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Vol. V, No. 03~ EINet News Briefs ~ Feb. 8 , 2002

****A free service of the APEC Emerging Infections Network*****

The EINet listserv was created to foster discussion, networking, and collaboration in the area of emerging infectious diseases (EID's) among academicians, scientists, and policy makers in the Asia–Pacific region. We strongly encourage you to share their perspectives and experiences, as your participation directly contributes to the richness of the "electronic discussions" that occur. To respond to the listserv, use the reply function.

In this edition:

  1. Infectious disease information
  2. Updates
  3. Notices
  4. Journal Articles
  5. How to join the EINet listserve

Below is a semi–monthly summary of Asia–Pacific emerging infectious diseases.


China (Hong Kong)—Avian Influenza
The Chinese government announced on 03 Feb 2002 that health officials will destroy 100,000 chickens at a Hong Kong farm in an effort to prevent a new outbreak of avian flu. The farm was placed under quarantine on 02 Feb 2002 after 120 birds from the farm were found dead at the wholesale poultry market they were taken to for inspection. Blood and offal samples for testing were collected by health officials. The birds reportedly did not look well since 03 Jan 2001 and about 30,000 of them have died as of 04 Feb 2002. According to officials, the sick chickens were limited to just one farm and the incident is an isolated one. In May of 2001 avian flu infected thousands of chickens and the government destroyed 1.37 million birds as a result.
[Promed 02/03/02]


United States (Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska)—Chronic Wasting Disease
Both wild and captive deer and elk testing positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD) have been found in areas of Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska. CWD belongs to a class of diseases, transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), which include Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy and "new variant" Creutzfeldt–Jakob Disease (vCJD). The disease attacks the brains of infected deer and elk, causing the animals to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior, lose bodily functions, and die.

Four fawns in Sioux County, Nebraska ranging in age from six to eight months old tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD), according to reports on 26 Jan 2002. The fawns, which did not show any physical symptoms of the disease, were part of a highly infected captive herd in the northwestern part of Nebraska. Officials are not certain how the fawns in Nebraska became infected, but it is believed that the illness was not passed on in the womb. It is thought that close physical contact between an infected doe and her fawn after birth is the vehicle. CWD first appeared in Nebraska in 1997, when an infected animal was found in a captive herd.

News that the disease has turned up in free–roaming deer in Nebraska prompted a review of Colorado's efforts to contain CWD. Colorado State agricultural officials are considering a quarantine of all wild deer and elk killed in northeastern Colorado in an attempt to bring the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) to an end. Under the proposed quarantine deer and elk killed by hunters, game wardens, or ranchers or deer and elk found dead in endemic areas would not be removed from the area without being checked for CWD. If any test positive, they would be disposed of in high–temperature furnaces.
[Promed 01/31/02, 02/01/02; Associated Press 02/02/02]

United States (Washington)—New Mosquito Species
West Nile Virus (WNV), a virus that is carried by mosquitoes, may cause encephalitis in horses, birds, and humans. The virus first emerged in 1999 in the eastern United States and continues to be detected in regions further westward. In 2001, 47 human cases of WNV encephalitis occurred in eight eastern states resulting in four deaths. West Nile Virus has not yet been reported in Washington, but cases of western equine encephalitis (WEE) and St. Louis encephalitis (SLE) have occurred previously in Washington State in horses and humans. The mosquitoes that carry WEE and SLE are thought to be widespread throughout the state.

A mosquito species previously not found in the western United States, Ochlerotatus japonicus japonicus, was recently discovered in Washington State by the Washington WNV surveillance project. The newly discovered Asian mosquito, formerly known as Aedes japonicus, is difficult to control because it deposits eggs in areas where water may collect and is harder to avoid because it bites during the day. The surveillance program has also identified other potential mosquito carriers of WNV, western equine encephalitis (WEE) and St. Louis encephalitis (SLE) in other areas of Washington. In 2002 officials will concentrate on ascertaining the geographic distribution of this new species of mosquito in Washington State. The collection and analysis of dead birds that are susceptible to WNV has begun, but no birds have tested positive for WNV in Washington. A project report can be found at http://www.doh.wa.gov/Publicat/2002_news/WestNileVirusSurv.pdf.
[Washington State Department of Health News Releases http://www.doh.wa.gov/Publicat/2002_News/02㪡.htm]


Venezuela—Hemorrhagic Fever Outbreak
Eighteen cases of Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever (VHF), or Guanarito hemorrhagic fever, have been confirmed in the Venezuelan states of Portuguesa (15 cases) and Barinas (three cases). VHF, which is caused by an arenavirus called Guanarito virus, is characterized by high fever, headache, sore throat, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, seizures, and bleeding of the nose and gums. The fatality rate ranges between 30 to 40 percent. In 2002 two deaths as a results of infection have occurred in Venezuela, as of 01 Feb. To date, this disease has been limited to Venezuela. Samples from patients with a suspected infection are being analyzed by the National Institute of Hygiene.
[Promed 02/03/02, 02/04/02]


Republic of the Congo and Gabon—Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever
On 31 Jan 2002 the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever in Gabon and the Republic of Congo is under control. On 20 January 2002, the Gabonese government reported ten laboratory–confirmed and 16 epidemiologically linked cases as well as 22 suspected cases under investigation.
As of 20 January 2002, 16 confirmed cases have been reported in villages in the Republic of the Congo. The outbreak has killed 23 people in Gabon and 11 people in the Republic of Congo. Ebola, which spreads through contact with bodily fluids and causes bloody diarrhea as well as vomiting, kills 50 to 90 percent of those infected. Infected individuals usually die within two weeks of massive blood loss.
[World Health Organization Update 15]


Vietnam Plans to Produce AIDS Drugs
According to reports, an anonymous government official with the Anti–AIDS Permanent Office (AAPO) revealed on
04 Feb 2002 that Vietnam proposes to make low–cost copies of internationally patented AIDS drugs available in Vietnam. The AAPO plan will be sent to the prime minister for approval in May and will include the development of traditional herbal medicines.

Currently, Vietnam can only afford a small quantity of AIDS drugs although it is reported that, as of 30 Nov 2001, 42,365 people in Vietnam had tested positive for HIV and 6,343 have developed AIDS. Experts estimate that the actual HIV infection figure for Vietnam could be as much as 130,000 to 135,000 people. Vietnam, which spends approximately US$3.3 million a year to combat HIV/AIDS through education and prevention, is capable of producing AIDS drugs for about $200 to $400 per patient per year. In contrast, the cost charged by international pharmaceutical companies is approximately $8,000 to $12,000 per year. Settlement of drug company intellectual property rights has yet to occur.
[SEA–AIDS 02/04/02]

Launch of "Access to Research" Internet Initiative
The World Health Organization (WHO) has collaborated with publishers to provide free access to biomedical journals through the "Access to Research" initiative. Through this initiative health professionals and policy makers in about 70 developing countries will obtain free access through the Internet to more than 1,000 different biomedical journals produced by the six biggest medical journal publishers. In 2001 WHO and the British Medical Journal brought together developing countries concerned about the cost of access to biomedical journals and the six biggest medical journal publishers in order to achieve a more affordable pricing structure for online access to international biomedical journals. The journal publishers include: Blackwell, Elsevier Science, the Harcourt Worldwide STM Group, Wolters Kluwer International Health & Science, Springer Verlag and John Wiley.

Previously, subscriptions to electronic and print versions of these journals have been priced uniformly for institutions, irrespective of geographical location. The average subscription costs several hundred dollars per year, many costing more than US$1,500 per year. Beginning 31 Jan 2002, the journals were made available for no charge or at significantly reduced charges to institutions in specified developing countries through the Health InterNetwork website at http://www.healthinternetwork.net/.

The Health InterNetwork was launched by Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, in September 2000 and is led by the World Health Organization. It has brought together public and private partners in order to provide equitable access to health information. In the future WHO and the publishers will work with the Open Society Institute of the Soros Foundations Network and other public and private partners to extend the initiative. The "Access to Research" initiative will be monitored for progress and is expected to last for at least three years.

Global Business Council Awards for Business Excellence 2002
In an effort to recognize innovative responses to HIV and AIDS in private sector business companies worldwide the Global Business Council on HIV/AIDS will present its Awards for Business Excellence on 16 May 2002 in New York City, United States. The Global Business Council instituted these awards in 1998 to recognize the valuable contributions made by businesses to the fight against HIV/AIDS and encourage companies to make HIV/AIDS a central business issue.

The Council will receive entries from businesses that have contributed to problem of HIV and AIDS in any of the following ways: raising HIV/AIDS awareness; supporting people with HIV/AIDS at work as well as challenging stigma and discrimination in the wider community; making resources available for HIV/AIDS initiatives; recognizing the importance of children and young people; and involvement with local, national or international efforts to counter HIV/AIDS. Details and entry forms can be found at http://www.businessfightsaids.org/.

APEC Networks of Networks Meeting 2002
The "Network of Networks" meeting organized by Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Emerging Infections Network (EINet) with financial support of the US Government (Departments of State, Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control, and Department of Defense) and technical support from the World Health Organization, (regional offices of WPRO, PAHO, and SEARO) convened in Seattle, Washington 28–30 Jan 2002. Health professionals and network operators from 14 APEC economies and a total of 17 countries met to discuss the possible collaboration of surveillance networks in the Asia Pacific. The meeting consisted of presentations, round tables, and group discussions in an effort to inform meeting participants of existing networks and to formulate a consensus about the desirability and feasibility of a network of networks. Overall, the meeting was successful and will lead to further discussions of the potential relationships between networks. Concrete subsequent steps towards enhanced collaboration in the region were outlined. More information on the meeting will be available on the APEC EINet website at: http://apec.org/infectious by the publication date of the next EINET bulletin.


Genome Sequence of Ralstonia Solanacearum
Bacterial wilt caused by Ralstonia solanacearum is one of the most important bacterial plant diseases worldwide. The complete genome sequence of this soil–borne pathogen that infects plant roots is published in the 31 Jan 2002 issue of Nature. The article describes an analysis of predicted functions encoded in the 5.8 megabase genome of R. solanacearum strain GMI1000, a strain isolated from tomato. In their report, the French scientists emphasize the pathogenicity of the gram–negative bacteria.
[M Salanoubat, S Genin, F Artiguenave, et al. Genome sequence of the plant pathogen Ralstonia solanacearum Nature 415; 497𤯦.]

The APEC EINet listserv was established to enhance collaboration among academicians and public health professionals in the area of emerging infections surveillance and control. Subscribers are encouraged to share their material with colleagues in the Asia–Pacific Rim. To subscribe (or unsubscribe), please contact apec–ein@u.washington.edu. Further information about the APEC Emerging Infections Network is available at http://www.apec.org/infectious.

Feb. 48, 2002

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