract, V38-AMF-1, completely inhibits bird flu (H5N1) and Fujian Flu (H3N2) infections in vitro. The results come from the second arm of a multi-center, anti-viral project jointly sponsored by PRB Pharmaceuticals and Lee's Pharmaceuticals. In the first arm of the project, researchers led by Dr. John Tam at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, found V38-AMF-1 to be effective against a variety of pathogens including SARS CoV, the virus responsible for causing severe acute respiratory syndrome.

25 August
Implications of H5N1 infections in pigs in China (WHO)

The role of pigs in genetic reassortment is not fully understood. While there has been no known natural occurrence of reassortment of influenza viruses in pigs that resulted in a new pandemic strain, the probability of this occurrence is not negligible.

The chances for genetic reassortment depend upon both the duration of H5N1 circulation in pigs as well as the simultaneous presence of human and pig influenza A viruses (such as H3N2 or H1N1). As long as human and avian influenza viruses are co-circulating - whether in humans or in pigs - the possibility of an exchange of genetic material-exists.

7 September
New Vietnam Bird Flu Death Likely H5N1 Type -WHO (Reuters)

A 14-month-old Vietnamese boy who died of bird flu on Sunday was probably infected by the H5N1 strain that has killed 27 people in Asia this year, an official at the World Health Organization said on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Vietnam's Ministry of Health said tests identified the H5 subtype of avian flu in the boy, who lived on the outskirts of the capital Hanoi. The testing is in several steps, and the N component had not yet been identified.
10 September

Malaysia completes poultry culling (Washington Times)

...Meanwhile, in Thailand, the H5N1 strain of bird flu claimed its 28th human victim in Asia this year, a fighting cock enthusiast who was in the habit of sucking blood and other fluids from the mouths of his injured birds.

The disease first emerged in Malaysia on Aug. 17 in fighting cocks that had been smuggled across the border. Two outbreaks have led to the culling of thousands of poultry and pet birds to contain the disease, but no humans have been infected.

21 September
Culling of poultry not against Islamic principles, say officials (Straits Times)

The opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) that governs Kelantan has not denounced the cull - so far, more than 5,500 village chickens, ducks and pet birds have been killed - but the practice was condemned in sermons at a mosque on Friday as cruel and un-Islamic.
The cull involved rounding up the birds, stuffing them into plastic bags and gassing them with carbon dioxide. The dead birds are then incinerated.
Mr Nik Mazian Nik Mohamad, a senior state agricultural official, rejected the claims by what he called 'an ignorant minority', and said culling was necessary to save human lives and the state economy.

30 September Thailand to Change Farming Ways to End Bird Flu (Reuters)

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Hard-hit Thailand plans a campaign to change poultry farming methods as it seeks to stamp out the deadly bird flu virus before migrating wildfowl return during the northern winter, a senior minister said on Thursday.
"If we have to spend hundreds of millions of baht or billions of baht, we will," Deputy Prime Minister Chaturon Chaisang, who is leading the drive to eradicate the H5N1 virus that has killed 20 Vietnamese and 10 Thais, told Reuters in an interview.
"The priorities now are to protect humans from the disease and minimize the chances of chickens being infected," he said two days after Thailand announced its first probable case of human transmission.
The planned changes will be wrenching in a country where more than 60 percent of the people live on the land and the vast majority keep chickens, ducks and other fowl.
Chickens in Thailand, as in most Asian villages, often wander freely, even in and out of houses, and defecate wherever they want, spreading any disease they might have.
Huge flocks of ducks move over wide areas in a largely nomadic existence in search of food.
That will have to be curtailed, Chaturon said.
"Given that people have died of bird flu, we can no longer allow free range poultry farming to continue at the current large scale," he said. The ducks would have to be kept on farms.
The campaign, due to start next week, would include incentives and punishments to persuade people to raise poultry in hygenic conditions and reduce the risk of disease.

Thai PM orders campaign to eradicate bird flu

Thailand's prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, has ordered a campaign to wipe out the bird flu virus by the end of October.
...Mr Thaksin has told provincial governors at an emergency meeting that Thailand must "wipe out" bird flu by October 31.
He has ordered the governors to conduct a chicken census of every household in the country, and to cull ruthlessly where ever the H5N1 virus was found.
The prime minister has warned that all ministers responsible for bird flu will be sacked if the campaign fails.

21 October

Bird Flu Infected 1000, Dutch Researchers Say (Martin Enserink, Science, Vol 306, Issue 5696, 590 , 22 October 2004)
AMSTERDAM--At least 1000 people--many more than assumed--contracted an avian influenza virus during a massive poultry outbreak in the Netherlands last year, according to a new study. In another unexpected finding, those who developed symptoms after being infected passed the virus on to a whopping 59% of their household contacts, say the researchers at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), whose results were published in Dutch last week.

Flu experts were cautious in discussing the findings, which they had not yet been able to read. But if correct, they are "another warning signal," says Klaus Stöhr, head of the World Health Organization's global influenza program. Every time an avian virus infects a human being, Stöhr says, the risk that it will mutate into a pandemic strain grows.

Almost 31 million poultry were culled in the Netherlands before the virus, a strain called H7N7, was contained.

Thailand kills infected tigers to curb bird flu spread

BANGKOK, Oct. 21 (Xinhuanet) -- Some 30 tigers infected with bird flu virus were culled on Wednesday at a private zoo in eastern Thailand to curb further spread of the epidemic, local press reported on Thursday.
The 30 tigers have fallen sick of the H5N1 avian influenza virus at the Sri Racha Zoo, where the other 30 tigers died of the disease earlier this week.
"We are not going to treat them, since we consider them to be the source of the disease," the Disease Control Department director-general Thawat Suntharacharn was quoted by newspaper The Nation as saying.
The 30 sick tigers were given injection of potassium chloride to stop their hearts.
They would be later either cremated or buried in deep-dug pit.
Altogether 60 tigers at the private zoo have been culled or died of the disease since Oct. 14, when the first tiger died of infection.
The authorities are now closely monitoring animals at the zoo, which raises more than 400 tigers and several crocodiles, ostrichsand other animals. Animals falling sick of the disease will be all culled.
It's suspected that the tigers were infected by being fed with chicken carcass, and related investigation is being conducted.

Avian influenza H5N1 detected in pigs in China (Source : Team)

A researcher from China’s Harbin Veterinary Research Institute has today presented initial evidence that pigs from farms in parts of China have been infected with the H5N1 strain of avian influenza. The findings, set out in a table and without further supporting data, were presented today at an international symposium on SARS and avian influenza held in Beijing.
WHO has requested confirmation and further details about this study.
Pigs are known to be susceptible to infection with avian influenza viruses. However, natural infection of pigs with the H5N1 strain has not been previously reported.

27 October

Europe has close call with deadly bird flu (new Scientist)
The H5N1 bird flu, whose known human death toll has now reached 32, has made its first foray outside Asia. It turned up at Brussels airport last week in a pair of eagles smuggled from Thailand, and caused one human infection...
On 18 October, a Thai man was stopped for a random drug check at Zaventem Airport in Brussels. Customs officers found two small, crested hawk eagles in plastic tubes in his hand luggage...
The man had no permits for the eagles as required under the CITES convention on trade in endangered species. In addition, the European Union has banned all birds from countries with bird flu, such as Thailand.
But Belgian law does not provide for the detention of smugglers, says Alexandre Affre of the Brussels office of TRAFFIC, a pressure group that monitors CITES. The man was released to await charges, while the eagles, which were barely alive, were killed.
Two days later Belgian veterinary officers realised the birds were an Asian species, and called for bird flu tests. These came back positive for H5N1. On Sunday a country-wide manhunt was launched for the smuggler, who turned himself in at a hospital in Antwerp. He has shown no signs of infection.
However the vet who killed the eagles developed conjunctivitis, an eye infection frequently caused by bird flu viruses in humans. “This cannot become a systemic infection, so he is safe,” says Snacken.
All the customs officers who contacted the eagles are taking the antiviral drug Tamiflu, while “the vet has quarantined himself at home.” Some 700 birds, mainly canaries, which were in the animal quarantine area of Zaventem airport have also been killed as a precaution.

31 October

Avian influenza – situation in Asia: altered role of domestic ducks (WHO CSR report)
A new laboratory study of domestic ducks infected with several 2004 H5N1 viruses shows that, when compared with infections caused by viruses from 2003, domestic ducks are shedding more virus for longer periods. The majority are doing so without showing symptoms of illness. ... quantities of virus excreted by healthy-looking ducks approach those excreted by diseased – and visibly very ill – chickens. This suggests that domestic ducks might now be acting as a “silent” reservoir for the H5N1 virus, which is highly pathogenic for chickens.
...Ducks should not be kept as pets or allowed to enter households.
Water supplies for human use should not be drawn from open ponds used by domestic ducks and should be stored in ways that prevent contact with ducks.
(Add the factoid that there are more ducks than people in China...)

1 November

Tamiflu works against avain flu H5N1 strain
Researchers at Queen Mary Hospital, London, have revealed that Roche's Tamiflu, an anti flu drug, works against the bird flu virus H5N1 strain (the most lethal one). They say the drug is effective against avian and human forms of the virus.
In a study the researchers said that Tamiflu (oseltamivir) is effective against the strain that is now hitting Vietnam and Thailand.
Tamiflu is a neuraminidase inhibitor, it blocks the action of the viral enzymes.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has mentioned Tamiflu as the drug for tackling bird flu if ever a human pandemic breaks out.

15 November

The flu hunters: special report (Gretchen Reynolds, The Independent)
Influenza A is the monster, in animals and people, usually causing the most virulent illness. Type A influenzas (unlike Bs or Cs) have multiple subtypes with cryptic names: H3N2, H1N1, H7N2. The "H" is for haemagglutinin, a spiky protein on the surface of the influenza molecule. In human flu viruses, the spikes of haemagglutinin connect, like sinister Lego blocks, with matching receptors on the outside of healthy respiratory-system cells. The virus then melds with the healthy cell and begins replicating. Neuraminidase, the "N" in the flu name and another protein, uncouples the virus from its host, tearing the cell membrane, allowing the progeny to escape and killing the cell. Loosed, they start repeating the process deeper and deeper into the respiratory tract.

...there is still a long list of vital questions about the H5N1 virus. Why haven't poultry workers become ill, for one? Hundreds of thousands of people labour in Asia's live-chicken markets or have helped in the chicken-culling process. "But hundreds of thousands of people have not died," Uyeki says. "Thousands haven't died. Thousands haven't even been hospitalised. Most of us in influenza think that there have been more cases and more deaths from H5N1 than we've heard about. But there haven't been huge numbers of undiscovered deaths."

...The flu strain has also infected and killed domestic cats and pigs. It swept through a zoo in eastern Thailand, killing more than 20 tigers. It has been shown to be transmittable from cat to cat, which no avian flu has been before. This movement into other species concerns flu hunters for many reasons, but principally because it suggests that H5N1 is becoming highly capable of infecting mammals. Also, some of the infected animals, such as swine, can catch both human and avian flus simultaneously. So the gene shuffling required to make the avian flu better adapted to humans could take place within a pig.

29 November

Birdflu Far More Deadly Than SARS, WHO Says Tan Ee Lyn HONG KONG (Reuters)
The bird flu virus is far more lethal than the SARS virus that struck Asia last year and could unleash a pandemic that could kill as many as 50 million people, a World Health Organization official said Monday.
A WHO estimate last week that H5N1 could infect up to 30 percent of the world's population and kill between two and seven million people was a conservative estimate, said Shigeru Omi, regional director of WHO's Western Pacific Regional Office.
"The maximum range is more ... maybe 20 to 50 million people," Omi said in a speech in Hong Kong..."It has gone through huge genetic changes and become more pathogenic. It has affected not only birds, but cats, pigs and tigers ... ducks are now playing a more important role," Omi said.

2 January 2005

Avian influenza, situation in Viet Nam, WHO
WHO has received informal reports of a laboratory-confirmed case of H5N1 infection in Viet Nam.
The patient, who has been hospitalized since 26 December, is a 16-year-old girl who fell ill in the southern province of Tay Ninh.
Vietnamese authorities are investigating the source of her infection, including the possibility of contact with infected poultry.
This is the first human case of H5N1 detected in Viet Nam since early September. It coincides with several fresh poultry outbreaks reported in southern provinces in December. Recent poultry outbreaks in Tay Ninh Province have not been reported.
As avian influenza viruses become more active at cooler temperatures, further poultry outbreaks, possibly accompanied by sporadic human cases, can be anticipated.
Poultry marketing, transportation, and consumption increase in Viet Nam with the approach of the Lunar New Year in early February. These activities create conditions favouring the spread of poultry outbreaks and call for heightened control measures.
Since January of this year, 28 human cases have been detected in Viet Nam. Of these, 20 were fatal. Thailand has also reported human cases, bringing the total in Asia since the beginning of this year to 45 cases, of which 32 have been fatal.

Monitoring Tsunami-Driven Flu in Indonesia

Tsunami-related deaths in Indonesia could top 100,000. However, the displacement of people and animals may create ripe conditions for the spread of bird flu (H5N1 avian influenza). Indonesia reported poultry cases at the beginning of last year. However, many of the Indonesian isolates were collected in 2003, A/Ck/Indonesia/2A/2003(H5N1), A/Ck/Indonesia/BL/2003(H5N1), A/Ck/Indonesia/PA/2003(H5N1).
Recent outbreaks have been reported more recently near Jakarta and more recently near Mataram. Mataram is near Indonesia's most densely populated poultry farms, so more spread was expected prior to the tsunami.
The have been no reported human H5N1 cases in Indonesia, but there are a few polymorphisms shared by Indonesia and isolates from Thailand and Vietnam from last season, so there may be more changes this season.
Overcrowding and taxed medical facilities will increase the likelihood of undetected spread, and close monitoring of residents, tourists, and relief workers would be prudent, Flu season is beginning and recent H5N1 outbreaks have also been reported in Thailand (Thung Saliem district) and Vietnam, including one case that is in critical condition on a respirator.

6 January

Hundreds of thousands of possible H5N1 cases in Thailand
Tawee Chotpitayasunondh, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Queen Sirikit National Institute of Child Health in Bangkok, reports in the current issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, that “The 12 cases we report likely represent the end result of hundreds of thousands of potential exposures and an unknown number of human cases.”

8 January

CDC Director's missing intestinal tract from Effect Measure ("a forum for progressive public health discussion and argument as well as a source of public health information from around the web")
More than 3 out of 5 of rural Thais live near backyard poultry flocks, producing hundreds of thousands of potential exposures. As noted in an earlier post, the chief worry is that co-infection of an H5N1 infected person with a human strain of the influenza A virus will lead to a reassortment of the segments of the genome of the H5N1 virus to produce a mutated H5N1 adapted to person-to-person transmission. Many experts believe this scenario is not only plausible but likely. Why American public health officials are not beating the "pandemic preparedness" drum remains a mystery.

Yunnan Monitoring of Bird Flu from

Yunnan Province in PR China has stepped up bird flu surveillance in response to the sudden increase in human and poultry cases of H5N1 avian influenza. ...
There have now been six suspect or confirmed human cases forming two clusters in the Mekong Delta. Between the two clusters is Can Tho city where almost half of duck samples have been positive for H5N1.

18 January

Efficient Asymptomatic Spread of Bird Flu in Central Highlands (Recombinomics Commentary)
The spread of H5N1 in asymptomatic ducks appears to be increasing and the virus appears to be readily transmitted. Earlier reports indicated almost half of the ducks in Can Tho City tested positive for H5N1. The asymptomatic ducks were found in additional regions of southern Vietnam. Now in the central highlands of Vietnam the frequency is approaching 100%. Again there is no mention of dying ducks, just culling of ducks that tested positive.

Controlling ducks, which do not display symptoms but have highly transmissible virus that is lethal to humans, will continue to be a challenge and the potential for bird flu to enter the food supply remains high.

The Next Big Killer (Forbes Magazine)

The tsunami that killed 140,000 people across southern Asia in December ranks as one of the most devastating disasters in recent decades. But the next global catastrophe could be much worse.
It is likely to kill many millions of people, sicken a quarter of the world's population and send the global economy into a tailspin. There is little we can do to stop this disaster from happening, and it could already be imminent.

21 January

H5N1 Vaccine Update from PathogenAlert
Only four labs around the world have announced they are working on an H5N1 vaccine, and the four are Canada’s ID Biomedical, the U.S. CDC, Vietnam’s Hygiene and Epidemiology Institute, and the Chinese government labs.
Canada’s ID Biomedical has taken possession of an H5N1 seed strain and now trial batches must be made, tested, and the Public Health Agency of Canada has to become a stakeholder.
The CDC is a bit further along. After they run clinical trials, they have to convince Aventis Pasteur to become a stakeholder. Not an easy task, since H5N1 does not currently threaten America.
The Hygiene and Epidemiology Institute of Vietnam began testing their experimental vaccine on rats, January 17th, after 8 months of research. Next, chickens and monkeys will be tested.
And China announced recently that they have an H5N1 vaccine in clinical trials already.
All four of these labs are using the same seed strain. That’s fine as long as H5N1 doesn’t mutate. If it does, we’re back to square one.

22 January

Hitting the bird flu snooze alarm again (blogged in Effect Measure --and perhaps at this point the blogosphere is becoming much more relevant as an H5N1 information source)
I considered making this an update of the previous post, but it is really too important not to let stand on its own. WHO is now saying they believe Viet Nam's seventh death from bird flu in Hanoi infected his younger brother who was taking care of him (via Helen Branswell, CNEWS, Canada). While possible the brothers were infected from the same meal of sick duck, the nine day gap between onset of their illnesses argues against it, according to Klaus Stohr, WHO's chief influenza specialist in Geneva. At this point there is no evidence of further transmission in the family or the immediate community, but if confirmed this would be the fifth case of person-to-person transmission of H5N1 since the disease appeared in humans in 1997.
Despite the infrequency of occurrence, experts sound increasingly worried:
"I still am absolutely convinced that it is still just a matter of time in Southeast Asia before this thing blows," said Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
"One day we're likely to wake up and find a number of people in a given household, in a particular work area, in a given village where we've got evidence of widespread transmission - and we no longer can account for that through bird-to-human transmission."

31 January: I've set up a page with links to a year ago... not sure to what end

1 February

Found a blog that seems to be following H5N1: