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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).

'No Evidence' Mutant Bird Flu Virus Poses Increased Risk To Humans, WHO And FAO Say

After the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) “last week voiced concern about the appearance in Vietnam and China of” a mutant strain of the H5N1 avian flu virus, the WHO and FAO on Monday “said in a joint statement issued in response to questions from Agence France-Presse” that “[t]here is no evidence to suggest yet that this new virus strain will have any increased risk to human health,” the news agency reports. “‘Nevertheless, poultry producers and the general public should always take simple precautions to reduce exposure to the virus from infected poultry,’ it said,” the news agency writes, noting the “H5N1 virus typically spreads from birds to humans via direct contact” (9/5).

Indian Government Responds To New Avian Flu Outbreak

“Authorities in eastern India will start culling chickens and destroying eggs to contain a new outbreak of H5 bird flu, the government said in a statement on Tuesday, as a mutant strain of the virus is spreading elsewhere in Asia,” Reuters reports (Williams, 9/20). “A mutant strain of avian influenza — for which there is no vaccine — appeared recently in China and Vietnam. But Indian authorities did not specify which strain of the H5N1 virus had been detected in the West Bengal region, which has been a hot spot for avian flu in the past,” the Los Angeles Times’ “Booster Shots” blog reports. The blog provides a link to track the movement of bird flu on the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s avian influenza pages and a link for additional information on the virus from the CDC (9/20).

GAVI To Purchase $1 Billion In Childhood Vaccines For Distribution In 37 Of The Poorest Nations

The Geneva-based GAVI Alliance, a fund backed by governments, the World Bank, the WHO and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said in an e-mailed statement on Tuesday that it will purchase more than $1 billion in vaccines against rotavirus, pneumococcal and other diseases through deals made with GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer Inc. and Merck & Co. to immunize children in 37 of the poorest nations, Bloomberg reports. “Wealthy nations donated $4.3 billion to purchase the vaccines as part of a plan to immunize 250 million children by 2015,” the news service notes (Bennett, 9/27).

Saudi Health Ministry Says No MERS Cases Detected So Far Among Hajj Pilgrims

“Saudi Arabia has so far recorded no cases of the deadly MERS coronavirus among pilgrims in the holy city of Mecca for the annual hajj season, the Ministry of Health said on Saturday,” Reuters reports. “The death toll from the respiratory virus in the kingdom, where the strain emerged last…

China Confirms First H7N9 Case Since August

“China has confirmed a new case of the H7N9 bird flu, state media said, the country’s first report since August of human infection with a virus that has so far afflicted 135 people,” Reuters reports. “China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission said 45 people had died from the virus,…

Scientific American Examines Impact Of Government Shutdown On Health, Science Activities

Following approval of “a final deal to keep the [U.S.] government running until January 15, researchers across the nation say their work — some of it already compromised by the budget sequestration — will suffer lasting damage as a result of the 16-day shutdown,” Scientific American reports. “Health surveillance may…

Policymakers Face Challenges With Emerging Synthetic Biology Field

In the current issue of Foreign Affairs, Laurie Garrett, a journalist and senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, writes in a feature essay about the emerging field of synthetic biology, in which scientists can use genetic information to create new organic life forms, and the…

China Confirms New H7N9 Infection In Zhejiang Province

“China confirmed a new human case of the deadly H7N9 strain of bird flu on Wednesday, the second infection reported in October after a summer lull,” Reuters reports. “A 67-year-old farmer in Jiaxing city in the eastern province of Zhejiang has been hospitalized with the virus, the official Xinhua news…