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WHO Group Hopes To Have Virus-Sharing Draft Agreement Finalized By Friday

Countries are narrowing in on a “deal to speed up their response to the next flu pandemic by sharing virus samples in return for access to affordable vaccines,” co-chairs of a WHO working group told reporters on Tuesday, Reuters reports. The group, which is meeting this week and just last week was in meetings with drug manufacturers and WHO member states about the plans, says it hopes to have a draft agreement finalized by Friday to be voted on during next month’s World Health Assembly, according to the news service (Nebehay, 4/12).

WHO Director-General Responds To Draft Report On Agency’s Handling Of H1N1 Pandemic

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan on Monday responded to the first results of a probe into the agency’s response to the H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic, Agence France-Presse reports. While calling attention to where the external panel committee commended the agency’s actions, Chan also addressed the criticisms and recommendations issued in the draft report (3/28). Her comments came as the review committee held its “fourth and final public session” in Geneva to receive “feedback from countries and organizations on its preliminary report,” CIDRAP News reports (Schnirring, 3/28).

EU Parliament Approves Resolution Calling For Countries To Revise Pandemic Response

On the heels of the release of a draft report by an independent panel of experts examining the WHO’s response to H1N1 (swine flu), BMJ News reports on a recently approved resolution and accompanying report released by the European Union parliament that calls on EU countries to revise their flu prevention plans “to make them more effective, coherent, and flexible” and for the WHO to revise its definition of pandemic to take into account not only geographical spread of disease but also severity.

External Panel Issues Draft Report Saying WHO Response To H1N1 Lacked Cohesion, Clarity

An independent panel of experts commissioned by the WHO to probe its response to the H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic on Thursday released a draft report (.pdf) stating that while the organization performed well in many ways, it made “crucial mistakes” and “warned tens of millions could die if there is a severe flu outbreak in the future,” the Associated Press reports (3/10).

Rising Number Of Livestock Diseases Threatens Public Health, Food Security In Developing Countries, Report Says

“A growing number of livestock, such as cows and pigs, are fuelling new animal epidemics worldwide and posing more severe problems in developing countries as it threatens their food security, according to a report [.pdf] released on Friday” during an international conference in New Delhi, India, on Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition & Health, Reuters reports (Lyn, 2/11).

Also In Global Health News: Zimbabwe’s HIV Prevalence Declines; Sri Lanka Flooding; Online Tool To Track Outbreaks; U.S. Recognition Of S. Sudan; TB In Swaziland

Study Examines Reasons For Zimbabwe’s HIV Prevalence Decline Reuters reports that an article published in PLoS Medicine “said Zimbabwe’s [HIV] epidemic was one of the biggest in the world until the [prevalence of people] infected with HIV almost halved, from 29 percent of the population in 1997 to 16 percent in 2007.”…

BMJ News Examines Ongoing Investigation Of WHO’s Handling Of H1N1

BMJ News reports on the ongoing external investigation of the WHO’s handling of the 2009 H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic, following recent statements to the WHO’s executive board meeting by review committee chairman, Harvey Fineberg. Despite initial expectations that the external review committee would produce a draft of its findings in January, Fineberg “said the panel was planning a meeting on 28-30 March, and it would distribute in advance to all WHO member nations copies of a draft summary of its principal findings, conclusions, and recommendations, for comments and reactions, before it finalises the report.”

Scientists Create GM Chicken That Does Not Spread Bird Flu To Other Chickens

“Scientists have developed genetically modified [GM] chickens that don’t transmit bird flu [H5N1] to other chickens,” HealthDay News/Bloomberg Businessweek reports. “This achievement could stop bird flu outbreaks from spreading within poultry flocks and possibly reduce the risk of bird flu epidemics that could lead to flu virus epidemics in humans, according to the researchers at the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh in the United Kingdom,” whose findings appear in the Jan. 14 issue of the journal Science, according to the news service (Preidt, 1/13).