Avian flu outbreaks reported in Italy and Mexico

Tuesday, September 3, 2013
By Paul Martin

September 3, 2013

ITALY – The National Institute of Health had recorded a positive diagnosis for H7N7 avian influenza A virus in a person suffering from conjunctivitis and occupationally exposed to sick birds belonging to the farms in the region of Emilia Romagna, where this viral infection is currently known to be circulating in poultry. According to The Global Dispatch, “with four confirmed outbreaks of H7N7 avian influenza reported in Italy since mid-August, thousands of birds have been culled to prevent the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) from further spreading.” ProMed reports that the H7N7 avian influenza virus is not easily transmitted to humans, who can become infected only if there is direct contact with a sick or dead animal. Unlike other avian viruses (such as H7N9 or H5N1), avian H7N7 influenza virus tends to result only in mild disease (such as conjunctivitis) in Man, as has been observed previously in a human outbreak that occurred previously in the Netherlands. Since transmission from person-to-person is rare, human outbreaks tend to self-contained, so the risk to the community is extremely low or even non-existent. ProMed adds that the Emilia Romagna Region authorities, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health, have already identified outbreaks in poultry, and appropriate measures have been taken to control the outbreak. –TPS

Mexico battles two new outbreaks: Two new outbreaks of H7N3 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) have been reported – the first in a village flock of quails and the second in a flock of commercial layers. The Mexican veterinary authority has sent Follow Up report no. 10 dated 31 August to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The report covers two new outbreaks of HPAI, later identified as the H7N3 sub-type. The first outbreak started on 12 August in a small village quail flock in Valle de Santiago in the state of Guanajuarto. The situation is described as “resolved.” On 19 August, a 10,000-strong layer flock in the state of Jalisco – at Lagos de Moreno – was hit by the virus. The number of cases/deaths is not reported; the case is on-going. According to the report, control measures previously applied are still on-going, including vaccination of birds at risk, as well as epidemiological surveillance at national level. -TPS

Japan to produce H7N9 vaccine: A panel of experts at the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will start producing a vaccine for the H7N9 strain of avian influenza, following a number of reported cases of human infections in China. The ministry will base the vaccine on a vaccine strain produced by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, while seeking cooperation from vaccine makers. Production work will start within this month, at the earliest. The ministry will first test the vaccine on animals and then decide whether to conduct clinical trials on humans after examining the results. It remains unclear when production will be completed because it is difficult to make a vaccine that can provide immunity against H7 type flu viruses, according to officials at the ministry. No human-to-human spread of the H7N9 flu has been confirmed so far, but experts warn that genetic mutations in the virus could increase transmissions between humans and could lead to a pandemic. –The Japan News

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