Laboratory-confirmed cases of new influenza A(H1N1) as officially reported to WHO by States Parties to the International Health Regulations, 22 June 2009 07:00 GMT

The breakdown of the number of laboratory-confirmed cases is given in the following table: Read the rest of this entry »

cdc swine fluThe numbers are staggering. According to the World Health Organization , reported cases of H1N1 (swine flu) jumped from this week from 28,774 to 44,287, an increase of 64% or 15, 1513 cases in one week. Almost half, or 21,449, of those cases are in the U.S.

The CDC reports “…novel H1N1 outbreaks are ongoing in parts of the U.S., in some cases with intense activity.”

The first novel H1N1 patient in the United States was confirmed by laboratory testing at CDC on April 15, 2009. Since the outbreak was first detected, an increasing number of U.S. states have reported cases of novel H1N1 influenza with associated hospitalizations and deaths. By June 3, 2009, all 50 states in the United States and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico were reporting cases of novel H1N1 infection.

No public statement has been given by U.S. officials since the flu was declared a pandemic on June 11.

See: Vitamin D for flu protection

From the CDC:
In response to an intensifying outbreak in the United States and internationally caused by a new influenza virus of swine origin

From the World Health Organization:
Humans usually contract swine influenza from infected pigs, however, some cases lack contact history with pigs or environments where pigs have been located. Human-to-human transmission has occurred in some instances but was limited to close contacts and closed groups of people.

From other experts:
“Six of the eight genetic segments of this virus strain are purely swine flu and the other two segments are bird and human, but have lived in swine for the past decade,” says Dr. Raul Rabadan, a professor of computational biology at Columbia University.

“Scientifically this is a swine virus,” said top virologist Dr. Richard Webby, a researcher at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. Webby is director of the WHO Collaborating Center for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza Viruses in Lower Animals and Birds. He documented the spread a decade ago of one of the parent viruses of this strain in scientific papers.

“It’s clearly swine,” said Henry Niman, president of Recombinomics, a Pittsburgh company that tracks how viruses evolve. “It’s a flu virus from a swine, there’s no other name to call it.”

Dr. Edwin D. Kilbourne, the father of the 1976 swine flu vaccine and a retired professor at New York Medical College in Valhalla, called the idea of changing the name an “absurd position.”

Egypt has ordered the slaughter of as many as 400,000 pigs as precautionary measure against the spread of swine flu.

“It has been decided to immediately start slaughtering all the pigs in Egypt using the full capacity of the country’s slaughterhouses,” Health Minister Hatem el-Gabaly told reporters after a Cabinet meeting with President Hosni Mubarak.

The country has been hit hard by bird flu and the Egyptian governenment fears another flu virus could spread quickly amongst the country’s densely-packed slums.

In Chennai, India offcials have ordered the slaughter of all pigs within the city premises. The decision follows a health department directive to local bodies to ensure that pigs are removed from human habitations. Chennai has assigned a 25-member team to go around residential areas for culling operations.

South Korea is suspending imports of live hogs from North America, while China, the world’s top pork consumer, banned imports of swine products from Mexico and parts of the U.S. Indonesia said April 27 it will destroy all imported pork and swine products and fumigate agricultural goods bought from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico as a precaution.Thailand also has suspended imports of U.S. and Mexican pork and set up scanners at Bangkok’s main airport to check arriving passengers for signs of swine flu. Philippines officials have ordered stricter monitoring of all its ports to block entry of hogs and pork from the United States and Mexico.

Indonesia has temporarily halted imports of pork, though media reports were unclear as to whether the country is banning all U.S. pork or just pork from certain states. Jordan, meanwhile, has banned imports of all types of meat, including pork, from the United States and Mexico, according to Deutche Press-Agentur.

The world’s governments raced to avoid both a pandemic and global hysteria over the weekend as more possible swine flu cases surfaced from Canada to New Zealand and the United States declared a public health emergency.

China has banned pork imports from Mexico and parts of the United States with immediate effect to prevent the entry of the H1N1 swine flu virus from affected regions, according to a notice posted on a government website early Monday morning.

The Phillipines has also imposed a temporary ban on the entry of pork from Mexico and the United States.

Serbia on Saturday banned all imports of pork from North America, despite reassurances from the FAO that pigs appear not to be the immediate source of infection.

Other countries are increasing their screening of pigs and pork imports from the Americas or banning them outright despite health officials’ reassurances that it was safe to eat thoroughly cooked pork. Russia banned the import of meat products from Mexico, California, Texans and Kansas. South Korea said it would increase the number of its influenza virus checks on pork products from Mexico and the U.S.

A pandemic virus is defined, among other things, as a novel strain that’s not easily treated.

Pandemic alert levels
The WHO’s pandemic alert level is currently at to phase 3. The organization said the level could be raised to phase 4 if the virus shows sustained ability to pass from human to human.

Phase 5 would be reached if the virus is found in at least two countries in the same region.

“The declaration of phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short,” WHO said.

Phase 6 would indicate a full-scale global pandemic.—DOH

Swine flu H1N1 outbreak

April 26, 2009

Update: Vitamin D for Flu Protection

Mexican authorities continued to take dramatic steps over the weekend to try to contain the swine flu outbreak that officials say has killed as many as 81 people, and sickened more than 1,300 others.

In the US, two new cases were reported Saturday by health officials in Kansas, as well as a new case in California, bringing the national total to 11, according to the Associated Press. Eight more cases of “probable” swine flu involving school students have been identified by New York City health officials. Cases in the US have so far remained mild.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Interim Deputy Director for Science and Public Health Program, told reporters on Saturday that her agency was “worried, and because we are worried we are acting aggressively on a number of fronts” to investigate the outbreak. She added that, because of the wide geographic spread of the virus so far, the outbreak is already “beyond containment.”

But Schuchat added that U.S. health officials had numerous tools to fight the illness’ spread and protect the health of Americans.

Earlier in the day, the head of the World Health Organization said that the outbreak has the potential to develop into a pandemic.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said the outbreak involves “an animal strain of the H1N1 virus, and it has pandemic potential.” But, she added, it was too early to say whether a pandemic would occur, the Associated Press reported.

Twenty-four suspected new cases of swine flu were reported Saturday in Mexico City alone. The government ordered schools closed and all public events have been suspended for the time being, including more than 500 concerts and other gatherings in the city of 20 million residents, the AP said. Read the rest of this entry »

This report by the Union of Concerned Scientists expert Doug Gurian-Sherman, a former biotech specialist with the US Environmental Protection Agency, shows that “despite 20 years of research and 13 years of commercialization, genetic engineering has failed to significantly increase US crop yields.”

The report reviews the literature on yield for the primary GM food/feed crops, soybeans and maize. The report also evaluates the USDA field trial record for GM traits associated with yield over the past 20 years, and discusses the challenges ahead for more complex yield genes, such as transcription factors and signal transduction genes, now being considered by the industry.

The report finds that genetically engineered “soybeans have not increased yields, and GE corn has increased yield only marginally on a crop-wide basis.” “Overall, corn and soybean yields have risen substantially over the last 15 years, but largely not as a result of the GE traits. Most of the gains are due to traditional breeding or improvement of other agricultural practices.”

“If we are going to make headway in combating hunger due to overpopulation and climate change, we will need to increase crop yields. Traditional breeding outperforms genetic engineering hands down,” it concludes.

The report can be downloaded from:

Germany has thrown its weight behind a growing European mutiny over genetically modified crops by banning the planting of a widely grown pest-resistant corn variety.

Agriculture minister Ilse Aigner said there was enough evidence to support arguments that MON 810, which is the only GM crop widely grown in Europe, posed a danger.

“I have come to the conclusion that genetically-modified corn from the MON 810 strain constitutes a danger to the environment,” Aigner told reporters in Berlin. Read the rest of this entry »

Address by H.E. Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, President of the United Nations general assembly, to the informal general assembly thematic dialogue on the global food crisis and the right to food, April 6, 2009.

Excellencies, Mr. Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the Least Developed States, Colleague and friend, Special Rapporteur Olivier de Schutter, Representatives of the Rome agencies and of the United Nations System, Brothers and Sisters All,

I am very pleased to open this informal dialogue of the General Assembly on the global food crisis. Today’s discussion will bring to our Membership not only a diversity of views, but also of disciplines and knowledge. It is most appropriate that the General Assembly avail itself of various sources of knowledge and expertise, for indeed, the crisis we are examining in depth today, the Global Food Crisis and the Right to Food, is not independent or separate from the converging crises that are confronting us as an international community: climate change, the financial and economic crisis, the energy crisis, and the food crisis. Rather these crises converge, interact, fuel and aggravate each other. Read the rest of this entry »

“Despite the GM hype built up by the industry during the food crisis, there is still not a single commercial GM crop with increased yield, drought-tolerance, salt-tolerance, enhanced nutrition or any of the other ‘beneficial’ traits long-promised by the industry. Disease-resistant GM crops are practically nonexistent, and are grown on a tiny scale.”

The world is facing a crisis in the global food system but the major biotechnology corporations (also the leading agro-chemical players) increasingly controls the world’s seed supply.
In its annual assessment of GM crops worldwide, Friends of the Earth International (FOEI) maintained that the biotechnology industry’s insistence that GM technology is the answer to solving hunger and the food crisis is merely a hype. Its report, “Who benefits from GM crops?” looks behind the spin and exposes the reasons why GM crops cannot, and are unlikely to contribute to poverty reduction, global food security or sustainable farming.
The report also noted that GM crops are not as widely cultivated around the world as the biotech industry’s figures suggest and found that these figures are often inflated to make GM farming appear more widespread than it really is.

According to the report, “GM crops are still confined to a handful of countries with highly industrialised, export-oriented agricultural sectors. Nearly 90 per cent of the area planted to GM crops in 2007 was found in just six countries in North and South America, with 80 per cent in the US, Argentina and Brazil. One country alone, the United States, plants over 50 per cent of the world’s GM crops. Just 3 per cent or less of cropland in India and China is planted to GM crops”.

With respect to Europe, the area grown with GM crops in Europe has actually declined rather than increased.
The report is available online at: