Saturday, December 03, 2005

News - United Press International - Consumer Health - Chinese labs remark on H5N1 human mutation

Chinese laboratories studying the avian-influenza virus have expressed concerns that it is mutating.

The genetic structure of the virus found in infected people in China is of a different order to that of samples of the virus taken from infected people in Vietnam.

Chinese health ministry spokesman Mao Qun'an said that while the virus has mutated "to a certain degree ... the mutation cannot cause human-to-human transmission of the avian flu."

Meanwhile:

-- The United States has relaxed its ban on Canadian poultry imports following confirmation that the strain found was low-pathogenic and posed no risk to humans.

The present poultry ban now applies solely to birds from farms within a 2-mile radius of the flu detection site.

-- Indonesia may be on the verge of reporting its ninth human death from avian influenza.

A 25-year-old woman who died in a Jakarta hospital Tuesday initially tested positive for H5N1, but officials are awaiting confirmation of the results from the World Health Organization before announcing the death.

-- Also in Indonesia, a 16-year-old boy who has been in hospital with avian influenza since mid-November was Tuesday confirmed to be infected with H5N1.

The boy's two siblings both died five days before their brother's hospitalization, after having suffered fever and respiratory difficulties. As the official cause of death was presumed to be typhoid fever no samples were taken from either boy, making it impossible to posthumously diagnose death from bird flu.

-- China has confirmed two new outbreaks of avian influenza in birds. There have now been 29 outbreaks in the country since mid-October.

In line with the previously established pattern of outbreaks in China, the two occurrences were miles apart. One outbreak was reported in the central province of Hunan on Nov. 18 and the other in the northwestern Xinjiang province on Nov. 22.

Laboratory tests Monday confirmed the outbreaks were avian flu.

-- Nine officials of the Jinyu Group and the Inner Mongolian Biological Medical Products Factory have been arrested in China over the sale of fake avian-influenza vaccines.

The fake vaccines, which had not received government authorization, were found with government licensing numbers at a farm suffering an outbreak of avian flu.

It is believed that the use of the vaccines may have led to the outbreak in Liaoning province.

-- The United Kingdom's Medical Research Council has announced the creation of a $17.3 million research program for the study of avian influenza and other emerging infectious diseases.

The research will focus on the spread of avian influenza, the ways in which people become infected and the possible emergence of drug-resistant strains of the virus.

-- Australians are expressing outrage over reports that the Citigroup investment firm has advised investors to adapt their stock portfolios to profit from a pandemic.

Citigroup has advised clients to dump stocks in airlines and tourism companies and instead invest in telephone and internet providers, freight delivery firms and media organizations.

James Thier, who oversees a $380 million portfolio at Australian Ethical Investment, told news.com.au that "Citigroup should have kept its advice to 'positive stocks' like vaccine makers and pathology.

"These people are looking at avian flu and saying that these are potential winners for us.

"They are looking at the negative side. But this needs to be approached from a positive perspective rather than saying, 'How can we profit from millions of deaths?'"

United Press International - Consumer Health - Chinese labs remark on H5N1 human mutation

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