Bird Flu Roundup: Outbreaks in Arkansas, Indonesia, England

By Eliza Strickland | June 5, 2008 10:44 am

bird flu graffitiBird flu — or avian influenza, to give it its proper name — is the kind of lurking threat that keeps public health officials awake at night. Luckily, it’s still in the “lurking” column, because the often-deadly disease is not easily contracted by humans, and as far as doctors can tell, it can’t yet be transmitted from person to person.

But because the real threat is that the bird flu virus will mutate into a form that’s better at preying on humans, researchers keep a sharp eye on each flare-up, whether it’s an outbreak that annihilates a hen house or a cluster of human cases. In the past few days, researchers have encountered a bit of both.

In Arkansas, the poultry giant Tyson Foods has been busy slaughtering 15,000 hens that tested positive for exposure to a strain of bird flu. State officials say the birds came into contact with a less virulent strain of the virus, H7N3, which has been known to sicken humans, but hasn’t caused any deaths. The hens are being killed with carbon dioxide gas, and their carcasses are being buried to avoid spreading the disease.

Jon Fitch, director of the Arkansas’ Livestock and Poultry Commission, said officials have a “working theory” on how the hens came in contact with the virus. “The speculation at this point in time was that a large group of Canadian geese made home on a pond very near this facility,” Fitch said. “Our speculation is someone stepped into some of those droppings and carried it into the poultry house” [AP News]. Sounds like a life lesson: Never underestimate the danger of goose poop.

Across the world, in Indonesia, health officials reluctantly announced the death of a 15-year-old girl last month from the dangerous H5N1 form of the virus. Indonesia has had the highest number of bird flu fatalities, a reported 109 out of 241 deaths worldwide. Epidemiologists have raised concerns about the spread of the disease in the Indonesian hot spot, although local health officials claim they have things under control.

[Indonesia’s health minister] said only 18 people have been infected in the first six months of 2008, compared to 27 during the same period in 2007 and 35 in 2006 — something she attributed to improved surveillance and public awareness. But the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization issued a critical statement in March, saying Indonesia’s efforts to control the disease in poultry are failing. The H5N1 virus is entrenched in 31 of the country’s 33 provinces and will continue to kill humans until it can be controlled in birds, it said [AP News].

Finally, an outbreak at a chicken farm in southern England has been called “highly pathogenic,” but only to chickens, not to humans — it’s another example of the less dangerous H7 virus strain. The flock is being slaughtered, and English agriculture officials temporarily banned the movement of live birds in the surrounding area, but those measures weren’t enough to reassure some poultry consumers; Japan and Hong Kong immediately suspended poultry imports from the United Kingdom.

But back to the lurking, insomnia-producing threat: Even though the H7 virus isn’t very dangerous for humans, scientists say it appears to be evolving in our direction. Flu viruses bind to a sugar on respiratory tract cells called sialic acid, which comes in several shapes. Last week US scientists reported that H7 viruses from recent poultry outbreaks in North America are starting to bind the human form of sialic acid, and losing their ability to bind the bird form. Even worse, an H7 was even isolated from a man with the flu in New York in 2003 and it bound most effectively to the human form [New Scientist blog].

Sweet dreams!

Image: flickr/salvez

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • Allison Frost

    The H5N1 virus has been transmitted from human- to- human many times. Here is a site that will help Discover with it’s homework.

  • Dipl.-Ing. Wilfried Soddemann


    Spread of avian flu by drinking water:

    Proved awareness to ecology and transmission is necessary to understand the spread of avian flu. For this it is insufficient exclusive to test samples from wild birds, poultry and humans for avian flu viruses. Samples from the known abiotic vehicles also have to be analysed. There are plain links between the cold, rainy seasons as well as floods and the spread of avian flu. That is just why abiotic vehicles have to be analysed. The direct biotic transmission from birds, poultry or humans to humans can not depend on the cold, rainy seasons or floods. Water is a very efficient abiotic vehicle for the spread of viruses – in particular of fecal as well as by mouth, nose and eyes excreted viruses.

    Infected birds and poultry can everywhere contaminate the drinking water. All humans have very intensive contact to drinking water. Spread of avian flu by drinking water can explain small clusters in households too. Proving viruses in water is difficult because of dilution. If you find no viruses you can not be sure that there are not any. On the other hand in water viruses remain viable for a long time. Water has to be tested for influenza viruses by cell culture and in particular by the more sensitive molecular biology method PCR.

    There is a widespread link between avian flu and water, e.g. in Egypt to the Nile delta or Indonesia to residential districts of less prosperous humans with backyard flocks and without central water supply as in Vietnam: See also the WHO web side:

    Transmission of avian flu by direct contact to infected poultry is an unproved assumption from the WHO. There is no evidence that influenza primarily is transmitted by saliva droplets: “Transmission of influenza A in human beings”

    Avian flu infections may increase in consequence to increase of virus circulation. Human to human and contact transmission of influenza occur – but are overvalued immense. In the course of influenza epidemics in Germany, recognized clusters are rare, accounting for just 9 percent of cases e.g. in the 2005 season. In temperate climates the lethal H5N1 virus will be transferred to humans via cold drinking water, as with the birds in February and March 2006, strong seasonal at the time when drinking water has its temperature minimum.

    The performance to eliminate viruses from the drinking water processing plants regularly does not meet the requirements of the WHO and the USA/USEPA. Conventional disinfection procedures are poor, because microorganisms in the water are not in suspension, but embedded in particles. Even ground water used for drinking water is not free from viruses.

    In temperate regions influenza epidemics recur with marked seasonality around the end of winter, in the northern as well as in the southern hemisphere. Although seasonality is one of the most familiar features of influenza, it is also one of the least understood. Indoor crowding during cold weather, seasonal fluctuations in host immune responses, and environmental factors, including relative humidity, temperature, and UV radiation have all been suggested to account for this phenomenon, but none of these hypotheses has been tested directly. Influenza causes significant morbidity in tropical regions; however, in contrast to the situation in temperate zones, influenza in the tropics is not strongly associated with a certain season.

    There are clear links between the cold, rainy seasons as well as floods and the spread of influenza. There is a widespread link between avian flu and water, e.g. in Egypt to the Nile delta or in Indonesia to residential districts of less prosperous humans with backyard flocks of birds and without a central water supply as in Vietnam. The direct biotic transmission from birds, poultry or humans to humans cannot be dependent on the cold, rainy seasons or floods. Water is a very efficient abiotic vehicle for the spread of viruses – in particular of fecal as well as viruses excreted through the mouth, nose and eyes. Infected humans, mammals, birds and poultry can contaminate drinking water everywhere. All humans have very intensive contact to drinking water.

    In the tropics, flood-related influenza is typical after extreme weather and floods. The virulence of influenza viruses depends on temperature and time. Especially in cases of local water supplies with “young” and fresh influenza-contaminated water from low local wells, cisterns, tanks, rain barrels, ponds, rivers or rice paddies, this pathway can explain small clusters in households, too. At 24°C, for example, in the tropics the virulence of influenza viruses in water exists for 2 days. In temperate climates with “older” water from central water supplies, the temperature of the water is decisive for the virulence of viruses. At 7°C the virulence of influenza viruses in water extends to 14 days.
    Ducks and rice (paddies = flooded by water) are major factors in outbreaks of avian flu, claims a UN agency: Ducks and rice fields may be a critical factor in spreading H5N1. Ducks, rice (fields, paddies = flooded by water; farmers at work drink the water from rice paddies) and people – not chickens – have emerged as the most significant factors in the spread of avian influenza in Thailand and Vietnam, according to a study carried out by a group of experts from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and associated research centres.

    The study “Mapping H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza risk in Southeast Asia: ducks, rice and people” also concludes that these factors are probably behind persistent outbreaks in other countries such as Cambodia and Laos.

    This study examined a series of waves of H5N1, a highly pathogenic avian influenza, in Thailand and Vietnam between early 2004 and late 2005. Through the use of satellite mapping, researchers looked at several different factors, including the numbers of ducks, geese and chickens, human population size, rice cultivation and geography, and found a strong link between duck grazing patterns and rice cropping intensity.

    In Thailand, for example, the proportion of young ducks in flocks was found to peak in September-October; these rapidly growing young ducks can therefore benefit from the peak of the rice harvest in November-December, at the beginning of the cold: Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos – as opposed to Indonesia – are located in the northern hemisphere.

    These peaks in the congregation of ducks indicate periods in which there is an increase in the chances for virus release and exposure, and rice paddies often become a temporary habitat for wild bird species. In addition, with virus persistence becoming increasingly confined to areas with intensive rice-duck agriculture in eastern and south-eastern Asia, the evolution of the H5N1 virus may become easier to predict.

    The FAO estimates that approximately 90 percent of the world’s more than 1 billion domestic ducks are in Asia, with about 75 percent of those in China and Vietnam. Thailand has about 11 million ducks.

    Dipl.-Ing. Wilfried Soddemann – Epidemiologist – Free Science Journalist

  • Robert Schechter

    Kiwa Bio-Tech Joint Venture to Produce Preventative for Avian Flu

    Kiwa Bio-Tech & Hebei Huaxing Pharmaceuticals Co., Ltd form Hebei Kiwa Huaxing Bio-Pharmaceuticals Co., Ltd.

    BEIJING and CLAREMONT, Calif., May 27 /Xinhua-PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Kiwa Bio-Tech Products Group Corporation (OTC Bulletin Board: KWBT – News) announced entry into a contract for a joint venture named Hebei Kiwa Huaxing Bio-Pharmaceuticals Co., Ltd. The joint venture company aims at developing and producing Kiwa’s AF-01 anti-viral preventative for avian flu. Kiwa Bio-Tech and Hebei Huaxing Pharmaceuticals Co., Ltd. (”Huaxing”) held a ceremony recognizing their cooperation on May 22, 2008.

    Under the terms of the contract, Kiwa Bio-Tech owns 70% of the equity of the joint venture and Huaxing owns 30%. For more details about the contract, please refer to 8-K filed with the SEC.

    Mr. Ruijun Li, General Manager of Huaxing, noted, ”The combination of our companies’ marketing network, technology, manufacturing expertise is expected to support the growth of the joint venture.”

    Mr. Wei Li, Chairman and CEO of Kiwa, stated, ”we are pleased that Kiwa will now be able to aggressively pursue commercial development of AF-01 and veterinary pharmaceuticals as the third segment of its business. Now along with continued growth of bio-feed and rapid expansion of bio-fertilizers, Kiwa will be able to manufacture and market AF-01 Anti-viral Aerosol.”


    In May 2006 Kiwa acquired AF-01 Anti-viral Aerosol technology for veterinary medicine applications including the exclusive production right and other related rights to produce an anti-viral aerosol drug for use with animals from Jinan Kelongboao Bio-Tech Co., Ltd. (“JKB”), which is affiliated with Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. The AF-01 aerosol technology is a broad-spectrum anti-viral agent with potent inhibitory and/or viricidal effects on a variety of RNA viruses found in animals and fowls such as bird flu. Kiwa’s hope is to develop a commercialized product in the form of a spray for applying in fowl houses and other animal holding facilities to prevent and cure virus-caused diseases, for example, avian flu and foot-and-mouth disease.


    Huaxing was founded in 1996. Huaxing is supported by animal husbandry and veterinary medicine agencies at both provincial and municipal levels. Huaxing has focused on building strong co-operative relationships with academic institutions such as the Agricultural University of Heibei and Hebei University of Science & Technology. Huaxing has developed: 12-series of animal medicines and disinfectants, over 200 products for flocks and herds, pigs, furry animals and pets. Huaxing holds 61 approval document numbers for veterinary drug products. Huaxing was inspected by the Ministry of Agriculture of the People’s Republic of China (”Ministry of Agriculture”) and was awarded the GMP qualification in January 2005. Huaxing’s distribution channel covers all of China with exception of Taiwan and Tibet. Huaxing has become a modern high-tech veterinary drug enterprise recognized as a strong force in R&D, manufacturing and also distribution.


    The Company develops, manufactures, distributes and markets innovative, cost-effective, and environmentally safe bio-technological products for agricultural and natural resources and environmental conservation. The Company’s products are designed to enhance the quality of human life by increasing the value, quality and productivity of crops and decreasing the negative environmental impact of chemicals and other wastes. For more information about the Company, please review documents filed with the SEC ( or visit the Company’s website at .

    This press release contains information that constitutes forward-looking statements made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Any such forward-looking statements involve risk and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from any future results described by the forward-looking statements. Risk factors that could contribute to such differences include those matters more fully disclosed in the Company’s reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The forward-looking information provided herein represents the Company’s estimates as of the date of the press release, and subsequent events and developments may cause the Company’s estimates to change. The Company specifically disclaims any obligation to update the forward- looking information in the future. Therefore, this forward-looking information should not be relied upon as representing the Company’s estimates of its future financial performance as of any date subsequent to the date of this press release.

    For more information, please contact:

    Robert Schechter
    Equity Communications
    Tel: +1-212-499-6809

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