…And the Virus Rolled On….

ProMED – that ever-so-reliable source of breaking epidemiological news – gives us this as of yesterday.

From the WHO:

Influenza A(H1N1) – update 11 — 3 May 2009 [abridged]
As of 3 May 2009, 17 countries have officially reported 898 cases of influenza A(H1N1) infection, and 20 deaths.
Mexico has reported 506 confirmed human cases of infection, including 19 deaths. The higher number of cases from Mexico in the past 48 hours reflects ongoing testing of previously collected specimens.
The United States Government has reported 226 laboratory confirmed human cases, including one death.
The following countries have reported laboratory confirmed cases with no deaths:


  • Austria (1),
  • Canada (85),
  • Colombia (1),
  • China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (1),
  • Costa Rica (1),
  • Denmark (1),
  • El Salvador (2),
  • France (2),
  • Germany (8),
  • Ireland (1),
  • Israel (3),
  • Netherlands (1),
  • New Zealand (4),
  • Republic of Korea (1),
  • Spain (13),
  • Switzerland (1)
  • the United Kingdom (15)

Further information on the situation will be available on the WHO [/CDC] website on a regular basis.

WHO advises no restriction of regular travel or closure of borders.

 It is considered prudent for people who are ill to delay international travel and for people developing symptoms following international travel to seek medical attention, in line with guidance from national authorities.

And finally, pigs with the virus: 

Canada on [2 May 2009] reported the identification of the A(H1N1) virus in a swine herd in Alberta. It is highly probable that the pigs were exposed to the virus from a Canadian farm worker recently returned from Mexico, who had exhibited flu-like symptoms and had contact with the pigs.

There is no indication of virus adaptation through transfer from human to pigs at this time.

There is no risk of infection from this virus from consumption of well-cooked pork and pork products. [my bold/red]

 From South Africa’s News24:

Swine flu vaccine in the works
29/04/2009 14:01  – (SA)  


 Geneva – Four laboratories are at “various stages” of working on a seed virus that is a precursor in a future vaccine against swine flu, the World Health Organisation said on Tuesday.

“There are currently four of our reference laboratories who are working with seed virus, they are at various stages of producing seed virus needed to make the vaccines,” said WHO spokesperson Gregory Hartl.

Hartl said however that the laboratories – in Britain, Canada and the United States – have not been asked to begin production in an extensive manner.

WHO on Monday recommended that the UN agency “take steps to facilitate the development” of a vaccine against the swine flu virus found in the latest outbreak that has likely caused more than 150 deaths in Mexico and has spread worldwide.

But the panel stopped short of recommending a complete shift in global vaccine production capacity, warning that it would be “prudent” to continue regular seasonal vaccine production as well.

A spokesperson in Paris for Sanofi Pasteur, a subsidiary of the French pharmaceutical maker Sanofi-Aventis, had said that the time needed to make a flu vaccine is about four months.

Scaling up production of a vaccine is another hurdle. The main approach is to grow the virus samples in time-honoured fashion in embryo chicken eggs, which is slow and clumsy.

Production capacity of flu vaccines has tripled since 2007 in response to the Sars and H5N1 scares, according to a WHO-funded study published in February.


More from News24:

Egypt works on H5N1 chicken vaccine

In news that partially redeems the very controversial decision to cull the country’s pigs – apparently based on a need to regularise the industry, rather than panic over transmission from pigs – AFP details how Egypt plans to produce its own vaccine within two years.

A useful graphic explaining how reassortant viruses occur.

Information on how the virus may have originated:

New virus may be a hybrid

Last updated: Monday, May 04, 2009

The new virus that has killed as many as 177 people and spread globally is a hybrid that appears to have mixed with another hybrid virus containing swine, bird and human bits, US researchers reported.

Raul Rabadan and colleagues at Columbia University in New York analysed the published genetic sequences from the H1N1 virus that has brought the world to the brink of a pandemic. “The closest relatives to the virus we have found are swine viruses,” Rabadan said.

“Six segments of the virus are related to swine viruses from North America, and the other two from swine viruses isolated in Europe/Asia,” they wrote in the online journal Eurosurveillance.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said last week after discovering this virus in two US children that it had four virus types – two swine, an avian and a human component. It may be even more complex than that.

‘This strain looks like another hybrid’
Influenza viruses mutate constantly, and they also swap genetic material with one another promiscuously – especially if an animal or person is infected with two strains at once.

Rabadan’s team said this particular strain looked partly like another hybrid, or what scientists call a reassortant, virus. “The North American ancestors are related to the multiple reassortants, H1N2 and H3N2 swine viruses isolated in North America since 1998,” they wrote.

“In particular, the swine H3N2 isolates from 1998 were a triple reassortment of human, swine and avian origin.”

For those in search of graphics for their webinar/presentation on flu pandemics: from the US National Archives.


The Influenza Epidemic of 1918 via kwout


And for light relief away from deadly viruses:

“Who would win in a fight: Gandalf or Darth Vader? What about Neo versus Harry Potter?”

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