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'No Evidence' Mutant Bird Flu Virus Poses Increased Risk To Humans, WHO And FAO Say

After the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “last week voiced concern about the appearance in Vietnam and China of” a mutant strain of the H5N1 avian flu virus, the WHO and FAO on Monday “said in a joint statement issued in response to questions from Agence France-Presse” that “[t]here is no evidence to suggest yet that this new virus strain will have any increased risk to human health,” the news agency reports. “‘Nevertheless, poultry producers and the general public should always take simple precautions to reduce exposure to the virus from infected poultry,’ it said,” the news agency writes, noting the “H5N1 virus typically spreads from birds to humans via direct contact” (9/5).

Genetic Factor Found In Link Between H1N1 Flu Vaccine And Children's Narcolepsy, Finland Institute Says

“Finland’s national health institute said on Thursday its latest research on previously found links between children’s narcolepsy and GlaxoSmithKline’s [GSK] Pandemrix vaccine against [H1N1] swine flu also involved a genetic risk factor,” Reuters reports. In Finland, where 98 narcolepsy cases have been reported following the flu vaccinations, researchers found vaccinated children ages four to 19 “had a 12.7 times higher risk of experiencing narcolepsy than those who were not,” the news agency notes (9/1).

FAO Warns Mutant Form Of H5N1 Bird Flu Poses Threat To Asia

“The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Monday warned about a new mutant strain of the deadly bird flu H5N1 virus in China and Vietnam, saying there could be a ‘major resurgence’ of the disease,” Agence France-Presse reports. In a statement, FAO “said it was concerned about ‘the appearance in China and Vietnam of a variant virus able to sidestep the defenses provided by existing vaccines,’ adding that the new strain was known as H5N1 – 2.3.2.1,” the news agency notes. The organization said the virus, which can be spread by wild bird migration, “poses a direct threat to Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia as well as endangering the Korean peninsula and Japan” (8/29).

World Must Invest Equally In Bird Flu Prevention And Response

The “reports during the past two weeks of two recent infections and another death” from H5N1 (avian) influenza “raised little concern except among public health officials,” Robert Gatter, co-director of the Center for Health Law Studies and professor of law at Saint Louis University, writes in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution opinion piece, adding that “[t]he fact that bird flu in developing nations receives little public attention reveals that the world has become complacent about this threat.”

WHO Declares End To Global Swine Flu Pandemic

“The World Health Organization is declaring an end to the global swine flu pandemic,” the Associated Press/Seattle Times reports. WHO Director-General Margaret Chan “said Wednesday the pandemic is considered over by WHO’s emergency committee due to global factors and reports from several nations” and because “the new H1N1 virus has largely run its course,” according to the news agency.

WHO Says World Is Better Prepared For Influenza Pandemic

“More than 100 public health experts have wrapped up a three-day meeting in Geneva to review a Global Action Plan for Influenza Vaccines that was developed in 2006, and to develop a strategic plan of action for the next five years,” VOA News reports, noting that the WHO “says the world is better prepared for the next influenza pandemic than it was in the past” (Schlein, 7/14).

GAO Reports On Government Response To H1N1 Pandemic

GAO on Monday published two reports on the government’s response to the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. The first report examines lessons learned from the government’s response that can be incorporated into future planning (6/27). The second report examines how production delays for the H1N1 vaccine “heightened interest in alternative technologies…

New Swine Flu Variant Shows Some Resistance To Drugs, Report Says

A new variant of H1N1 (swine) influenza that is easily spread and retains some resistance to the two major drugs used to treat flu has been detected in Singapore and Australia, according to a report from the WHO’s influenza research group published in the journal Eurosurveillance, Bloomberg reports (Cortez, 6/9).

Swine Flu May Have Been More Widespread In Scotland Than Previously Believed, Study Says

In his opening address at the U.N. High Level Meeting on AIDS on Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “told presidents, ministers and diplomats from across the globe that if all partners involved in the fight unite ‘as never before,'” the goal of “zero new infections, zero stigma and zero AIDS-related deaths” can be achieved, the Associated Press/Kansas City Star reports (Lederer, 6/8).