Aug 11, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – The global H5N1 avian influenza situation in birds improved in the first half of this year, but an H5N1 strain not previously seen in Africa recently cropped up in Nigeria, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).”Considering the number of outbreaks reported worldwide, the global HPAI [highly pathogenic avian influenza] situation can be said to have improved markedly in the first half of 2008,” the FAO said in the latest issue of its avian flu bulletin, AIDEnews.However, four countries where H5N1 is endemic—Egypt, China, Indonesia, and Vietnam—continued to report outbreaks during the 6-month period, and the virus re-emerged in Pakistan and in Hong Kong’s live bird markets, the agency noted.In June, 11 H5N1 outbreaks were reported in five countries (China, Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Vietnam), compared with 65 outbreaks in June 2006 and 55 in June 2007, the FAO said. Europe reported no outbreaks, unlike in June of previous years, and no cases were reported in wild birds.However, Indonesia has not submitted reports on H5N1 events since May, because the new database for the country’s Participatory Disease Surveillance system is being modified, according to the report.”Although there has been an improvement in disease awareness, outbreaks/cases of HPAI are still underestimated and underreported in many countries because of limitations in country disease surveillance systems, which may affect considerably the shape of the distribution of outbreaks by region,” the FAO said.Novel strain in NigeriaIn a statement today about Nigeria, the FAO said recent avian flu outbreaks in the states of Katsina and Kano involved a strain that has never been reported in Africa before but is similar to strains identified in Italy, Afghanistan, and Iran in 2007. The agency did not identify the strain by clade or subclade.Scott Newman, international wildlife coordinator for the FAO’s Animal Health Service, said the discovery is a concern because it is not known how the virus was brought into Africa.”It seems to be unlikely that wild birds have carried the strain to Africa, since the last migration of wild birds from Europe and Central Asia to Africa occurred in September 2007 and this year’s southerly migration into Africa has not really started yet,” Newman said.He said the new strain could have been introduced through international trade or illegal and unreported movement of poultry, adding, “This increases the risk of avian influenza spread to other countries in western Africa.”A team of FAO animal health experts and veterinary epidemiologists is working with the Nigerian government on disease surveillance, outbreak investigations, and the establishment of veterinary drug stockpiles, the agency said.Increased pathogenicity in VietnamIn other developments, the pathogenicity of H5N1 strains circulating in Vietnam seems to be rising, according to another article in the FAO’s AIDEnews.Investigators from the US Department of Agriculture and colleagues from Vietnam’s National Centre for Veterinary Diagnosis said the increase in pathogenicity is manifested by more severe respiratory tract infections in ducks and an increase in cloacal virus levels, according to the article.The higher pathogenicity has been seen in H5N1 viruses circulating in the Red River Basin (clades 2.3.2 and 2.3.4) and the Mekong delta (clade 1), the report says.Jan Slingenbergh of the FAO’s Animal Health Service said that despite the increased pathogenicity, avian flu in Vietnam is generally “fairly well in check,” according to the report. Slingenbergh participated in an avian flu conference in mid June in Hanoi.He reported that avian flu in southern Vietnam is well in check, but that efforts in northern Vietnam need “strengthening with measures other than vaccination, and the cost of vaccination cannot continue to be entirely supported by public funds only,” the article states.See also: Aug 11 FAO statement on H5N1 strain in Nigeriahttp://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2008/1000909/index.htmlJul 25 issue of FAO’s AIDEnewshttp://www.fao.org/docs/eims/upload/246457/aj097e00.pdfJul 25 CIDRAP News story “Nigeria finds H5N1 in bird markets”
Many of USC’s recent games have gone down to the wire, and this outing was no different. Utah had the ball down 2 points with 20 seconds to go, and it looked like the game could see overtime. “It’s a tough one to swallow for sure,” Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said of the loss. “We didn’t make enough shots.” Players and students alike donned Kobe shirts as the arena engaged in a 24.8-second moment of silence to honor the nine lives lost. Sophomore guard Elijah Weaver blows by a Utah defender on his way to the basket. Weaver finished with 14 points, the only bench player to score for USC. (James Wolfe | Daily Trojan) However, freshman forward Onyeka Okongwu — who had been fairly silent with just 8 points from the field — blocked a potential game-tying shot with six seconds left, drew a foul and nailed both free throws to seal the deal for USC. “I always respected Kobe’s game,” senior forward Nick Rakocevic said. “The biggest thing was everything he did off the court … Tonight was for him. I’m glad we won for him.” Despite USC’s offensive woes, the team kept itself within striking distance largely thanks to Rakocevic, who had 12 points and five boards through the first 20 minutes. The big man finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds, marking his seventh double-double this season. “At the beginning of the game, when I noticed we were flat and we came off to a rough start, I thought, ‘I gotta get things going for my team,’” Rakocevic said. “So I feel like right after I hit the first three, it just kind of opened up my game a little bit more.” It was the team’s first game since the tragic passing of Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter accident Sunday. “Just be aggressive,” Weaver said of his mindset entering the game. “I think that’s my new role. We’ve been talking about sixth-man stuff, just coming off the bench and bringing energy. That’s all it was, just energy and confidence.” “We’ve got a lot of close games,” Enfield said. “Those are all really good basketball teams, and we’re 4-1 in those games. It’s a credit to our players — we defend and we get some stops.” Senior forward Nick Rakocevic hit a game-winner with 20 seconds left against Utah at Galen Center Friday. Rakocevic picked up an impressive 16 points and 15 rebounds in the win, leading both teams. (James Wolfe | Daily Trojan) USC head coach Andy Enfield said he is pleased with the way his team has played defense against tough opponents, allowing them to win tight battles. The teams played different styles of offense throughout the night. The Utes relied on their starters for a collective effort — four starters scored 10-plus points, while their bench contributed just 2. The Trojans’ defense frustrated Utah’s shooters, who shot just 18-for-55 on the night. After an extremely difficult week for the basketball community, USC honored NBA legend Kobe Bryant’s legacy in Los Angeles with a 56-52 win over Utah Thursday at Galen Center. With the win, USC moves to 17-4, already surpassing its 16 total wins last season. The Trojans also boast a 6-2 record in conference play, putting them at second in the Pac-12 behind Oregon. The Trojans struggled to get going, missing shot after shot in the first half. Senior guard Jonah Mathews, who averaged 16.6 points through the previous three games, was held scoreless on five attempts. The team consistently misfired from 3-point range, going 1-for-8 in the half. For the Trojans, it was sophomore guard Elijah Weaver’s play off the bench that made a difference in the second half. Weaver had 10 points after halftime, including two clutch 3-pointers that brought the energy up in Galen Center. The team will take on No. 4 Colorado Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Galen Center. The Buffaloes will look to get back on track after a Thursday upset loss at UCLA.