Friday, May 12, 2006

New aspects of the avian influenza story

Al-Ahram Weekly | Egypt | Wrong vaccine spread virus:
"Governor of Giza Fathi Saad, the Ministry of Agriculture's representative in the committee, stressed in the report that H5N1 is indigenous in Egypt, appearing every year in winter and autumn. Normally, though, it would disappear from the country in the summer due to the high temperatures."

I've been trying to follow this bird flu business for months and have blogged on it previously, but this is the first I have heard of the H5N1 strain being long-established outside of east Asia. And, that's not the only bombshell in this report from Al Ahram.

It seems that a vigorous vaccination program has resulted in the culling of 34 million infected birds. Mohamed El-Shafei of the Poultry Union reports, "Egypt has lost 75 per cent of its egg- laying flocks and 50 per cent of all fowl. Since there is almost no poultry in the country, infection rates of bird flu are decreasing."

For reasons which the article does not attempt to explain, Egyptian authorities imported H5N1 avian vaccine from the Peoples Republic of China even though it was more expensive than the vaccines being used in Europe and Israel. H5N2 and H5N9 vaccine produced in Europe wipes out the H5N1 virus in birds in a matter of days.

They say the PRC vaccine has a latency period of 3-4 weeks during which vaccinated birds have compromised immune systems. "The SNCCBF [Supreme National Committee to Combat Bird Flu] noticed that immunised birds have contracted the disease during this period. Therefore it was normal for the birds to be dead," he [Gov. Saad] added.

Let's hope our own government learns from Egypt's sad experience.


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