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EU Parliament Approves Resolution Calling For Countries To Revise Pandemic Response

On the heels of the release of a draft report by an independent panel of experts examining the WHO’s response to H1N1 (swine flu), BMJ News reports on a recently approved resolution and accompanying report released by the European Union parliament that calls on EU countries to revise their flu prevention plans “to make them more effective, coherent, and flexible” and for the WHO to revise its definition of pandemic to take into account not only geographical spread of disease but also severity.

External Panel Issues Draft Report Saying WHO Response To H1N1 Lacked Cohesion, Clarity

An independent panel of experts commissioned by the WHO to probe its response to the H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic on Thursday released a draft report (.pdf) stating that while the organization performed well in many ways, it made “crucial mistakes” and “warned tens of millions could die if there is a severe flu outbreak in the future,” the Associated Press reports (3/10).

Rising Number Of Livestock Diseases Threatens Public Health, Food Security In Developing Countries, Report Says

“A growing number of livestock, such as cows and pigs, are fuelling new animal epidemics worldwide and posing more severe problems in developing countries as it threatens their food security, according to a report [.pdf] released on Friday” during an international conference in New Delhi, India, on Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition & Health, Reuters reports (Lyn, 2/11).

Also In Global Health News: Zimbabwe’s HIV Prevalence Declines; Sri Lanka Flooding; Online Tool To Track Outbreaks; U.S. Recognition Of S. Sudan; TB In Swaziland

Study Examines Reasons For Zimbabwe’s HIV Prevalence Decline Reuters reports that an article published in PLoS Medicine “said Zimbabwe’s [HIV] epidemic was one of the biggest in the world until the [prevalence of people] infected with HIV almost halved, from 29 percent of the population in 1997 to 16 percent in 2007.”…

BMJ News Examines Ongoing Investigation Of WHO’s Handling Of H1N1

BMJ News reports on the ongoing external investigation of the WHO’s handling of the 2009 H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic, following recent statements to the WHO’s executive board meeting by review committee chairman, Harvey Fineberg. Despite initial expectations that the external review committee would produce a draft of its findings in January, Fineberg “said the panel was planning a meeting on 28-30 March, and it would distribute in advance to all WHO member nations copies of a draft summary of its principal findings, conclusions, and recommendations, for comments and reactions, before it finalises the report.”

Scientists Create GM Chicken That Does Not Spread Bird Flu To Other Chickens

“Scientists have developed genetically modified [GM] chickens that don’t transmit bird flu [H5N1] to other chickens,” HealthDay News/Bloomberg Businessweek reports. “This achievement could stop bird flu outbreaks from spreading within poultry flocks and possibly reduce the risk of bird flu epidemics that could lead to flu virus epidemics in humans, according to the researchers at the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh in the United Kingdom,” whose findings appear in the Jan. 14 issue of the journal Science, according to the news service (Preidt, 1/13).

Antibodies Produced By People Who Recovered From H1N1 Offer Clues For Universal Flu Vaccine

The antibodies produced by individuals who fought off H1N1 (swine flu) infection last year may bring researchers one step closer to their quest to develop a “universal” flu vaccine, U.S. researchers said Monday, HealthDay News/Bloomberg Businessweek reports. As the researchers from Emory University and the University of Chicago report in the Jan. 10 issue of the Journal of Experimental Medicine, “people who were infected with the H1N1 virus and recovered had a special immune response, producing antibodies that protect against a wide variety of flu strains,” the news service writes (1/10).

Scientific American Examines Efforts To Increase Influenza Virus Monitoring In Pigs To Prevent Pandemics In Humans

Scientific American examines how, in an attempt to improve early recognition of viruses that could give rise to pandemics in people, such as last year’s H1N1 swine flu, scientists are looking to better understand “the viruses that infect the estimated 941 million domesticated pigs around the world.” However, as the article notes, “[i]ntensive monitoring of pig viruses is unlikely to come any time soon … Most pork-producing countries do not test their pigs at all, and in some that do—such as the U.S.—the testing is done on behalf of the pork producers, who have little economic incentive to share what they find. The reason: pig farmers know pork prices plummet when pigs and flu are linked in the news.”