About H5N1 vaccination
- and latest warmwell postings about vaccination policy, the perpetuation of the "silent spread" excuse (see emails from practising virologists) and the effects on free-range birds and owners of the UK refusal to allow vaccination
Our special thanks to Anne Lambourn for the hours of unpaid and painstaking work she is doing on behalf of those who want to know the facts about vaccination.
Importance of Rapid Testing to combat the global threat of Bird Flu pdf in new window a pro-vaccination paper and clear guide to diagnostic testing by Adam Meijer (Netherlands) "It is obvious that there is a need for rapid testing in both the veterinary and human field..."
pdf in new window OIE Terrestrial Manual of Diagnostic Tests
COMMISSION DECISION of 4 August 2006 pdf in new window approving a Diagnostic Manual for avian influenza as provided for in Council Directive 2005/94/EC
http://www.avian-influenza.com/Control/Latest_publications.asp appears in the right frame here =====> =====> =====>
EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS - " If vaccination is seen as an option in contingency plans, the availability of vaccines needs to he addressed."From "Making Avian Influenza Vaccines available, an Industry Point of View" by Paul van Aarle pdf in new window
"..... Emergency vaccination is included in most contingency plans and the availability of a licensed vaccine would greatly facilitate the political decision to use vaccination.
It is recommended that special and simplified legislation be developed for vaccines that are only used in case of emergency. Alternatively, governments should support the industry financially to fully license emergency vaccines. There is no regulatory framework in the veterinary field for a speedy update of influenza vaccine strains. For every vaccine strain and for every update of the vaccine strain, a new registration is required. It is recommended that legislation is developed that allows, as is the case for human influenza vaccines, a speedy update of vaccine strains, should the need arise.
If vaccination is seen as an option in contingency plans, the availability of vaccines needs to he addressed. It is recommended that the availability of vaccines is arranged in a contract between the government and the industry in "peace time"."
From OIE Manual of Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals VERSION ADOPTED MAY 2005
"..... During the 1999-2001 outbreak of LPNAI in Italy , an inactivated vaccine was used with the same haemagglutinin type as the field virus, but with a different neuraminidase. This allowed the differentiation between vaccinated birds and birds infected with the field virus and ultimately resulted in eradication of the field virus. Prophylactic use of H5 and H7 vaccines has been practised in parts of Italy aimed at preventing LPNAI infections and several countries in SE Asia have used prophylactic vaccination as an aid in controlling HPNAI H5N1 infections...."
Some general points on vaccination
The new Council Directive 2005/94/EC of 20 December 2005 on Community measures for the control of avian influenza and repealing Directive 92/40/EEC
now permits preventive vaccination as well as emergency vaccination as part of a disease control strategy against bird flu. Thus it is incorrect to say that the EU does not permit vaccination against avian flu. The exact wording is as follows:
General prohibition of vaccination
Manufacture, sale and use of avian influenza vaccines
1. Member States shall ensure that:
(a) vaccination against avian influenza is prohibited on their territory, except as provided for in Sections 2 and 3;
Emergency vaccination in poultry or other captive birds
1. A Member state may introduce emergency vaccination in poultry or other captive birds as a short term measure to contain an outbreak when a risk assessment indicates there is a significant and immediate threat of avian influenza spreading within or into the
concerned in accordance with this Section where there is one or more of the following: Member State
(a) an outbreak within that
; Member State
(b) an outbreak in a nearby
; or Member State
(c) where avian influenza has been confirmed in poultry or other captive birds in a nearby third country
Preventive vaccination in poultry or other captive birds
1. Member States may introduce preventive vaccination in poultry or other captive birds as a long term measure in accordance with this Section where they deem that on the basis of a risk assessment certain areas of their territory, type of poultry husbandry or certain categories of poultry or other captive birds or the poultry or other captive birds compartments are exposed to the risk of avian influenza.
The full text of the Directive can be found at:
It is concerned primarily with containing potential outbreaks and the procedures for doing this. Chapter IX looks at vaccination and it allows for member states to employ both emergency vaccination as a short term measure to contain an outbreak, but also preventive vaccination as a longer term measure for poultry and captive birds that are exposed to the risk of avian influenza.
There is no legal obligation on any
until July 2007 to implement the new Directive (e.g. the right for a member state to apply for preventive vaccination). Furthermore, the exact phrase used in relation to both scenarios is 'A member state may..' , In other words, if the Member State chose not to follow this course of action it would not be in breach of the Directive. UK
If vaccination is used the emphasis is on being able to show that the poultry is subsequently free of disease, both from a disease control point of view, and also for trade. For that purpose, heterologous or marker vaccines are required (such as the Intervet Nobilis Influenza H5 vaccine), with subsequent monitoring using the DIVA strategy (differentiating infected from vaccinated animals, based on serological testing) plus sentinel birds. The details below are taken from the Intervet website Guidelines for the Administration of Nobilis Influenza H5 Vaccine as part of an avian Influenza control strategy by J H Breytenbach.
http://www.avian-influenza.com/binaries/95_60641.pdf Accessed from link on Intervet website http://www.avian-influenza.com/control/introduction.asp
"Inactivated heterologous vaccines: These vaccines are prepared from a virus with the same H type as the field strain but a different N type (heterologous neuramidase). The immune response to the homologous H type ensures protection, while antibodies against the neuramidase of the field virus can be used as a marker. Selecting an inactivated heterologous vaccine enables the application of a DIVA (Differentiating Infected from Vaccinated Animals) strategy to demonstrate that the field virus is no longer circulating in a vaccinated poultry population, a prerequisite for the lifting of trade bans. (The current highly pathogenic avian influenza epizootic affecting a number of Asian countries is caused by a subtype H5N1 avian influenza strain. Intervets Nobilis Influenza H5 vaccine has as its active component the inactivated low pathogenic Mexican avian influenza strain, subtype H5N2 (A/chicken/Mexico/232/94/CPA). Nobilis Influenza H5 is thus a suitable candidate heterologous vaccine. It has been shown to afford protection against H5N1 viruses in the region)."
"Serological monitoring: tests: IFT an ad hoc immunofluorescence test that has been developed and used to detect antibodies to a specific N-subtype. This technique was employed in
as part of the DIVA strategy. An IFT was developed to detect antibodies to the specific N-subype (neuramidase) of the circulating field virus. An AI virus with a different N-subtype was used in the vaccine, thus enabling differentiation between vaccinated and infected flocks Italy
The links to the Decisions authorising specific preventive vaccination in the
Netherlandsand are below. France
emails to warmwell from virologist
19 July 2007 ~ "We've expanded the national veterinary stockpile to attain another 40 million doses of avian influenza vaccine for birds." From yesterday's White House Press Briefing on National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Implementation Plan One Year Summary ".......This brings our total supply to 140 million doses of kill vaccine to protect older birds. We also have a contract in place that will quickly give us access to another 500 million doses of live pox recombinant H5N1 vaccine to protect younger birds. I should mention that it is impractical to attempt to vaccinate all poultry, as we've seen in other countries. In the event of a highly pathogenic AI detection, vaccines can be used to protect healthy birds outside the perimeter of the outbreak...."
12 June 2007 ~ More coverage of EFSA's positive conclusions about bird flu vaccines
On June 6th warmwell reported on the European Food Safety Authority's opinion on currently available avian accines that
"the AI vaccines meet quality standards and are safe and effective in vaccination against AI in domestic flocks in Europe......The Panel recommended the implementation of good AI vaccination practices using safe and effective EU authorized vaccines when required by the epidemiological situation but also added that their use should be defined in advance of any potential direct AI threat..."We are grateful to Pat Gardiner for the link to an article at cordis.europa.eu published today, which comments: "as new scientific developments and vaccination data become available, vaccination is moving more and more to the forefront as a complementary tool to control and prevent the propagation of the disease."
No mention in the article of the "complete and utter rubbish" we have heard recently. Yet one reader's MP, Steve Webb, had a letter in May from Ben Bradshaw which was still saying vaccination of birds increases the risk of spreading infection. It is a relief that EFSA is putting the record straight at last.
June 6 2007 ~ Avian Influenza " AI vaccines meet quality standards and are safe and effective in vaccination against AI in domestic flocks in Europe." EFSA.
EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) has produced an opinion on currently available avian influenza (AI) vaccines for poultry, such as chickens and ducks. According to the Panel's experts,
"the AI vaccines meet quality standards and are safe and effective in vaccination against AI in domestic flocks in Europe......The Panel recommended the implementation of good AI vaccination practices using safe and effective EU authorized vaccines when required by the epidemiological situation but also added that their use should be defined in advance of any potential direct AI threat. In terms of any potential human health impact of the animal vaccines, the Panel noted that the use of authorized EU vaccines is safe and has no negative effect on poultry products for consumers..... According to the Panel, in order to be able to differentiate between vaccinated birds and those that are infected by a field virus, the DIVA strategy, combined with the use of sentinel birds in order to detect possible AI transmission after vaccination, must be employed to allow the detection of a possibly circulating field strain. However, more research and (field) validation are required to optimise the DIVA strategy."See EFSA press release today.
May 21 2007 ~ " perfect efficacy result" in trials of H5N1 flu vaccine
See The Age (Australia) "Pharmaceutical company Imugene Ltd has achieved a perfect efficacy result in recent trials of its bird flu vaccine. The Australian company has on Monday announced that 100 per cent of broiler chickens included in a trial of the avian influenza drug survived exposure to the deadly H5N1 virus. The first dose of the drug was injected into the eggs of the trial group, and an oral booster was then given when the chickens were seven days old. The birds were then exposed to a highly pathogenic Asian strain of the H5N1 avian influenza virus, with all showing no signs of the disease. Seven out of eight unvaccinated chickens died when exposed to the virus as part of the trial, which took place in the United States....
".....we have proven that Imugene's vaccine works when administered orally as well as when injected into chicken eggs and that we can protect birds from a young age. ..... Dr Lamb refused to speculate as to when the drug would appear on the market, but said Imugene was looking to licence the technology to one of the major animal health companies. Imugene is developing two vaccines, one for broiler or meat producing birds, and the other for breeding and egg layer birds.... "
March 10 2007 ~ "Prevention and control of avian influenza: the need for a paradigm shift
in pandemic influenza preparedness" The current edition of the Veterinary Record carries a VIEWPOINT article by A. Martinot, J. Thomas, A. Thiermann, and N. Dasgupta. The "paradign shift" referred to refers to the need for a change in attitude towards both vaccination and diagnostics. Instead of merely preparing for an inevitable pandemic, they argue, we should instead be aiming to prevent the disease at source.
".......Controlling avian influenza, using vaccination when appropriate, is not only a mechanism to contain a potential global health crisis: it is a means to prevent income loss for both families and countries, to promote development and to protect the welfare of animals...The Abstract. is free to view.
...The strengthening of veterinary infrastructures worldwide will not only minimise the risks of avian influenza, but will also provide the early detection and rapid response capabilities for future emerging diseases. However, this will require a shift in thinking from preparation for an inevitable pandemic to pre-emption of the pandemic through prevention among animals."
March 2 2007 ~ Verona Conference. Ben Bradshaw says only that DEFRA "officials" will attend
Hansard. Peter Ainsworth asked Mr Bradshaw yesterday " whom he expects to represent his Department at the Vaccination: a tool for the control of avian influenza conference in Verona on 20 to 22 March 2007" (See details below) Mr. Bradshaw's answer "Officials from DEFRA's Exotic Disease Prevention and Control Division and Veterinary Exotic Diseases, Research and Official Controls Division will be attending."
February 28 2007 ~ Vaccinated animals do not go visiting unvaccinated ones
We find it quite extraordinary that the FMD page of the EU Commission's website even now, still carries the sentence, so often quoted by those who, for various non-veterinary reasons, play down the proven efficacy of vaccination: "Vaccination with the use of conventional vaccines protects from disease, but does not prevent infection and consequently a carrier state" This assertion suggests that a vaccinated animal can pass on virus to an unvaccinated one. It ignores the fact that animals are vaccinated in herds and stay on farms. Unlike people, who constantly interact over wide distances, herds stay together.
As was pointed out in 2001 by an expert now holding a very senior international post indeed, (and then evidently exasperated by those who said that vaccination only prevents disease occurring and does not interfere with transmission), vaccinates "are not mixing and milling about the countryside".
" .... vaccinated animals produce little or any virus by routes that are expected to be involved in spread by people or objects" "... Experiments by Terpstra and colleagues in Holland were conducted to determine whether a well vaccinated animal might spread infection to a NON-vaccinate stabled in the same shed -and drinking from the same bowl. They used doses of virus which are huge compared to an expected level that might occur by a vaccinated animal meeting infection "over the fence". The results show that transmission can occur, but at low rates and were only shown to occur with NON-vaccinates. In reality, if virus infection is a risk in the area, ALL animals on a farm would be advised to be vaccinated. Only ridiculous disease control strategists would advise vaccinating only a few animals on the farm (as occur in the experiments such as Terpstra's), or mixing vaccinates and non-vaccinates when there is infection in the immediate area. ..."
February 27/28 2007 ~ EU to set up emergency rapid reaction veterinary teams ready to move within 24 to 36 hours
The International Herald Tribune quotes EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou who says that recent and past outbreaks of bird flu, swine fever or foot-and-mouth disease in the EU "highlighted the importance of having well-prepared, well-trained personnel available to provide their expertise in dealing with the problem." The Commission is setting up a veterinary expert team that can be deployed at short notice to respond to outbreaks of animal disease. "An EU panel of national veterinary experts approved the plan, allowing the commission to go ahead and draft a list of team members from across the EU. Experts will be drawn from the fields of laboratory testing, veterinary, virology, wildlife, risk management and other areas to be ready to move within 24 to 36 hours to affected areas ..." The European Business Guide adds that
".....The team will also collaborate closely with experts from international organisations, such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and International Office of Epizootics (OIE). Member States will submit lists of experts they propose for the emergency team, along with detailed profiles of these candidates, to the Commission. From these submissions, the Commission will select the team members and inform Member States of its choice through the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health. The list of experts will be updated on an annual basis, and the list will be available on the Commission's website."It will be interesting to see, on the Commission's website, which experts from the UK are selected. In the past, those advising government have too often been chosen from the ranks of ambitious researchers seeking funds or those unable to rise above narrow vested interest groups. Because of a lack of true independence, such 'experts' are unable to withstand political pressures - and politics has dominated animal health control for far too long.
February 26 2007 ~ "it is timely to convene the best renowned experts to address the issue of global guidelines for vaccination"
The Verona conference, taking place in March, reflects the feeling in both the OIE and the FAO that the strategic use of vaccination is now of great importance.
".... using the DIVA approach or the frequent monitoring of sentinel birds, vaccination has successfully controlled or prevented the disease on many occasions. Nevertheless, ensuring vaccine quality control and the appropriate use of vaccines is a significant issue in many countries, and should form part of the national intervention strategies of at risk or infected countries. ... The OIE and FAO consider that it is timely to convene the best renowned experts to address the issue of global guidelines for vaccination with regard to international standards, regulations and the implementation of vaccination programmes..."There is no reference at all, by Dr Bernard Vallat, Dr Joseph Domenech or Dr Stefano Marangon, to the often quoted DEFRA contention that " Vaccination can mask disease and therefore could spread the disease further". (See below) It may be assumed that the Director General of the OIE, the Chief Veterinary Officer of the FAO and the Director of Science IZSVe are better informed than Ben Bradshaw and the Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton. It is to be hoped that our policy makers will receive up to date information and advice straight from the conference itself.
February 23 2007 ~ "Stakeholders are currently talking to DEFRA about vaccination delivery. A third meeting should eventually be held..."
Dr Chris Ashton, who represents the British Waterfowl Association on the DEFRA poultry stakeholders group, has asked warmwell to publish a document about vaccination against avian influenza and on the efficacy of vaccines. Elm Farm Research Centre produced a paper on this subject which they launched at a Parliamentary Reception in July while Dr Ashton herself gave a short presentation at a DEFRA meeting in June about the desirability of having a policy in place before the disease actually arrived. What needs to be made a lot clearer is the circumstances in which DEFRA would allow the vaccine to be used. For keepers of small numbers of birds, 'backyard birds', the question is urgent - although luckily these naturally reared birds are the ones least likely to get ill. Most of the cases - certainly in Laos and Holland - have been in industrial poultry, and it does seem to be becoming an inescapable conclusion that it is the global poultry industry and the unnatural rearing conditions which are the problem. As owners say, "Quite why our pets and pure breeds have to take the risk, we really don't know."
February 21/22 2007 ~ "There is little question that adequate vaccination will reduce shedding levels and thus the virus load.."
Dr Bernard Vallat, Dr Joseph Domenech and Dr Stefano Marangon have written the Introduction: to the Verona Conference taking place next month (20-22 March) Its title is Vaccination: a tool for the control of avian influenza. This is a scientific conference on vaccination, co-organised by the OIE, FAO and the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, and supported by the European Commission to review the current methods and recent experiences in the use of vaccination against avian influenza.
".....a control strategy that is based only on the application of sanitary measures to increase biosecurity and the culling of animals that are infected or suspected of being infected, has proven not to be sufficient to avoid the spread of infection. The OIE and FAO consider that it is timely to convene the best renowned experts to address the issue of global guidelines for vaccination...There is little question that adequate vaccination will reduce shedding levels and thus the virus load ....."
February 21/22 2007 ~ Vaccination of birds. Russia moves immediately. UK still dithers
Warmwell has recently posted several emails from leading virologists on the subject of vaccination. They are highly qualified, have no vested interests. Although the issue is complicated, the bottom line is simple.
Unfortunately, what has been described as "the obsessional focus by DEFRA" is that a few individuals who have partially responded but then, before protection is complete, meet ' wildtype' virus early after vaccine may have mild clinical disease and may possibly excrete some virus in to the surroundings. This does not matter because
- Vaccines protect a population against a ' wildtype' infection when sufficient number are vaccinated - a figure usually in excess of 80%.
- Vaccinees will take a given time (with current H5N1 vaccines the time is, according to Intervet, 1-2 weeks after the first injection in a course of two shots of killed vaccine) to raise a T-cell and antibody response whereupon the vaccinee will be protected. An annual booster may be required.
- The vaccine must be a close enough match in its surface proteins to the wildtype to evoke a protective response, create neutralising antibodies.
The earlier vaccination happens the safer for the flocks and the environment because they will have responded fully to the vaccine before their encounter with wildtype virus.
- the vaccinated flock puts a stop to the chain of infection. The whole exercise is to reduce spread and these hypothetical few cases, with much reduced virus shedding, would not, even if they existed, allow the virus to gain a foothold.
Without vaccination, one is left with the UK solution of racing after the virus, killing en masse, imposing draconian restrictions on healthy stock and trying to stop virus contamination in any local environment with disinfectant.
February 21 2007 ~ It is imperative that the highly pathogenic H5N1 is stopped from circulating round the world. It is dangerous to expose humans and wild birds to infected domestic poultry.
Although what we have seen in Suffolk seems the most economic option for the government when one poultry farm is infected, the real cost is borne by the farmers. They have been forced to take free range birds indoors, make temporary netted enclosures, buy disinfectant, and have had their production interrupted by restrictions. Their livelihood is also jeopardised by the inevitable public lack of confidence. Eventually the cost of this disease spread worldwide by trade in chicks, poultry dead or alive and its products, feathers and faeces will be borne by the world - and far more dearly than the gain of any trade in poultry. Supermarkets must accept some responsibility here and promote vaccinated poultry products without allowing a negative aura to be created or marking them down.
February 20 2007 ~ Russia to vaccinate all birds near Moscow
Science Daily "Russian officials are set to prevent a possible outbreak of the avian flu by vaccinating at least 1 million domestic birds in an around Moscow. While all Russian poultry is typically inoculated twice a year, Russian veterinary experts informed the press agency RIA Novosti that all birds near Moscow will soon be given free vaccinations to prevent an outbreak of the virus. The move comes as five cases of the avian flu were reported near Moscow, including one Monday in which the presence of the H5N1 virus was confirmed...."
February 19/20 2007 ~ "Where has the idea that there is long term circulation of H5N1 in a fully vaccinated flock in the absence of disease in the flock come from?"
Another email from the virologist Dr Ruth Watkins, commenting on paragraph 21 from the EU Directive, should be read in full by those who do not necessarily accept the received wisdom of the government on the subject of vaccination. ".....Where has the idea that there is long term circulation of H5N1 in a fully vaccinated flock in the absence of disease in the flock come from? What is the documentary evidence for it? I would have thought that if the virus were to continue to circulate in a fully vaccinated flock there would be the evidence of diseased birds as the immune cross reactivity of the vaccine virus would be so poor as to have failed to evoke the protective antibody, neutralising antibody to H5. .." Read in full
February 19 2007 ~ enshrined, as if in amber, is the back-covering rider that vaccinated poultry may become infected
While anxiety increases among the small free-range poultry owners, talk of "silent spread" continues to be allowed to fuel the justification for the UK's policy of non-vaccination. The EU Directive clearly says,
"Vaccination against avian influenza can be an effective tool to supplement disease control measures and to avoid massive killing and destruction of poultry or other captive birds. Current knowledge suggests that vaccination may be useful not only as a short-term measure in emergencies but also as a long-term measure to prevent disease in situations of higher risk of introduction of avian influenza viruses from wild life or other sources. Provisions should therefore be established for both emergency and preventive vaccination."But then, enshrined as if in amber, is the back-covering rider that vaccinated poultry "may become infected and thus contribute to the further spread of the infection" No wonder many of the talking heads are repeating it. The virologists, however, who understand how vaccination works, say that it is nonsense not to vaccinate.
".... there is now good scientific evidence on the efficacy of H5 vaccines available to the EU. Once poultry have had a full vaccination course it is known when they have the full protection offered by the vaccine. I believe this is about 3 weeks after the first injection. There should be information from Vietnam about vaccine efficacy in the field as well. It is inexcusable if this has not been obtained, for instance by the WHO."The UK shuts up free range birds and, even in an emergency, drags its feet on vaccination - but, as we see below, the Directive's rules on surveillance are not being followed by those who are so ready to quote it.
February 19 2007 ~ Of course no vaccination for any disease, animal or human, can ever be 100% but if enough individuals are vaccinated a virus infection can be eliminated.
(See below ) The Hong Kong paper cited on our H5N1 page clearly indicates that with that strain of the H5N1 virus and the vaccine used in 1997, infection could not be maintained because insufficient virus was being shed.
The infection chain was broken.
Italy has used vaccination to ring highly pathogenic H5 or H7 virus in years past with apparent success. What seems to be happening in the UK is that officials, who assume that it they say 100% success cannot be claimed for vaccination, will be justified in the public mind in warning against a near zero risk. The media seem most reluctant to point out that choosing instead to ignore the available vaccines which responsible poultry keepers are so anxious to be able to useis far more dangerous for the country .
And not only journalists. It seems that most public service scientists have a clause in their contract banning membership of outside groups that might have the courage to question current dogma. Must it always be a voice in the wilderness that cries foul?
February 16/17 2007 ~ "DEFRA statements on the role of vaccination in the control of virulent livestock viruses could make better informed people weep"
Dr James Irvine in this Landcare.org article
".... We were assured yet again by David Miliband, ... in an interview with Andrew Marr on TV BBC1 Sunday AM 12th February, that he had followed scientific advice from DEFRA and the Food Standards Agency (FSA), and that "he had every confidence in the high standard of that advice, and that this was also the opinion of the Chief Scientist, Professor Sir David King", who had vouched for the high standards of the scientists involved...."Warmwell also recommends the clarity of Dr Colin Fink on the same subject: "... I am sure that vaccine would break the transmission cycle even in high density flocks. Vaccine for all the smallholders' birds would be very effective in preserving them clinically well and in lower density flocks transfer of wild type virus would be minimal or none."
"One really has to wonder who is giving the politicians so-called "excellent scientific advice".......What should have been learned is some basic immunology regarding vaccination as a front line of defence against the spread of viral diseases in livestock - or indeed in humans. ......"
February 14 2007 ~ H5N1 vaccination: "I am sure that vaccine would break the transmission cycle even in high density flocks"
Dr Colin Fink writes on vaccination.
"...High density of birds increases the transmission rate of the infection between individuals. If they were all vaccinated , any virus infection introduced would have low flock spread with little if any subsequent shedding into the environment.. The birds would remain clinically well. However no symptoms in the birds together with no understanding by the handlers of even small risk of infection spread outside a flock could lead to some transfer of organisms out of the flock if the biosecurity was not strictly observed. No biological system is ever absolute especially when run by staff who do not understand transfer of infection .
I am not sure what is better for these hapless creatures and their factory bosses in high density rearing. Such a devastating outbreak with much virus shedding as we saw followed by immediate culling or no virus shedding but a minimal risk of ' wild type' viral carriage for short while only?
I am sure that vaccine would break the transmission cycle even in high density flocks. ."
February 13/14 2007 ~ Selective reporting from interviews with virologists "No one is asking the right questions and they all know that they are not"
The reopening of slaughter and packing at the Holton factory farm took most people by surprise. We note with concern that news reports quote "scientists" but they are not named and we get little input from named practising virologists. Both Dr Colin Fink and Dr Ruth Watkins have been interviewed by the BBC in the last 48 hours. Both discovered that what they considered to be important information had been cut.
In essence, Dr Fink said that the virus undoubtedly was from the Hungarian outbreak and brought in. As for how, he offers this possible explanation - which was not included in the broadcast:
I believe that the carcase material brought in was infected with H5N1. One way of transfer of this infection so rapidly to the flocks would be If the residue of the carcase meat has been ground up and fed to the new chicks as a high protein feed. That is one way the infection could be transferred into the turkey chick stock. I expect that if they wish to do this they will boil it now."As for the myths about vaccination "spreading the virus" so angrily refuted here by Colin Fink, the received - and wrong - wisdom is now appearing even in such otherwise sound papers as Western Morning News (new window). Journalists must talk - and listen - to the experts in virology. This is too serious a matter for pseudo-scientific error to be treated as fact .
.... "There are some serious political goings on here. No one is asking the right questions and they all know that they are not. "
February 11/12 2007 ~ It is vital that advice in controlling outbreaks is given by professionally qualified clinical virologists (in human medicine and ideally veterinary medicine as well of course) in conjunction with scientists.
An email from Dr Ruth Watkins, received today, strikes us as urgent and important
"....David Milliband and officialdom in general are looking for advice from scientists for their briefing when they should be looking for advice from clinical virologists experienced in outbreak management. With respect to John Oxford he is a scientist but he is not a clinician nor is he a scientist with clinical responsibilities at The Royal London and Barts. The key to a disinterested and balanced briefing for ministers is that the advice should come from someone with clinical experience in outbreaks as well as virus expertise, and this may involve a professional group rather than COBRA. ........(A BBC page of questions on 'avian flu and Hungary' with answers by Professor John Oxford has been added today.)
As you know when I was asked to comment for BBC News 24 on the first Saturday of the Matthew's outbreak on the 3rd Feb, I said that the main cause in spread of avian flu had been via humans, trading poultry and its products legally or illegally and in using poultry manure to feed warm fish farms etc. ...... It is vital that advice in controlling outbreaks is given by professionally qualified clinical virologists (in human medicine and ideally veterinary medicine as well of course) in conjunction with scientists. This is an animal virus with important human health considerations. ...." Read in full
February 11 2007 ~ "absurdly unscientific misinformation about why we cannot use vaccination..."
Booker's Notebook "... again we have expert virologists, such as Colin Fink of Warwick University" (see Dr Fink's email to warmwell) "staring open-mouthed as they point out how Defra could hardly be getting everything more wrong, above all in the absurdly unscientific misinformation it spreads about why we cannot use vaccination." Read in full
February 10 2007 ~ Vaccination: a tool for the control of avian influenza - conference 20th -22nd March 2007 - Verona, Italy
For further information and registration please see - http://www.avianfluvaccine2007.org/ Co-organised and supported by the EC with The OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health), FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations) IZSVe (Istituto Zooprofillatico Sperimentale delle Venezie, OIE reference laboratory for Avian influenza)
(Many thanks to Jane Barribal at farmtalking.com for spotting this.)
February 9 2007 ~ We are told that vaccination for a current strain does indeed work.
" our vaccine each winter tries to predict what will be current" New vaccines are on the way which will act cross strain as well - as for the excretion story after vaccination, based on research that is considered questionable, this " does not stack up virologically".
February 9 2007 ~"...There are also questions to be answered about what ministers knew and when, and if they had information last Monday, why didn't they disclose that information?" Peter Ainsworth
Times "Today's recriminations follow the news that another three of the 22 turkey sheds at the Holton farm had tested positive for H5N1, raising fears that the virus was more entrenched than originally hoped. Government scientists are now trying to establish how the virus spread from hut to hut, or whether all four huts suffered separate, independent infections from the same source."
February 7 2007 ~ The myth of the silent spread of virus by vaccinated birds ... is just that. - utter nonsense.
Dr Fink's email ".... The obsessional focus by DEFRA is on the period after vaccination and theoretically before a complete response has been made by the vaccinees. In fact any individual ( man or beast or bird) who has partially responded and then meets ' wildtype' virus early after vaccine may have mild clinical disease and may excrete some virus in to the surroundings. That does not matter because the whole exercise is to reduce the spread of 'wildtype' and this will be a partial result in these few cases with much reduced virus shedding. As one hopes to induce so called ' herd immunity' any flock or herd which has been vaccinated ( but perhaps a bit late !! back to indecision in DEFRA) will still achieve lower excretion levels into the environment and also will have only mild clinical disease - which most us thought was the object of the exercise. The myth of the silent spread of virus by vaccinated birds flying over DEFRA offices is just that. - utter nonsense. " The email is well worth reading in full.
February 7 2007 ~ " there is a danger that reliance on avian flu vaccination for birds could spread the disease further and thus be dangerous" Mary, As I am sure that you know, this is complete and utter rubbish
Dr Colin Fink writes that he is angry. Having read in the answer given by the Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton to the Countess of Mar, (below) the comment that vaccination "could spread the disease further and thus be dangerous", he writes
" Mary, As I am sure that you know, this is complete and utter rubbish and shows that all the 'Virologists' invented by Fred Landeg in Page Street, in answer to a question from the Countess of Mar are a myth. DEFRA cannot be allowed to go on peddling this mis-information with such arrogance and insularity. They cannot even advise their representatives properly and know nothing of how vaccines work.Read Dr Fink's email in full. It is important that an expert practising virologist's understanding about vaccination is seen.
You may publish this comment if you wish - I am angry about this."
February 5/6 2007 ~ " Is she saying that Defra has no qualified virologists at the heart of the organisation?"
Hansard On February 1st, the Countess of Mar asked "How many qualified virologists are directly employed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs?" but from the Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton received the answer:"..returns from agency chief executives show that Defra employs 116 qualified virologists who work in the field of virology.
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that reply. Is she saying that Defra has no qualified virologists at the heart of the organisation? How many of those virologists are from the veterinary, medical and scientific disciplines? In view of the importance of viral diseases to animals and humans, will Her Majesty's Government consider setting up a separate steering committee to bring together virologists and microbiologists from all the disciplines in order to give the Government proper advice and reduce their reliance on computer modellers?" Read in full
We should very much welcome comments on the extraordinary answer given of 116 virologists. If there were merely one knowledgeable and practising virologist listened to by the Department and the government there would be little further need for this website.
February 5/6 2007 ~ 10 million doses of vaccine?
See below. In fact, only 5 million are in the UK. The other 5 million are held in Spain.
February 5 2007 ~ When bona-fide, certified, safety-and-efficacy- tested vaccines are used, the results do not disappoint.
Professor Van der Velden is quoted in this morning's Independent,"There should definitely be a debate about vaccination of poultry," said Professor Koos Van der Velden, the chairman of the European Inf luenza Surveillance Scheme.......The situation in Suffolk is expected to be top of the agenda at a meeting of the EU's veterinary experts in Brussels today". We are dismayed to see that the Independent adds, " UK scientists fear vaccination could mask the start of an epidemic because it reduces the infectiousness of birds and stops them dying but does not halt the spread of disease."
Many will find it sickening that the notion, put forward by Sir David King, that vaccination does not halt the spread of disease, seems to have been widely accepted by journalists. Such a statement is highly misleading. ProMed moderator "AS" makes clear that
"When bona-fide, certified, safety-and-efficacy- tested vaccines are used, the results do not disappoint.." ProMedThe UK does hold 10 million doses of vaccine for use in creating a buffer zone if further outbreaks occur but there are no signs yet that they are to be used and no plans at all to introduce routine vaccination.
February 4/5 2007 ~".... the first 71 birds died last Tuesday. But the outbreak was not reported to government vets until Thursday evening, after another 1,000 died.
It took a further two days before European Union scientists managed to conduct tests and were able to confirm that the virus at the farm, in Holton, near Halesworth, was H5N1. Even after that, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) took until yesterday evening to impose the obligatory exclusion zone because legal wrangles meant the required forms had not been signed in time...." Telegraph
February 4/5 2007 ~ "H5N1 strain of bird flu is essentially a problem of industrial poultry practices"
Speculation about the cause of this outbreak continues to focus on wild birds. The tricky fact that migration has not yet begun is explained by 'unseasonal warm weather'. However, we are reminded of the Grain report concluding that H5N1 is a poultry virus killing wild birds, not the other way around - an alternative hypothosis that got backing in an editorial in the Lancet medical journal last May. The Grain report said:
"... The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu is essentially a problem of industrial poultry practices. ... while wild birds can carry the disease, at least for short distances - its main vector is the highly self-regulated transnational poultry industry, which sends the products and waste of its farms around the world through a multitude of channels..."Bernard Matthews farms are an extremely intensive form of agribusiness and one wonders if it too sends products and waste of its farms ( including a very large turkey complex in Hungary operating under the SaGa Foods brand) around the world "through a multitude of channels".
In a recent ProMed post, the moderator said, ".....the temptation to import cheap replacement stock from a source which just happens to also have HPAI can be great. If such an importing country is a neighbor, many of us are at immediate risk."
February 4 2007 ~ Bird Flu: Sir David King ruled out vaccination a year ago
Like us, the Soil Association was "mystfied" and "dismayed" by the decision, given by the Chief Scientific Officer, not to vaccinate against H5N1. They called for the use of vaccination of all poultry close to any outbreak. As the BBC reported a year ago in February 2006
"They have got to bring in every weapon in their armoury," said the association's Robin Maynard. He said he had a sense of "deja vu", likening it to the 2001 outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. "The end result was 11 million animals slaughtered and £8bn cost to the tax-payer. We just don't want to go down that barbaric, medieval route."As for the deployment of on-site rapid diagnosis, Dr Roger Breeze described last March how his team was building a chain of 30 laboratories in Central Asia to provide real time PCR diagnosis of avian influenza, linked by an electronic disease reporting system to the Chief Veterinarian in Tashkent and to the United States. PCR capability for avian influenza is now in place in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Yet in the UK rapid diagnostic testing is only dimly understood, it seems, and, as far as we are aware, there are no plans to use such existing technology. The unwelcome suspicion is that this is because it is not yet made by those in the UK who can profit from it financially.
February 4 2007 ~ "Killing infected poultry flocks ad infinitum, without adjunct vaccination..is a policy that has not been successful over the last decade"
Last April we received an important email from two virologists warning that the UK still has insufficient or no H5N1 influenza vaccine stocks to protect the poultry flocks. They pointed out that it is essential to have clinical virologists working alongside Veterinarians, advising the UK government. They made it clear, back in April, that "the failure to prepare reflects a lack of understanding of viral disease in DEFRA and government and has implications for human disease risk."
"We believe that it is essential to have Clinical Virologists with an understanding of human disease and the value of vaccination, working alongside Veterinarians, advising the UK government and making decisions about preparation and limitation of the H5N1 infection in birds. Killing infected poultry flocks ad infinitum, without adjunct vaccination, as a means to control infection carried by wild birds, is a policy that has not been successful over the last decade, in eradication of this highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza. The pronouncements this week by Professor Sir David King UK Chief Scientist are not encouraging.Read in full
Vaccination is the most useful weapon we have against epidemic viral disease. Further spread of infection is halted by a vaccinated population..."
February 4 2007 ~ CIWF has never been allowed to visit Matthews' factories
Media frenzy - driving political hot potatoes away from the front pages - is as predictable as it is dismaying. Scaremongering about human health ("public told not to panic") tends to silence protest at the mass gassing of birds. Behind the bureaucratic demands for poultry to be put indoors within a 10km protection zone and the nationwide banning of pigeon races one hears the slamming of the stable door. As we have often regretted, DEFRA has not chosen vaccination as even part of their strategy to combat this global pandemic. As Dr Ruth Watkins asked in an article written many months ago for the CLA,
"... Why not vaccinate free-range poultry and pheasants as well as hold vaccine in reserve to ring vaccinate an outbreak in a domestic flock? Vaccination may be found necessary in bio-secure flocks to prevent breakdowns of infection in intensive poultry systems. If we do not order or make any vaccine for birds then we can never use it. Are we heading for another disaster on the scale of 2001?"Pheasants are especially vulnerable to infection from wild birds. They are reared in Spring and then released into the local habitat. Vaccinating young pheasants before release would be the sensible option. As today's Independent on Sunday says, the outbreak
"casts doubt on the adequacy of defences against the disease, which the Government had said were the best in the world."Once again we hear of "increasing risks of it arriving through migrating birds" The Bernard Matthews farms are strictly controlled and impermeable. Not even the highly respected Compassion in World Farming has ever been allowed in to visit. One correspondent, after mentioning the Bernard Matthews farms all over Europe, including Hungary, writes, "And they are telling us that it was a little sparrow in the ventilation system? Don't make me laugh!"
February 3 2007 ~ Suffolk bird disease is H5N1
Guardian 12.28 pm
"Samples from the infected establishment were immediately sent to the Community Reference Laboratory in Weybridge, which has this morning swiftly confirmed the disease to be the H5N1 strain of avian influenza.The EU Commission has backed calls from Euro-MEPs for a stockpile of bird flu anti-viral drugs to be set up - but only if national authorities are prepared to pay for it.
Reuters reports that "Government veterinary experts" were called out late on Thursday. A protection zone with a radius of 3 km (2 miles) and a surveillance zone of 10 km around the infected farm has been set up.
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