Monday, March 27, 2017

Georgia Dept Of Agriculture Confirms Avian H7 (Presumptive LPAI) in Chattooga County


While hardly unexpected given the report earlier today (see HK Suspends Poultry Imports From Chattooga County, Georgia), Georgia's Department of Agriculture has confirmed that lab testing of a commercial flock in the far northwestern part of the state has come back positive for avian H7.

Over the past three weeks we've seen more than a half dozen other detections - all a newly reassortant North American H7N9 virus - centered in southern Tennessee and North Alabama.

Georgia Department of Agriculture
Gary W. Black, Commissioner
19 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. SW
Atlanta, GA 30334

Press Release
Monday, March 27, 2017
Office of Communications
Confirmed H7, Presumptive Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza in a Commercial Flock in Georgia
A flock of chickens at a commercial poultry breeding operation located in Chattooga County has tested positive for H7, presumptive low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI). This is the first confirmation of avian influenza in domestic poultry in Georgia. Avian influenza does not pose a risk to the food supply, and no affected animals entered the food chain. The risk of human infection with avian influenza during poultry outbreaks is very low.
The virus was identified during routine pre-sale screening for the commercial facility and was confirmed as H7 avian influenza by the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa. As a precaution the affected flock has been depopulated. Officials are testing and monitoring other flocks within the surveillance area and no other flocks have tested positive or experienced any clinical signs.

The announcement follows similar confirmations from Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee in recent weeks. The Georgia case is considered a presumptive low pathogenic avian influenza because the flock did not show any signs of illness. While LPAI is different from HPAI, control measures are under way as a precautionary measure. Wild birds are the source of the virus. Avian influenza virus strains often occur naturally in wild birds, and can infect wild migratory birds without causing illness.

“Poultry is the top sector of our number one industry, agriculture, and we are committed to protecting the livelihoods of the many farm families that are dependent on it,” said Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary W. Black. “In order to successfully do that, it is imperative that we continue our efforts of extensive biosecurity.”

The official order prohibiting poultry exhibitions and the assembling of poultry to be sold issued by the state veterinarian’s office on March 16, 2017, remains in effect. The order prohibits all poultry exhibitions, sales at regional and county fairs, festivals, swap meets, live bird markets, flea markets, and auctions. The order also prohibits the concentration, collection or assembly of poultry of all types, including wild waterfowl from one or more premises for purposes of sale. Shipments of eggs or baby chicks from National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP), Avian Influenza Clean, approved facilities are not affected by this order.

Owners of poultry flocks are encouraged to closely observe their birds and report a sudden increase in the number of sick birds or bird deaths to the state veterinarian’s office at (855) 491-1432. For more updates and information regarding biosecurity tips visit or

ECDC: Rapid Risk Assessment On Multi-Country Cluster Of MDR-TB In Migrants


Whether it is a tourist returning from Carnival in Rio, a businessman traveling from the Arabian Peninsula to Asia, or a migrant making their way from North Africa into Europe - they all have one thing in common.

They all have the ability to be exposed to - and then inadvertently carry - exotic infectious diseases (like Zika, MERS, Dengue, Yellow Fever, Avian Flu, TB, etc.) from one part of the world to another.

Last December the ECDC reported on a cluster of MDR-TB among a group of 16 migrants who had recently entered the EU during the first six months of 2016 (see Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in migrants, multi-country cluster, first update 19 Dec 2016).

An international whole genome sequencing cluster involving 16 cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB) in asylum seekers has been detected. The first seven cases were identified in Switzerland between February and August 2016. Their countries of origin are Somalia (5 cases), Eritrea (1) and Ethiopia (1). Whole genome sequencing (WGS) showed no difference among isolates in four cases and differences of one allele in the three others. Based on the WGS results, the strains belong to a single molecular cluster. The same genetic clone with the same and so far unknown drug resistance profile was detected in nine additional cases from Somalia, six of them diagnosed in Germany, two in Austria, and one in Sweden.
Fast forward a little more than 3 months and the ECDC has published an updated RRA, which has now identified 25 cases.  Follow the link to read the full 4-page report.

Conclusions and options for response 

A multi-country cluster of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB) involving 25 migrants has been delineated by whole genome sequencing (WGS). All cases have a recent history of migration from Somalia (22 cases), Eritrea (2 cases) and Ethiopia (1 case). Cases have been reported by Germany (13 cases), Switzerland (8 cases), Austria (2 cases), Finland and Sweden (1 case each). 

A WGS analysis of the 25 cluster isolates supports the hypothesis that the cases are part of a chain of recent transmission likely to have taken place either in the country of origin or in a place along the migration route to the country of destination. Based on the currently available information, it is not possible as of yet to rule out that transmission occurred in an EU/EFTA country. 

It therefore remains important to rapidly investigate exposure risk factors, including the travel history and itineraries of patients and their contacts, and share this information to determine whether transmission may have taken place in the EU/EFTA, during migration, or in the country of origin. Depending on the results of the investigation, appropriate prevention and control measures should be taken. 

Although the number of cases detected so far suggests that there is only a limited risk of this cluster becoming a widespread event in Europe, more cases may yet be identified in association with this cluster. Early case finding of active TB and drug susceptibility testing, especially in newly arriving migrants from the Horn of Africa, is important in order to identify and treat active cases and to provide preventive treatment or monitoring for those diagnosed with latent tuberculosis infection.

Saudi MOH Announces 1 New MERS-CoV case


After a lull of 7 days without reporting a new MERS case, the Saudi MOH today has announced a primary (Direct Camel Contact) case in Al Kharj, in a 54 y.o. male who is listed in stable condition.

There are a total of 10 active cases receiving treatment in Saudi Hospitals.  We've not heard of any new cases in the Wadi Al Dawasir Cluster - which produced at least 10 cases earlier in the month - in nearly two weeks. 

HK Suspends Poultry Imports From Chattooga County, Georgia


Over the weekend we've been watching media reports of poultry testing for avian flu in Northwestern Chattooga county Georgia (see Test Results on Possible Bird Flu Near Menlo Expected Today), adjacent to the Alabama border. 

While there's no official announcement (yet) from state agricultural officials, Hong Kong's CFS (Centre for Food Safety) has apparently already been notified, as evidenced by the following statement issued this morning.

The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department announced today (March 27) that in view of a notification from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) about an outbreak of low pathogenic H7N9 avian influenza in Pickens County, Alabama in the United States (US), and a notification from the US authorities about an outbreak of low pathogenic H7 avian influenza in Chattooga County, Georgia, the CFS has banned the import of poultry meat and products (including poultry eggs) from the two areas with immediate effect to protect public health in Hong Kong.

Assuming this is confirmed by the USDA and state agricultural officials later today, Georgia will become the 4th state to report this new LPAI H7N9 virus.  

While it shares the same subtype name as China's H7N9 virus - this North American Lineage virus is genetically distinct from its Asian counterpart - and is not currently expected to pose a serious human health threat.

H7 viruses, however - even LPAI strains - have caused minor illnesses in humans in the past (see A Brief History Of H7 Avian Flu Infections and  NYC Health Dept Statement On Human H7N2 Infection), and viruses can change their behavior and virulence over time 

Since it appears that LPAI H7N9 continues to spread in the wild bird population, and may spark additional outbreaks in backyard and commercial poultry this spring, those in contact with live birds should heed the CDC's advice on avoiding infection.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Tsunami Preparedness Week - 2017


The National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program (NTHMP) recognizes  Tsunami Preparedness Week during the last week in March to coincide with the date of the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunamis.
Some states and territories recognize other times of the year, and this year that includes:
While truly massive tsunamis don't happen very often, when they do they can produce extremely high mortality, and extensive property and infrastructure damage.

The two biggest ones in recent history are the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, which killed upwards to 250,000 people, and Japan's 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake/Tsunami which killed in excess of 15,000 people.

While less deadly, Alaska's 1964 earthquake produced significant tsunami effects both locally, and thousands of miles away, killing 5 in Oregon and 13 in California. Chile's 1960 Valdivia earthquake sent a train of tsunamis across the Pacific, causing heavy damage and loss of life in Hawaii, Japan, and beyond (see NOAA Report).

While we think of these disasters as primarily localized events, impacting a few thousand square miles, the photo above shows how our oceans can transfer the released energy from an earthquake, meteor strike, volcanic eruption, or undersea landslide across distances of thousands of miles in the form of a tsunami (or more likely, a series of tsunami waves).

The west coast of North America, since it is vulnerable to tsunamis generated by seismic events in Japan, Alaska, the South Pacific - and even the long expected `big one'  off the Pacific Northwest's coast (see Just A Matter Of Time) - is viewed as the most `at risk' region of the  United States and Canada.

But two years ago, in The Caribbean’s Hidden Tsunami Potential (Revisited), we looked at that region’s history – and potential – for generating tsunamis that could affect the Gulf Coast and Atlantic coastlines of the United States, along with Mexico, Central America, and South America.
  • This past week Tsunami preparedness drills were held for the Caribbean (March 21: Exercise - Caribe Wave (3 scenarios: Costa Rica, Cuba, and Northern Lesser Antilles) and for the Atlantic (March 22: Exercise - Lantex (Off Portugal)).
  • This coming week (March 29th), Exercise - Pacifex (Off British Columbia) will take place.  Last summer, FEMA, the Canadian government, and many other agencies took part in the massive Cascadia Rising 2016 drill, to prepare for the (likely overdue) `big one' striking the Pacific Northwest. 

While you may think it unlikely that a tsunami will affect you or your region - they are just one of many potential hazards that may threaten you and your community - and they all require similar preparedness steps.

Knowing your local threats, whether they be tsunamis, forest fires, floods, earthquakes or hurricanes  . . . and then becoming prepared to deal with them, will provide you and your family the best safety insurance available.

As far as what to do before a tsunami threatens, READY.GOV has a Tsunami Awareness Page with helpful hints. NOAA  provides several useful documents, including a Tsunami Zone PDF (see below) and Tsunami Web page.

Since you can't predict what disaster you might someday have to face, it makes sense to maintain a general level of preparedness against `all threats’.

Everyone needs an appropriate family disaster plan, just as everyone should have a good first aid kit, an Emergency NOAA Weather radio, a `bug-out bag’, and sufficient emergency supplies to last a bare minimum of 72 hours.

As the graphic above from NOAA advises, people should consider maintaining a 2-week supply of supplies in their home. A topic I address in When 72 Hours Isn’t Enough.

As we move into the spring severe storm season, and ultimately back into the Atlantic Hurricane season, now is a good time to review and refresh your emergency preparedness plans.

A couple of my (many) blogs on this subject include:

  • In An Emergency, Who Has Your Back?
  • When Evacuation Is The Better Part Of Valor
  • Friday, March 24, 2017

    OIE Confirms HPAI H7N9 In Hunan Province


    Earlier today, in China MOA: High Mortality In Poultry Infected With H7N9 In Hunan Province, we looked at a report highly suggestive of an HPAI H7N9 outbreak in Hunan Province, China.

    Significant if true, because this would be the first detection of this mutated virus outside of Guangdong province, where it was first reported a little over a month ago.

    This afternoon the OIE has confirmed that assumption with the following notification

    This latest detection of HPAI H7N9 is a little over 300 miles north and west of the first outbreak reported in  Meizhou city, Guangdong province.