Researchers conducting influenza-like illness surveillance in Cambodia have confirmed a rare incidence of individuals becoming infected with a seasonal influenza and the pandemic strain at the same time, a reminder of the ongoing risk of distinct flu viruses combining in human hosts to produce a more lethal strain, according to a report in the November issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. A pandemic strain is a type of flu against which people have little or no natural immunity. While the individuals recovered and the two strains did not recombine into a new and different virus, experts say coinfections in Southeast Asia deserve particularly close scrutiny given the ongoing transmission of the deadly avian influenza virus H5N1 and circulation of the pandemic H1N1 influenza that first emerged in 2009.
The immune response to an H5N1 avian influenza vaccine was greatly enhanced in healthy adults if they were first primed with a DNA vaccine expressing a gene for a key H5N1 protein, researchers say. Their report describes results from two clinical studies conducted by researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. A majority of study volunteers who received the DNA vaccine 24 weeks before receiving a booster vaccine made from whole, inactivated H5N1 virus produced high levels of antibodies thought to be protective against the globular head region of a protein called hemagglutinin (HA). Traditional seasonal influenza vaccines are designed to elicit antibodies to the head region of HA, but it changes each year and so vaccines must be repeated annually to maintain immunity.
An H5 bird flu (avian flu ) outbreak in West Bengal, eastern India has triggered the culling of poultry and eggs, authorities have informed. Infected birds have been reported in the Nadia district of West Bengal, according to India's Ministry of Agriculture. A mutant bird flu strain is spreading in other parts of Asia. West Bengal health and agricultural authorities say they have increased surveillance. Poultry will be culled within a 3 kilometer radius of the infected area, and surveillance has been stepped up to a 10 kilometer radius, the Ministry of Agriculture informed, In 2006, when the first cases of bird flu appeared in India, millions of ducks and chickens were killed. Occasionally, avian flu resurfaces. The Indian government has told local authorities to prohibit the movement of chickens and poultry products.
The possibility of a major resurgence of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 - also known as bird flu - has prompted the United Nation's FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) to advise health authorities around the world to step up surveillance and readiness. There are signs that a mutant strain of Bird Flu is making inroads in Asia and other parts of the world. The FAO describes current the risks to human health as "unpredictable". Out of 565 individuals who have been officially infected with the H5N1 virus since 2003, at least 331 died, says the World Health Organization (WHO). Cambodia has had 8 deaths so far this year, one in August 2011; every infected person died. Over 400 million domestic poultry have had to be destroyed since 2003 because of H5N1. Experts say the economic damage exceeded $20 billion worldwide, before bird flu was supposedly eradicated from the majority of the 63 nations infected in 2006 (bird flu peak).
Avian influenza virus is a threat to the commercial chicken industry and, with its recent rapid spread across China, has also shown the ability for transmission from chickens to humans and other mammals. In an article in Journal of Interferon & Cytokine Research, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., Chinese researchers report that oral chicken interferon-alpha may significantly reduce influenza virus levels when given either preventively or therapeutically. Chickens can serve as a reservoir for epidemic avian viruses such as avian influenza virus (AIV), which can then be transmitted to mammals such as humans. AIV causes mild to severe respiratory illness in chickens. Interferon-alpha is a cytokine, a chemical produced by immune cells that has a role in inducing antiviral immunity.