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Q & A:A variation in the Australian strain and concern about h5n1 mixing

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  • Q & A:A variation in the Australian strain and concern about h5n1 mixing

    H1N1 In Birds A Cause For Concern?

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    Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 September 2009 08:39 Written by Borneo Bulletin Wednesday, 02 September 2009 08:31
    Bandar Seri Begawan - The questions below were posed by the general public, while the esponse was provided by designated clinicians (doctors) involved the management of the H1N1 outbreak. These clinicians are part f the RIPAS H1N1 Committee, Ministry of Health.


    Q: There has been report of the pandemic Influenza A (H1N1) virus affecting turkey in Chile recently. What does this mean and should we be concerned?

    A: As of August 21, there had been reports of two turkey farms in Chile affected by the current pandemic Influenza A (H1N1) virus. The spread of this novel swine virus to turkeys is not unexpected.

    Swine to turkey infections involving human serotypes influenza virus have been noted previously. However, this is the first report of the pandemic strain H1N1 in birds. This raises concerns of the silent spread and further evolution of the H1N1 virus in association with the expanding host range.

    Fortunately, the outbreak in birds has so far been limited to these reports. Initial report on analyses of the H1N1 virus affecting the turkey indicated those sequences were closely related to the swine in Alberta.

    The main concern with pandemic H1N1 virus affecting the bird population is the possibility of re-assortment that may occur if there is mixing of the pandemic H1N1 with the more deadly H5N1 avian Influenza A virus. Many international organisations including the WHO will be closely monitoring the situation.

    Q2: My daughter is going to the United Kingdom soon to start her further studies. As the vaccine for the pandemic H1N1 is still not available, should she get the usual seasonal flu vaccine?

    A: During this time of year, many people will travel overseas (including to the UK) either to continue or start their further studies. Of course with the current H1N1 pandemic, the outbreak in the United Kingdom and the coming winter season in the northern hemisphere, many will be worried.

    The vaccine is expected to be available in the United Kingdom by September. However, we are currently not sure what is the policy concerning vaccinations for foreigners.

    It was initially believed that there may be some cross protection provided by the seasonal flu vaccinations. However, studies to date have shown that seasonal flu vaccinations do not provide any protection to the current pandemic H1N1 virus.

    Despite this, it would still be advisable to get the seasonal flu vaccine before travelling. Even in the current outbreak, normal seasonal flu virus will still be circulating although only accounting for a very small number of those affected currently.

    Apart from vaccination, there are many ways your daughter can protect herself. These measures can be divided into; how to prevent from catching the H1N1 virus and how to prevent complications from happening if one catches the H1N1 virus.

    It is particularly important to constantly maintain personnel and environmental hygiene (ie regular hand washing and avoid touching contaminated surfaces), wearing a mask if required and avoidance of crowded areas if possible.

    You should also try to maintain a healthy lifestyle (healthy balanced diet, adequate rest/sleep, regular exercise, keeping warm during winter months, avoid or give up smoking etc). You should consult your doctor if you are feeling unwell and take your medications if given by your doctor. If, however, one has already caught the infection, it is important to follow your doctor's advice, rest and be responsible.

    Q3: Currently, children under the age of five and adults over the age of 65 have been labeled as being at high risk for complications of H1N1. However, after following the various reports in the newspaper and news, most of the people who have died because of H1N1 actually fall between these two ages. How can we explain this?

    A: It is true that the age of those affected including those who have died as a result of the pandemic influenza A H1N1 are different to those reported to be at risk. Most of those affected and have died were below 65 years of age.

    The recommendations are based on what is known to happen during the yearly seasonal influenza outbreak. The current pandemic H1N1 virus, although it shares the same nomenclature to the virus that is known to cause seasonal influenza, is a novel virus.

    The current pandemic H1N1 virus has genetic materials of swine, avian and human H1N1. Therefore, there are some differences between the viruses and this may be one of the reasons why there are differences in the outcomes and severity of those affected.

    As we continue to learn more about the pandemic and the responsible virus, the recommendations on those at risk may change. However, when this will happen remains unknown.

    Q4: Currently Malaysia is experiencing an increase in both the total number of confirmed H1N1 cases and fatalities. As the populations make up and climate is almost similar to Brunei, why are there differences?

    A: Despite two countries having the same climate and population demographic, it is always possible that the course of the current pandemic H1N1 outbreaks or any outbreaks of other infectious diseases will be different. As we all know, Brunei experienced the outbreak earlier and had seen a steady increase before the number started to settle down.

    Compared to Brunei, there are a few countries in the Southeast Asia region (like Malaysia and Thailand) that have experienced and started to report an increasing number of cases at later times with varying severities. Generally, the behavior of any outbreak of any infectious diseases is dependent on many factors. These include population density, population movement; mass public transport system, public awareness and also the preparedness of the health care system and also other relevant agencies.

    It is also possible that there is variation in the H1N1 virus strain. Virus strain from Australia had been reported to be slightly different than those tested from the West.

    Q5: Walking around town and Ramadhan food stalls, I have come to notice that fewer people are now using face masks. Does this mean that the H1N1 situation is settling in Brunei?

    A: The current situation in Brunei does look as though the peak of the current outbreak (ie first wave) has passed. Aside from this, it is also expected that as the outbreak stretches on, people will start to get used to the situation and eventually, life carries on as usual.

    However, we must remember that we are still detecting positive cases as indicated by the daily report on the second page of the Borneo Bulletin.

    Therefore, we must all continue to be vigilant, maintain personnel and environmental hygiene and act responsibly. We must remember that the second wave is probably inevitable and it is just a question of when it will occur.
    -- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin
    "The only security we have is our ability to adapt."

  • #2
    Re: Q & A:A variation in the Australian strain and concern about h5n1 mixing

    reported to whom ? GISAID ?
    I'm interested in expert panflu damage estimates
    my current links: http://bit.ly/hFI7H ILI-charts: http://bit.ly/CcRgT

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