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FAO Warns Mutant Form Of H5N1 Bird Flu Poses Threat To Asia

“The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Monday warned about a new mutant strain of the deadly bird flu H5N1 virus in China and Vietnam, saying there could be a ‘major resurgence’ of the disease,” Agence France-Presse reports. In a statement, FAO “said it was concerned about ‘the appearance in China and Vietnam of a variant virus able to sidestep the defenses provided by existing vaccines,’ adding that the new strain was known as H5N1 – 2.3.2.1,” the news agency notes. The organization said the virus, which can be spread by wild bird migration, “poses a direct threat to Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia as well as endangering the Korean peninsula and Japan” (8/29).

Genetic Factor Found In Link Between H1N1 Flu Vaccine And Children's Narcolepsy, Finland Institute Says

“Finland’s national health institute said on Thursday its latest research on previously found links between children’s narcolepsy and GlaxoSmithKline’s [GSK] Pandemrix vaccine against [H1N1] swine flu also involved a genetic risk factor,” Reuters reports. In Finland, where 98 narcolepsy cases have been reported following the flu vaccinations, researchers found vaccinated children ages four to 19 “had a 12.7 times higher risk of experiencing narcolepsy than those who were not,” the news agency notes (9/1).

WHO Says World Is Better Prepared For Influenza Pandemic

“More than 100 public health experts have wrapped up a three-day meeting in Geneva to review a Global Action Plan for Influenza Vaccines that was developed in 2006, and to develop a strategic plan of action for the next five years,” VOA News reports, noting that the WHO “says the world is better prepared for the next influenza pandemic than it was in the past” (Schlein, 7/14).

U.S. Science Advisory Board Asks Science, Nature To Omit Data From Bird Flu Studies Amid Security Concerns

The U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity on “Tuesday asked two scientific journals to leave out data from research studies on a lab-made version of bird flu that could spread more easily to humans, fearing it could be used as a potential weapon,” Reuters reports (Steenhuysen, 12/20). The board “recommended that the journals Science and Nature publish only the general discoveries, not the full blueprint for these man-made strains,” the Associated Press notes (Neergaard, 12/20). “Editors at the journals … say they will not agree to the redactions until they are assured the data will be accessible to researchers” according to BBC News (12/20).

NPR Blog Examines Challenges In Delivering Cleaner Cookstoves, Fuel To Millions Who Need Them

NPR’s food blog “The Salt” reports on the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves’ efforts to “bring in celebrities, chefs and politicians to help create awareness for the need for cleaner fuels and better cookstoves,” the smoke and gases from which contribute to nearly two million deaths a year — more than malaria — according to a study released by the WHO last week. “The technology is easy, but getting the stoves and cleaner fuels to impoverished millions is not,” the blog writes.

GAO Reports On Government Response To H1N1 Pandemic

GAO on Monday published two reports on the government’s response to the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. The first report examines lessons learned from the government’s response that can be incorporated into future planning (6/27). The second report examines how production delays for the H1N1 vaccine “heightened interest in alternative technologies…

WHO Director-General Outlines Vision For Reform In World Health Assembly Opening Address

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan on Monday laid out her vision for reforming the international health agency in the opening address of the World Health Assembly in Geneva, saying she sees “a WHO that gives a bigger voice to the many partners working on health, but encourages them to speak with a coherent voice that responds, first and foremost, to the needs and priorities as defined by recipient countries,” Intellectual Property Watch reports.

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