While the world’s flu fighters have concentrated on countering the H1N1 swine flu pandemic, avian influenza H5N1 has quietly continued to take its toll on both poultry and humans. Last year, 17 countries, stretching from Cote d’Ivoire and Germany to China and Japan, reported outbreaks of H5N1 in domestic poultry and wild birds; and the World Health Organization, which still says H5N1 poses a pandemic threat, recorded 72 human cases, 32 of them fatal [in 2009]. The brunt of the outbreak, entering its 8th year, is still in China and the developing countries of South East Asia. [In fact in 2009 39 of the 72 confirmed human cases were recorded in Egypt.

[In the year 2009] Indonesia alone accounted for 19 of the 32 H5N1 [human] deaths; Viet Nam, for 5 and China for 4. But there are glimmers of progress. The number of human deaths has been dropping since peaking at 79 in 2006. And fewer countries reported outbreaks in 2009 than in 2008 [5 in 2009, 6 in 2008]. Countries are refining responses to outbreaks, (Snip)

(Snip) researchers from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, and Viet Nam compared notes on the effectiveness of control measures. Scientists reported that carefully targeted culling can be just as effective as widespread culling, and less disruptive. Others reported that reducing risk among those keeping backyard poultry has to be a community-wide effort, since changing the practices of individual farmers has proven difficult.

In particular, Witthawat Wiriyarat, a veterinarian and virologist at Mahidol University in Bangkok told ScienceInsider that a 3 year old regional surveillance network is making progress in sorting out the role of wild birds. Some waterfowl initially thought to be spreading the virus, such as the Asian openbill stork, are now known to quickly succumb to H5N1 infection, Wiriyarat says. But passerine species, or perching birds, are
apparently carrying the virus without ill effects, says Fumin Lei, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Zoology in Beijing. He adds that there is a high correlation of outbreaks in poultry and passerine movements.

Wiriyarat says it is still unclear what is sustaining the outbreak, whether there is a natural reservoir for H5N1, and how the virus is passed between domestic and wild birds. (Snip) the most effective way to reduce the amount of virus in circulation is to control outbreaks in poultry, he says.

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China
•  A/H1N1 Influenza to Keep Spreading in China: Ministry (Link)

Indonesia
•  Indonesian Bird Flu Risk Remains High (Link)

Rwanda
•  Central Prison Cleared of Swine Flu (Link)

United States
•  MO: More bighorns killed in effort to stop pneumonia outbreak (ProMED) (Link)

General
•  Crunching the swine flu numbers (Link)

Research
•  German Team Finds Host Factors Needed For Flu Virus Replication (Link)

Commentary
•  Crofsblogs: Vietnam Spending millions against H1N1 and finding problems (Link)
•  Effect Measure: Another swine flu virus (Link)
•  Helen Branswell: U.S. CDC reports finding single case of a new swine flu; no sustained spread (Link)
•  Recombinomics: Confirmed H1N1 D225G Transmission in Italian Family (Link)

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