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Below is a roundup of the key developments on the spread of the bird flu virus (H5N1) and the threat it poses to human health. Each title is a link to the full article.

Click here to see the latest World Health Organization (WHO) figures of confirmed human cases.

Monday 8 May 2006

Thailand presents bird flu plan to neighbours
Thailand presented a bird flu action plan to officials from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam at a meeting in Bangkok and called for international help for the region (Source: Reuters).

Sunday 7 May 2006

Pakistani poultry industry demands ten-year tax holiday
Pakistani poultry farmers have sought a ten-year tax exemption to support their dwindling business after the detection of the H5N1 strain of bird flu triggered a fall in demand and prices (Source: India

Pakistan declares bird flu tests 'negative'
Pakistan's Ministry of Health announced that all 109 samples collected from people living in and around 18 poultry farms and all the suspected people who were hospitalised in the isolation wards had tested negative for bird flu (Source: The Daily Times).

Saturday 6 May 2006

Bird flu antibodies found in wild goose in Russia
Antibodies against H5 influenza have been found in the blood of a wild goose shot for testing in northwest Russia, according to the regional veterinary department (Source: Interfax).

Bird flu cases must be noted sooner – WHO
Only half the world's human bird flu cases are being reported to the WHO within two weeks of being detected, a response time that must be improved to avert a pandemic, a senior WHO official has said (Source: ABC News).

WHO sees gaps in China, Indonesia bird flu fight
WHO's Asia chief has praised Thailand and Vietnam for their grassroots fight against bird flu but said there was "room for improvement" from the district level down in Indonesia and China (Source: AFP).

Friday 5 May 2006

Egypt finds 13th case of human bird flu
The WHO confirmed that a 27-year-old Egyptian woman from Cairo has died from bird flu, the country's fifth death from the H5N1 strain (Source: Reuters).

China confirms bird flu in Qinghai province
China confirmed an outbreak of bird flu among wild birds in a remote area of far-western Qinghai province (Source: Reuters).

Solving another piece of the H5N1 puzzle
Scientists have reported on the structure of heamagglutinin, a key protein of the H5N1 influenza virus, and identified mutations that could allow H5N1 to take hold in the human population (Source: ).

Global bird flu response 'disaster' for small farmers
The UN organisations leading the response to the bird flu virus have lost sense of rural realities, and their strategies are a disaster for the poor, says a new report (Source: Genetic Resources Action International (GRAIN)).

Economy can survive flu epidemic – Asia-Pacific ministers
Asia-Pacific government ministers approved a regional plan to keep the global economy running if millions of people died and fell ill in a possible new influenza pandemic (Source: Deutche Presse – Agentur).

Thursday 4 May 2006

Stepping up to the flu vaccine challenge
Developing countries need to recognise the long-term benefits of creating the capacity to research and develop flu vaccines, says Catherine Brahic in a SciDev.Net editorial (Source: SciDev.Net).

South Asian nations plan joint bird flu strategy
The seven member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation will develop a common plan to fight bird flu (Source: SciDev.Net).

Pandemic flu: fighting an enemy that is yet to exist
Research for a vaccine against pandemic flu presents an unusual challenge: how does one make large supplies of a vaccine against a virus that does not exist yet? (Source: SciDev.Net).

Côte d'Ivoire confirms bird flu, boosts controls
Tests at a WHO reference laboratory have confirmed deadly H5N1 bird flu in the Côte d'Ivoire, triggering extra control measures in the sixth African country hit by the virus (Source: Reuters).

H5N1 attacks several organs, says China's health chief
The deadly H5N1 virus does not only attack the lungs but other human organs as well said the Chinese secretary for health, adding that several different treatments are needed (Source: The Standard).

Genetics might explain why some people get bird flu
People who have been infected with the H5N1 bird flu virus might be especially susceptible to avian viruses because they are genetically predisposed to them, leading disease experts suggested (Source: Reuters).

Pakistan firms allowed to manufacture bird flu vaccine
The Pakistan health ministry has allowed six local pharmaceutical companies to manufacture and sell bird flu vaccines (Source: The Daily Times).

Live bird flu virus found in victims' blood
Live H5N1 virus can be isolated in the blood of its human victims, which shows that the virus lives in the blood, say Thai researchers in a paper due to be published in a scientific journal (Source: Online Globe and Mail).
Link to scientific paper

Way to mass-produce key bird flu drug revealed
The antiviral drug Tamiflu is hard to make and stocks are limited, but a Nobel prize-winning chemist has devised a straightforward method for making Tamiflu and has not patented it (Source: New Scientist).

Flu pandemic could cost billions
A flu pandemic could cost billions but the use of economic models during preparations could help to stop healthcare systems descending into chaos, a meeting was told (Source: New Scientist).

US gives US$1b to pharma companies for novel flu vaccines
The United States government awarded more than US$1 billion to five drug manufacturers to develop ways of rapidly mass-producing vaccines in the event of a pandemic (Source: Associated Press).

Pre-pandemic H5N1 vaccine can save lives
Scientists called for more effort and funding to develop vaccines to combat H5N1, which they fear could trigger a pandemic (Source: Daily Times).

Spanish hospitals in final stages of testing H5N1 vaccine
The phase III trial of an H5N1 vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline will be tested in 5,052 volunteers, 1,500 of which will be recruited in Spain (Source: Institute of Biomedical Research August Pi i Sunyer).

Wednesday 3 May 2006

Could a face mask stop bird flu?
People should not engage in activities that would increase their risk infection just because they have a mask or respirator, says a report from the US Institute of Medicine, adding that disposable masks should not be reused because there's no simple, reliable way to decontaminate them (Source: Daily Times).

Pandemic challenges for Asia-Pacific region
The Asia-Pacific region faces a number of challenges in preparing for an influenza pandemic, yet gaps and inconsistencies in plans across the continent could hinder an effective response, a medical meeting has heard (Source: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine).

Jamaica gets US$30 million for bird flu detection and prevention
Jamaica's bird flu detection and prevention mechanism has been boosted by a US$30 million donation from the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (Source: Jamaica Information Service).

More studies needed on role of poultry: expert
A leading flu expert warned the scientific community on Wednesday against blaming the spread of the deadly H5N1 virus on wild migratory birds, saying more studies should be done on the role of poultry and its movement around the world (Source: Reuters).

Tuesday 2 May 2006

Bird flu vaccine stops H5N1 in animals
An experimental bird flu vaccine may protect against H5N1 and other strains of influenza, researchers said after tests showed it protected mice and ferrets from the H5N1 avian influenza virus and seasonal human flu viruses (Source: Reuters).

Africa, Asia weak on bird flu control-WHO
Most countries already hit by bird flu in Africa and Asia continue to have weak surveillance programmes for detecting H5N1 in both humans and bird flocks, the WHO has warned (Source: Reuters).

WHO says rapid containment measures could prevent bird flu pandemic
The WHO said a bird flu pandemic can still be prevented if Indonesia's authorities are ready to implement rapid containment measures, from the large-scale distribution of anti-viral drugs to the closure of schools (Source: The Star Online).

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