EINet Alert ~ Jul 27, 2007

*****A free service of the APEC Emerging Infections Network*****
APEC EINet News Briefs offers the latest news, journal articles, and notifications for emerging infections affecting the APEC member economies. It was created to foster transparency, communication, and collaboration in emerging infectious diseases among health professionals, international business and commerce leaders, and policy makers in the Asia-Pacific region.
In this edition:
- Global: Cumulative number of human cases of avian influenza A/(H5N1)
- India (Manipur): Avian influenza H5N1 outbreak in poultry after 1-year hiatus
- Viet Nam (Dong Thap, Dien Bien, Quang Binh): New outbreak of avian influenza in poultry
- Egypt: New human case of avian influenza H5N1 infection

1. Updates
- Avian/Pandemic influenza updates

2. Articles
- Control of a highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza outbreak in the GB poultry flock
- Detecting emerging human transmissibility of avian influenza virus in human households
- Bird flu: if or when? Planning for the next pandemic
- A sensitive retroviral pseudotype assay for influenza H5N1-neutralizing antibodies
- Preparation of genetically engineered A/H5N1 and A/H7N1 pandemic vaccine viruses by reverse genetics in a mixture of Vero and chicken embryo cells
- Researchers warn H5N1 reassortment can occur beyond winter months
- Medical groups announce agenda for improving disaster response
- People likely to alter lifestyles to cut risk in a pandemic

3. Notifications
- Meeting for Asia and the Pacific for the Progressive Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases
- Public Health Informatics Conference: Creating a Global Partnership in Public Health Informatics

Global: Cumulative number of human cases of avian influenza A/(H5N1)
Economy / Cases (Deaths)

Viet Nam / 3 (3)
Total / 3 (3)

Thailand / 17 (12)
Viet Nam / 29 (20)
Total / 46 (32)

Cambodia / 4 (4)
China / 8 (5)
Indonesia / 17 (11)
Thailand / 5 (2)
Viet Nam / 61 (19)
Total / 95 (41)

Azerbaijan / 8 (5)
Cambodia / 2 (2)
China / 13 (8)
Djibouti / 1 (0)
Egypt / 18 (10)
Indonesia / 56 (46)
Iraq / 3 (2)
Thailand / 3 (3)
Turkey / 12 (4)
Total / 116 (80)

Cambodia/ 1 (1)
China / 3 (2)
Egypt / 20 (5)
Indonesia / 27 (23)
Laos / 2 (2)
Nigeria / 1 (1)
Viet Nam 2 (0)
Total / 56 (34)

Total no. of confirmed human cases of avian influenza A/(H5N1), Dec 2003 to present: 319 (192).
(WHO 7/25/07 http://www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/en/index.html )

Avian influenza age distribution data from WHO/WPRO: http://www.wpro.who.int/sites/csr/data/data_Graphs.htm.
(WHO/WPRO 6/29/07)

WHO's maps showing world's areas reporting confirmed cases of H5N1 avian influenza in humans, poultry and wild birds (last updated 7/26/07): http://gamapserver.who.int/mapLibrary/

WHO’s timeline of important H5N1-related events (last updated 7/3/07): http://www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/ai_timeline/en/index.html.


India (Manipur): Avian influenza H5N1 outbreak in poultry after 1-year hiatus
Animal health officials in India announced that samples from chickens at a poultry farm in the remote northeastern Manipur state were positive for the H5N1 avian flu virus, signaling the country's first outbreak in more than a year. The farm where the chickens with the H5N1 virus were found is near India's border with Myanmar, a country that reported outbreaks earlier this year, Bimal Singh, a senior official in the Manipur chief minister's office, said. Health officials were sent to the area and began slaughtering chickens and other poultry in a 5-km radius around Chenngmeirong village, where dead chickens were found earlier this month. They plan to slaughter some 150 000 poultry in a 5-km radius around the affected farm. 132 chickens died over 6 days in early Jul 2007. More than 20 people who handled infected poultry before the birds died have been quarantined. The handlers and 6 veterinary workers have been given oseltamivir (Tamiflu), but none have shown any respiratory symptoms. India's last confirmed H5N1 outbreak occurred in April 2006 in domestic poultry, according to a report from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The country has reported no human H5N1 cases. Neighboring Bangladesh, Myanmar and Pakistan have also witnessed outbreaks of the H5N1 bird flu in 2007.

Excerpts from OIE report
Date of confirmation of event: 24 Jul 2007
Manifestation of disease: Clinical disease
Causal agent: Highly pathogenic avian influenza virus. Serotype: H5N1
Outbreak 1 Chingmeirong West, Chingmeirong , Imphal East, MANIPUR
Date of start of outbreak: 7 Jul 2007
Species / Susceptible / Cases / Deaths / Destroyed / Slaughtered Birds / 144 / 134 / 133 / 11 / 0
Affected population: backyard poultry

Apparent morbidity rate/Apparent mortality rate/Apparent case fatality rate/Proportion susceptible removed
93.06 percent / 92.36 percent / 99.25 percent / 100.00 percent

Source of infection: Unknown or inconclusive
Stamping out of all domestic poultry is being applied in a 5-km-radius zone around the outbreak followed by compensation of the owners. An intensive surveillance campaign has been launched in a 10-km-radius zone including: closure of poultry markets and prohibition on sale and transportation of poultry products; sealing up of premises after disinfection. Restocking will be applied in accordance with a specific protocol.

Control measures applied: Movement control inside the country; Disinfection of infected premises/establishment(s); Stamping out; Zoning; Vaccination permitted; No treatment of affected animals

hemagglutination (HA) test: Positive
hemagglutination inhibition test (HIT): Positive
Real-time reverse transcriptase/polymerase chain reaction: Positive
polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR): Positive
virus isolation: Positive
(CIDRAP http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/ 7/25/07; Promed www.promedmail.org 7/26/07)


Viet Nam (Dong Thap, Dien Bien, Quang Binh): New outbreak of avian influenza in poultry
Bird flu has hit the southern province of Dong Thap for the second time this year, according to Viet Nam's Animal Health Department. The province, which was declared free of the virus several weeks ago, reported fresh outbreaks in Tan Hoi Trung Commune in Cao Lanh District, said officials 18 Jul 2007. In the Dong Thap outbreak, the H5N1 virus killed 20 chickens of a 400-bird flock. The chickens had reportedly been vaccinated under a national program, but tests conducted at a regional veterinary center found that about 170 chickens from the flock did not have antibodies to the virus, suggesting that they had not been vaccinated. The company that handled the mass vaccination campaign admitted the vaccinations were inadequate and said it would compensate the farmers.

Another commune in the northern province of Dien Bien also reported a new outbreak of bird flu 16 Jul 2007, despite the fact that the area was not considered a high-risk region. Bird flu was responsible for the deaths of 120 ducks in Noong Het Commune, located in Dien Bien District. The remaining ducks were slaughtered and the farm was sprayed to prevent the virus' return, said officials. Animal health officials also recently reported poultry outbreaks in Quang Binh in the central part of the country. The outbreak in Quang Binh involved more than 200 ducks that were found dead on a farm. Local veterinarians culled about 3,000 remaining ducks and disinfected the area.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recommended that poultry farmers comply with department regulations on vaccinating their flocks and closely monitor the illegal trafficking of waterfowl. The organisation commended the Government for its recent orders to close egg hatcheries and slaughterhouses that fail to meet food safety and sanitation standards.
(Promed www.promedmail.org 7/20/07; CIDRAP http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/ 7/25/07)


Egypt: New human case of avian influenza H5N1 infection
As of 25 Jul 2007, the Ministry of Health and Population of Egypt has announced a new human case of avian influenza A(H5N1) virus infection. The case is a 25-year-old female from Damietta Governorate in northern Egypt. Her infection has been confirmed by the Egyptian Central Public Health Laboratory and by the WHO H5 Reference Laboratory, US Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3 (NAMRU-3). She developed symptoms (fever) 20 Jul 2007 and was hospitalized the following day. She is receiving treatment (oseltamivir) and is in a stable condition. Investigations into the source of her infection indicate exposure to sick and dead poultry in the week prior to onset of symptoms. Of the 38 cases confirmed to date in Egypt, 15 have been fatal. The most recent previous case in Egypt was reported on 25 Jun 2007. Egyptian officials had projected that H5N1 activity would wane during the hot summer months, as it did during 2006 when there were no human cases between May and October. However, the country continues to report sporadic cases
(Promed www.promedmail.org 7/25/07; CIDRAP http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/ 7/23/07)


1. Updates
Avian/Pandemic influenza updates
- UN: http://influenza.un.org/. UN response to avian influenza and the pandemic threat. Also, http://www.irinnews.org/Birdflu.asp provides information on avian influenza.
- WHO: http://www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/en/index.html.
- UN FAO: http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/subjects/en/health/diseases-cards/special_avian.html. Read about the International Technical Meeting on Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza and Human H5N1 Infection.
- OIE: http://www.oie.int/eng/en_index.htm.
- US CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/index.htm. News on federal updates.
- The US government’s web site for pandemic/avian flu: http://www.pandemicflu.gov/.
- Health Canada: information on pandemic influenza: http://www.influenza.gc.ca/index_e.html.
- CIDRAP: http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/.
- PAHO: http://www.paho.org/English/AD/DPC/CD/influenza.htm.
- US Geological Survey, National Wildlife Health Center Avian Influenza Information: http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/disease_information/avian_influenza/index.jsp. Updated 27 Jul 2007.


2. Articles
Control of a highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza outbreak in the GB poultry flock
James Truscott et al. Proc R Soc B, published online Jul 20, 2007. 10.1098/rspb.2007.0542. http://www.journals.royalsoc.ac.uk/content/5jr2p6341418376m
Abstract: The identification of H5N1 in domestic poultry in Europe has increased the risk of infection reaching most industrialized poultry populations. Here, using detailed data on the poultry population in Great Britain (GB), we show that currently planned interventions based on movement restrictions can be expected to control the majority of outbreaks. The probability that controls fail to keep an outbreak small only rises to significant levels if most transmission occurs via mechanisms which are both untraceable and largely independent of the local density of premises. We show that a predictor of the need to intensify control efforts in GB is whether an outbreak exceeds 20 infected premises. In such a scenario neither localized reactive vaccination nor localized culling are likely to have a substantial impact. The most effective of these contingent interventions are large radius (10km) localized culling and national vaccination. However, the modest impact of these approaches must be balanced against their substantial inconvenience and cost.


Detecting emerging human transmissibility of avian influenza virus in human households
Michiel van Boven et al. PLoS Computational Biology, e145.eor doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.0030145.eor.
Abstract: Accumulating infections of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza in humans underline the need to track the ability of these viruses to spread among humans. A human-transmissible avian influenza virus is expected to cause clusters of infections in humans living in close contact groups. Therefore, epidemiological analysis of infection clusters in human households is of key importance. Infection clusters may arise from (i) transmission events from humans who were infected by animals (primary human-to-human transmission), or (ii) transmission events from humans who were themselves infected by humans (secondary human-to-human transmission). Here we propose a method of analysing household infection data to detect changes in the transmissibility of avian influenza viruses in humans at an early stage. The method is applied to an outbreak of H7N7 avian influenza virus in the Netherlands that was the cause of more than 30 human-to-human transmission events. The analyses indicate that secondary human-to-human transmission is plausible for the Dutch household infection data. Based on the estimates of the within-household transmission parameters we evaluate the effectiveness of targeted antiviral prophylaxis of affected households, and conclude that it is unlikely that all household infections can be prevented with current antiviral drugs. We discuss the applicability our method for the detection of emerging human-to-human transmission of avian influenza viruses in particular, and for the analysis of within-household infection data in general.


Bird flu: if or when? Planning for the next pandemic
Chloe Sellwood et al. Postgraduate Medical Journal 2007;83:445-450; doi:10.1136/pgmj.2007.059253. http://pmj.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/83/981/445
Abstract: Avian influenza or "bird flu" is causing increasing concern across the world as experts prepare for the possible occurrence of the next human influenza pandemic. Only influenza A has ever been shown to have the capacity to cause pandemics. Currently A/H5N1, a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus, is of particular concern. Outbreaks of this disease in birds, especially domestic poultry, have been detected across Southeast Asia at regular intervals since 2003, and have now affected parts of Africa and Europe. Many unaffected countries across the world are preparing for the possible arrival of HPAI A/H5N1 in wild birds and poultry within their territories. All such countries need to prepare for the rare possibility of a small number of human cases of HPAI A/H5N1, imported through foreign travel. Although it is by no means certain that HPAI A/H5N1 will be the source of the next pandemic, many countries are also preparing for the inevitable occurrence of human pandemic influenza.


A sensitive retroviral pseudotype assay for influenza H5N1-neutralizing antibodies
Nigel J. Temperton et al. Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses (OnlineEarly Articles). doi:10.1111/j.1750-2659.2007.00016.x
Abstract: Background The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended the development of simple, safe, sensitive and specific neutralization assays for avian influenza antibodies. We have used retroviral pseudotypes bearing influenza H5 hemagglutinin (HA) as safe, surrogate viruses for influenza neutralization assays which can be carried out at Biosafety Level 2. Results Using our assay, sera from patients who had recovered from infection with influenza H5N1, and sera from animals experimentally immunized or infected with H5 tested positive for the presence of neutralizing antibodies to H5N1. Pseudotype neutralizing antibody titers were compared with titers obtained by hemagglutinin inhibition (HI) assays and microneutralization (MN) assays using live virus, and showed a high degree of correlation, sensitivity and specificity. Conclusions The pseudotype neutralization assay is as sensitive as horse erythrocyte HI and MN for the detection of antibodies to H5N1. It is safer, and can be applied in a high-throughput format for human and animal surveillance and for the evaluation of vaccines.


Preparation of genetically engineered A/H5N1 and A/H7N1 pandemic vaccine viruses by reverse genetics in a mixture of Vero and chicken embryo cells
Isabelle Legastelois et al. Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses (OnlineEarly Articles). http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1750-2659.2007.00015.x
Abstract: Background In case of influenza pandemic, a robust, easy and clean technique to prepare reassortants would be necessary. Objectives Using reverse genetics, we prepared two vaccine reassortants (A/H5N1 × PR8 and A/H7N1 × PR8) exhibiting the envelope glycoproteins from non-pathogenic avian viruses, A/Turkey/Wisconsin/68 (A/H5N9) and A/Rhea/New Caledonia/39482/93 (A/H7N1) and the internal proteins of the attenuated human virus A/Puerto Rico/8/34 (H1N1). Methods The transfection was accomplished using a mixture of Vero and chicken embryo cells both of which are currently being used for vaccine manufacturing. Results This process was reproducible, resulting in consistent recovery of influenza viruses in 6 days. Because it is mainly the A/H5N1 strain that has recently crossed the human barrier, it is the A/PR8 × A/H5N1 reassortant (RG5) that was further amplified, either in embryonated hen eggs or Vero cells, to produce vaccine pre-master seed stocks that met quality control specifications. Safety testing in chickens and ferrets was performed to assess the non-virulence of the reassortant, and finally analysis using chicken and ferret sera immunized with the RG5 virus showed that the vaccine candidate elicited an antibody response cross-reactive with the Hong Kong 1997 and 2003 H5N1 strains but not the Vietnam/2004 viruses. Conclusions The seeds obtained could be used as part of a pandemic vaccine strain ‘library’ available in case of propagation in humans of a new highly pathogenic avian strain.


Researchers warn H5N1 reassortment can occur beyond winter months
Health experts have been working under a general assumption that a reassortment between human and avian influenza viruses—a scenario that could spark a pandemic—might only occur during a short winter interval, but researchers who recently examined virus circulation patterns warn that time frames for coinfection are wider and sometimes unpredictable. Little is known about the seasonality of influenza A infections in tropical and subtropical areas in Asia, where the H5N1 virus is more common. Andrew W. Park, from the Institute of Research for Development in France, and Kathryn Glass, from the Australian National University, examined the seasonality of the H5N1 virus using data from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and WHO from 2003 onwards as well as articles from the literature on animal outbreaks and human cases in Hong Kong between 1997 and 2003. They investigated the seasonality of the influenza A virus by searching for published reports and also looked for changes in patterns between host range and seasonality by conducting a literature search that covered the period from 1996 to 2006. They found that human H5N1 cases generally coincide with poultry infections. A review of H5N1 isolates taken from aquatic and terrestrial poultry in mainland China from Jul 2000 to Jan 2004 showed that a greater percentage of birds were positive for the virus during winter months. Similarly, the researchers found that the presence of H5N1 in isolates from birds in live poultry markets in China showed a winter pattern, but a number of outbreaks extended into summer.

Surveillance data from the Pacific basin from 1954 to 1988 show a marked variation in human influenza A activity. The authors found that while consistent seasonality of viral activity between Dec and Mar occurs in Japan, patterns were not uniform across the rest of the region. "Periods of moderate to high activity typically last longer in tropical and subtropical regions than in temperate regions, and they occur more frequently than once a year," they write. "It is not prudent to assume there is a short period of risk of reassortment."

The existence of new host populations in which the H5N1 virus is endemic raises the pandemic flu risk to humans, especially when there is close contact between people and the infected animals, the researchers point out. They say the greatest concerns are (1) the frequency with which the virus is found in domestic ducks, because the ducks have close contact with people, and (2) isolation of the virus from pigs in China and Indonesia, because receptors in their respiratory tracts make coinfection with human and avian strains and thus generation of reassortant strains possible. Though a review of the H5N1 viral circulation data suggest some seasonal factors, outbreak patterns also appear to be affected by interventions such as culling, the authors report. Migration and movement of birds are also thought to play a role. Poultry culls have successfully contained the spread of the disease, but if the virus is endemic in some species, culling might not be practical and officials may need to focus on vaccination and intensive surveillance to contain the virus, they say. Awareness of the seasonal risk of both human disease and viral reassortment can help officials design control measures to help prevent an emerging pandemic strain, the authors conclude.

Park AW, Glass K. Dynamic patterns of avian and human influenza in east and southeast Asia. Lancet Infect Dis 2007 Aug;7(8):543-8
(CIDRAP http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/ 7/25/07)


Medical groups announce agenda for improving disaster response
18 medical groups, led by the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Public Health Association (APHA), released a report that contains 53 recommendations for improving the nation's response to mass casualty events such as terrorist attacks, infectious disease outbreaks, and natural disasters. The recommendations highlight 4 main themes: funding, response system integration, health professional training and proficiency, and adequate legal protection for public health and healthcare responders.

Steady, dedicated funding is needed to ensure the emergency and critical infrastructure and capacity to respond to disasters, because the health system is already pressed beyond capacity, the groups wrote. Governments and health systems must develop processes that enable local health systems to return to readiness as soon as possible after a disaster, and funding for economic recovery from disasters must make reestablishing public health and healthcare systems a priority. The groups requested that the Institute of Medicine (IOM) be funded to perform a comprehensive study of healthcare surge capacity and develop recommendations to help health systems improve disaster response and recovery.

Governments, health systems, and professional organizations should continue progress toward nationwide integration of emergency and trauma care services with emergency and disaster preparedness and healthcare systems. The IOM has already recommended that a lead agency should be established to oversee emergency and trauma care, and the federal government has issued a mandate that fosters interagency collaboration among emergency and trauma care services. All aspects of governmental and health system emergency and disaster preparedness efforts should directly involve public health and healthcare professionals, the report said. Integration goals also require that health disaster communication and information networks be technologically interoperable with all government levels and health systems, the report said.

Educational institutions can help ensure that public health and healthcare professionals receive adequately training in incorporating competency-based disaster preparedness and response coursework into undergraduate, graduate, postgraduate, and continuing educational programs. Governments, health systems, and professional groups must develop and distribute competencies for managing adult and pediatric patients in emergency and catastrophic settings. Educational accreditation agencies should then incorporate the competencies into educational materials and formal continuing education programs.

National and state legislation is needed to create adequate legal protection so that health and mental health practitioners can provide care in emergency and disaster settings outside of the location where they are licensed or accredited, they state. Policies must also address medical liability, standards and altered standards of care, and license reciprocity to make it easier for volunteer health professionals to assist with disaster response, the report said.

AMA-APHA report on improving health system preparedness: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/415/final_summit_report.pdf
(CIDRAP http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/ 7/24/07)


People likely to alter lifestyles to cut risk in a pandemic
A recently published survey of Europeans and Asians showed that, when faced with an influenza pandemic, most would avoid mass transit and limit shopping to essentials, and many would avoid other public places, including restaurants, theaters, and the workplace. The study, published online Jul 20 in Emerging Infectious Diseases, found that "avoidance of public transportation was consistently reported across the region as the most likely precautionary behavior," with about 75% of respondents choosing that option. Reactions to other risk-avoidance measures varied by region. For example, 79% of Europeans would likely avoid places of entertainment such as cinemas, while only 33% of Asians said they would. And 52% of Asians said they would stay home from work, compared with 35% of Europeans. The researchers also discovered that responses varied little for a hypothetically severe pandemic versus a milder one.

In late 2005, European researchers did telephone surveys in 5 European countries (Denmark, Spain, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Poland) and 3 Asian regions (Singapore, Hong Kong, and Guangdong, China). They chose the Asian locales specifically because they had experienced SARS in 2003, which may have influenced citizens' perception of what might be high-risk activities during a pandemic. A total of 3,436 people answered the survey, which represented 42% of those called (ranging from 21% in Great Britain to 81% in Poland).

In 6 of the 8 countries, public transportation was seen as the riskiest place in a pandemic, followed by places of entertainment. In China and Singapore, those selections were reversed. As far as precautionary behaviors, 79% of Europeans and 74% of Asians would avoid public transportation; the same percentage of Europeans but only 33% of Asians would avoid public entertainment settings. Other measures ranked lower: limiting shopping (69% in Europe, 59% in Asia), staying home from work (35% and 52%), keeping children from school (59% and 39%), limiting contact with family and friends (45% and 52%), avoiding physicians (22% and 34%), and staying indoors (24% and 35%). Asians were far less prone than Europeans to avoid entertainment venues, in spite of rating such places as riskier during a pandemic than did their European counterparts (52% to 43%). Younger respondents were less likely to avoid places of entertainment and less likely to show up for work. Compared with those not employed full time (eg, retirees, homemakers, and students), fewer employed respondents reported being likely to avoid places of mass transit, entertainment, and work, or to stay at home. Respondents with higher education levels were more likely than their less educated counterparts to avoid entertainment and shopping establishments.

This survey of the general public found about the same percentage tending toward not reporting to work in a pandemic—about half—as a study among US healthcare workers published last year in BMC Public Health. The higher percentage of Asians expressing reluctance to visit a physician during a pandemic "may have been related to their increased awareness of SARS, which was often acquired in a healthcare setting," the authors write. Respondents' perception of risk was not associated with precautionary actions, except in the case of avoiding public transportation. They write, "because of the hypothetical nature of the questionnaire, concluding that persons actually would respond in the way that they have indicated here is not possible." They point out, though, that their findings coincide with unpublished data from a study conducted among the Chinese community in the Netherlands just after the SARS epidemic. In that study, many had avoided travel to SARS-affected areas and avoided large gatherings.

"Knowledge of what persons are likely to do," the authors say, "can be used to estimate the health and economic effects of various pandemic influenza scenarios. We describe what proportion will take precautionary actions as well as the socioeconomic background of these persons, which would be useful for improving communication efforts by public health official and clinicians in response to an outbreak." The authors conclude: ". . .A new influenza pandemic would most likely result in persons' limiting their use of public transportation, entertainment, and shopping for nonessentials."

Sadique MZ, Edmunds WJ, Smith RD, et al. Precautionary behavior in response to perceived threat of pandemic influenza. Emerg Infect Dis 2007 Sep (published online Jul 20)
(CIDRAP http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/ 7/26/07)


3. Notifications
Meeting for Asia and the Pacific for the Progressive Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases
The Second Regional Steering Committee Meeting for Asia and the Pacific of the Global Framework for the Progressive Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases (GF-TADS), a joint FAO/OIE initiative, was held in Bangkok, Thailand 18 and 19 Jul 2007. The meeting was opened by Professor Dr Thira Sutabutra, Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives of Thailand and attended by various personalities including the OIE Director General, Dr Bernard Vallat and the Chief Veterinary Officer of the FAO, Dr Joseph Domenech. The Honourable Minister emphasised the economic importance of controlling animal diseases particularly foot and mouth disease and highly pathogenic avian influenza and commended the roles played by the OIE and FAO. Dr Vallat underlined the role played by the OIE in the international control of animal diseases pointing out that the combined strengths of the OIE, FAO and Sub-Regional Organisations such as ASEAN, SAARC and SPC under the GF-TADs, provided a unique mechanism to control transboundary animal diseases in the world including the Asian region. He warned that “although certain diseases are apparently on the decline, others are emerging and re-emerging in various parts of the world”. He stated that highly pathogenic avian influenza is reoccurring in countries where it was thought to have been eradicated and other diseases are making their appearance where they were least expected.

Dr Domenech explained the need to establish regional lead teams in diagnosis and epidemiology. He stressed that "these regional networks will push and pull national laboratories and epidemiological units and provide a basis for training and improvement of capacity building”. He also insisted on the need to continue the fight against avian influenza and further the investments in endemic countries such as Indonesia . He provided assurances that FAO will pursue its efforts to prevent and control avian influenza and other transboundary animal diseases in the region. Dr Vallat informed that the negotiations between the OIE and the Government of Thailand for the establishment of an OIE Sub-Regional Representation in Bangkok had reached an advanced stage and that the Sub-Representation would soon be functional. He also announced the full participation of the People's Republic of China and Chinese Taipei in the activities of the OIE.
(OIE http://www.oie.int/eng/press/en_070719.htm )


Public Health Informatics Conference: Creating a Global Partnership in Public Health Informatics
The new discipline of Public Health Informatics (PHI) is extending the reach of public health practice, research, and learning through improvements in information management and utilization of e-technologies. PHI focuses the knowledge of a broad array of disciplines, from epidemiologists and public health researchers and practitioners to software engineers and information scientists on critical challenges in population health. The results of these collaborations include improved information systems, resources and infrastructure to support population health interventions. The goal of the Global Public Health Informatics Partnership is to define and develop a framework for addressing strategic information issues and requirements. This conference will highlight the opportunities and challenges in developing health information standards for data exchange, the systems and the critical knowledge management tools and resources to drive successful global population health interventions.

Sessions (and invited papers) will be presented in the following areas, with a particular focus on under-resourced countries and environments: 1) Global syndromic surveillance and epidemiology issues including ehealth records (open medical records system) and technology for data gathering and sharing in inner-city, rural and remote settings 2) Knowledge management issues and challenges for health practitioners and researchers including semantic interoperability, ontologies for knowledge modeling and mapping; sociocultural aspects of knowledge management and information needs assessment 3) Multi-national drug and vaccine effectiveness and safety studies and roll-out of programs, including standards for data sharing; post-approval surveillance issues and strategies.

Specific objectives include: 1) Identification of critical opportunities and challenges in global public health informatics. Examples of challenges likely to be identified include: standards for data exchange; cultural, social and political impediments to data sharing; metrics for evaluation of public health information systems; semantic interoperability; and training public health informatics researchers and practitioners. 2) Develop a Framework for Action in public health informatics. The Framework for Action would grow out of the identified opportunities and challenges and would include examples of successful projects as well as relevant research findings 3) Identify 2-3 multi-national pilot projects to address key challenges and potential funding sources for those projects. 4) Develop agenda and identify Steering Committee for the PHI2008 meeting.

Keynote speakers will include international leaders in public health informatics, global public health metrics and health information systems. Invitees will include international global health experts with an interest in improving health outcomes through public health informatics. There is some travel support available, but interested individuals should have a background and ongoing responsibilities in the area of informatics to benefit and contribute to this conference. For more information email: phi2007@u.washington.edu For conference details: https://phi2007.cphi.washington.edu/.