Updated regularly with news on avian-flu precautions, research and outbreaks
Monday, April 17
California has nowhere near the capacity to treat the hundreds of thousands of people who might need medical care should a pandemic flu strike, the Los Angeles Times reports, citing health officials and experts across the state. Officials are only beginning to work out how they would find the extra hospital beds, health workers and equipment needed in such a crisis. "No one, and I repeat no one, is prepared for a pandemic that starts tomorrow," Dr. Howard Backer, an official with the California Department of Health Services, tells the paper.
Sunday, April 16
: Palestinian health workers contained an outbreak of bird flu in the Gaza Strip after culling more than 360,000 birds exposed to the illness, Gaza Governor Mohammed al-Kidwa said. The flu was detected in Gaza near the border with Israel on March 22 and later spread to five farming locations. U.N. officials have warned that the virus will deal a severe blow to Gaza's already shaky economy.
Saturday, April 15
:Azerbaijan's authorities said that they lifted the last quarantine imposed to prevent the spread of bird flu in the ex-Soviet Caspian Sea nation, where the disease has claimed five lives. The government body in charge of combating bird flu said that the final restrictions had been lifted in the village of Banovshalar, in the western Agdam region.
Friday, April 14
: A growing number of avian-flu cases in Indonesia, both in birds and humans, suggests there is a breakdown somewhere in the country's crackdown on the disease, the WHO said. While other southeast Asian countries have brought bird flu under control using existing tactics, "something is not working" in Indonesia, the WHO's Alex Thiermann said. "The situation needs to be investigated." Indonesia has the second-highest human-fatality rate from bird flu, reporting 31 human infections and 23 fatalities.
: In about three weeks, migratory birds will begin to arrive in Alaska for mating. Amid concern that they may bring bird flu with them, U.S. and Alaskan wildlife officials are setting up more than 50 remote, backcountry camps throughout the state, where tests on both living and dead birds will be conducted. Samples will be sent to one of 40 labs around the U.S.; the main lab is in Madison, Wis.See Alaska's avian-flu site.
:Hawaii is ahead of many U.S. states in preparing for possible global-flu pandemic. With many visitors from Asia, where the latest outbreak of bird flu originated, Hawaii was the first state to start an airport flu-monitoring program. Officials also have plans for limited quarantines and have amassed a supply of protective gear for doctors and nurses. Next month, the state will hold a preparedness seminar for employers. Read Hawaii's pandemic-preparedness plan.
Thursday, April 13
: A fourth Egyptian has died of bird flu, the Ministry of Health reported. Samah Mandouh Abdel Ghaffar, 18 years old, died today in a hospital in the Nile Delta province of Manoufiya. She had been admitted to the hospital on April 10 and was on life support at the time of her death. In all, Egypt has reported 12 humans infected with bird flu. Four -- all women -- have died. Five have recovered and three remain in the hospital.
:Key West, Fla., is famous for its roaming chickens but the island's birds may soon be cooped up. Worried about bird flu, City Commissioner Bill Verge wants the city to begin rounding up the island's 2,000 to 3,000 chickens. He's going to have a tough job, though, amid tough critics. Katha Sheehan likened a Key West without chickens to "New Orleans without the jazz and San Francisco without the cable cars."
:Russia reported two new outbreaks of bird flu in the southwestern part of the country. H5N1 was determined as the cause of death for 25 chickens in the Volgograd region, and in the Rostov region, H5N1 was found in dying wild birds. The government says bird flu has been detected in 43 locations in 11 regions in southern Russia.
: The CzechRepublic reported four new cases of H5N1. A reference lab in Prague confirmed that four swans found dead in the southern part of the country were infected with the virus. Another four swans tested positive for H5 and are being tested for H5N1. A total of seven cases of H5N1 have been confirmed so far in the country.
:WSJ's Nicholas Zamiska reports. A coming Lancet study ranks 21 European countries according to their national plans for coping with a human outbreak of bird flu, likely raising politically sensitive questions. Of 21 national plans examined, seven don't mention the role of veterinary services, many don't include a strategy for containing an original outbreak and fewer than half address how to maintain essential services in the event of a pandemic, according to the study. More.
Wednesday, April 12
: The father of the three-year-old girl who died of bird flu in Cambodia said that when health officials informed him the girl had died from bird flu, he had never heard of the virus. "Had I known … I would have taken better precautions to protect my daughter,'' said Choeun Uork, 30 years old, wearing a white T-shirt printed with a bird flu awareness message. "She was my only child, and now I have to live with regret over her death."
:Hong Kong has partially lifted its ban on French poultry imports. Hong Kong will resume processing poultry imports from France, food-safety officials said, but a ban on poultry imports from four French regions still under surveillance for bird flu will remain in effect. In February, more than 40 countries either banned or restricted poultry imports from France due to the emergence of H5N1 there.
: Bird flu isn't likely to change overnight so that it spreads from person to person, nor is it likely that a sick bird migrating to the U.S. will trigger human illness, the government's top bird-flu scientist said. "One migratory bird does not a pandemic make," said Anthony Fauci, the National Institutes of Health's infectious-disease chief.
: Global concern about bird flu has drawn attention to tiny Australian biotech firm Biota Holdings, which makes antiviral drug Relenza. Biota is currently embattled in a court fight with a British pharmaceutical giant Glaxo over Relenza. More.
Tuesday, April 11
:Indonesia reported its 30th human case of H5N1 (23 were fatal) and Egypt reported its 12th human case. A vaccine shortage in Indonesia has hampered efforts to curb the disease there, the Jakarta Post reported.
: Seven Indian poultry farmers committed suicide after bird flu ravaged their businesses, the AFP news service reported. Chicken prices in India plunged to a low of two rupees a kilo (roughly 45 U.S. cents for 2.2 pounds) from 30 rupees before the outbreak. None of the farmers, from five different states, had chickens infected with bird flu, according to the report.
Monday, April 10
: Poultry in some areas of France's bird-flu stricken Ain region can come out of confinement within two weeks. Poultry farms outside the southeast region's high-security protection zone will be eligible to let their free-range fowl roam again within 10 days or so. "The confinement of poultry remains the rule. Today, we are talking about measures aimed at adapting to the health situation," Ain prefect Michel Fuzeau told a news conference.
: Another two cases of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus have been confirmed in the CzechRepublic. Spokesman for the state veterinary authority Josef Duben said that the deadly strain was found in two dead swans 130 kilometers south of Prague. The Czech Republic's first case of the H5N1 virus was confirmed last month.
: Bird flu in Myanmar is more serious than originally thought, with 100 outbreaks detected in the country since the virus was first confirmed last month, said He Changchui, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Agency's regional representative. Authorities initially believed that the H5N1 virus was limited to two outbreaks.
:WSJ's Nicholas Zamiska reports. Global concern about bird flu has drawn some investors to follow a tiny Australian biotech concern that is engaged in a court fight with a British pharmaceutical giant. Melbourne-based Biota Holdings, which invented the antiviral drug Relenza and licensed it to GlaxoSmithKline in the 1990s, has sued Glaxo, accusing it of shirking its duty to market the product. Glaxo, which is contesting the suit, has said it scaled back marketing efforts years ago for a variety of reasons including lackluster sales and poor prospects. Relenza has been vastly outsold by Tamiflu, made by Roche Holding of Switzerland.