Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Conflicting Bird Flu Reports From Iraq


It isn't uncommon for us to see a wide divergence between press accounts and government admissions about disease outbreaks around the world. With avian flu, we've seen this schism most often in hard-hit places like Egypt, Indonesia, and China. 
Governments are often keen to suppress `bad news' and quash rumors - while the press - which can run anywhere from being tightly controlled to being fiercely independent and openly hostile to the government, have their own agendas.
As a result we see a lot of unverified media reports followed by government denials and then social media uproar whenever there is even a hint of an avian flu outbreak (or some other dreaded disease) in many of these countries.

While some of these stories are undoubtedly false, a few notable govermental attempts to hide the existance, or impact, of avian flu over the years include:
WHO: Indonesia Agrees To Resume Bird Flu Notifications
Regarding The Silence Of The Egyptian MOH

Revisiting Egypt’s Murky H5N1 Battle
H7N9: No News Is . . . . Curious
A lot of these media reports are either deliberately misleading or completely false. Often  these stories are nothing more than clickbait, or filler for a slow news day. It isn't unsual to see old news recycled as new - something I'm seeing more and more out of China.  
As with everything you read, Caveat Lector.
We continue to see H1N1, `swine flu' and sometimes even `bird flu' used as interchangable terms by the media in many Middle Eastern and Asian countries, and H1N1 seasonal flu is often spoken of as if it were still a pandemic strain.

The upshot is, taking media headlines - or even `facts' from the body of these reports - verbatim is fraught with danger. Add in the vaguaries introduced by machine translations, and you have a recipe for genuine confusion.

Over the past 15 hours we've been watching a similar series of `alarmist' media reports - followed by government denials - coming out of Iraq. And as always, getting to the truth of the matter isn't going to be easy.

We do know that Iraq admitted in the spring of 2016 to the return of avian flu after nearly a decade (see OIE Notification: Multiple H5N1 Outbreaks In Iraq), and while reports had tapered off by the middle of 2017, last week Iraq notified the OIE of new outbreaks of H5N8 in Diyala.
H5N8, which has recently turned up in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Egypt has never been linked to human infection, but is very virulent in poultry.  There are some concerns it could someday adapt to humans (see J. Virulence Editorial: HPAI H5N8 - Should We Be Worried?), but so far, we haven't seen any evidence of that.
Yesterday afternoon (EST) numerous reports began to appear in Arabic media outlets describing either one or four  `bird flu cases' (or deaths) in Mosul. While dozens of stories have been published in the past 24 hours, most appeared to be `echo chamber' reports, not individual confirmations.

I discussed these reports with Sharon Sanders at FluTrackers, and we both agreed these reports were `iffy' at best. Sharon started a thread to track these reports (see Iraq - Media report: Human seasonal or avian flu death in Mosul? January 16, 2018) with the disclaimer that this could well be seasonal flu, not bird flu. 
A few hours after these reports appeared, there was a `denial' by local health officials of any human `bird flu' infections anywhere in the country, but the media reports have persisted overnight.
This morning, reports have `morphed' a bit away from `bird flu', and some now describe these 4 supposed cases (or deaths) as possibly due to `pandemic flu'.  A genuine misnomer since there is no pandemic right now, but possibly refers to seasonal H1N1
Nineveh suspects new infections of pandemic flu and awaits Baghdad result

Twilight News
3 hours ago

Shivak News / Director of the General Health of Nineveh, the registration of four cases suspected of suffering from pandemic flu.

The city of Mosul was recorded yesterday evening, the first case of death from the pandemic flu, the holder was a detainee with the organization of an advocate.

"There are four suspected cases of pandemic or seasonal influenza in Mosul hospitals," said Dr. Falah al-Taei, director general of Nineveh Health.

He said swabs and samples had been sent to Baghdad laboratories to confirm the outcome and whether the flu was epidemiological or seasonal and the result would appear after three days.

The Iraqi Minister of Agriculture, Falah Hassan Thursday, the injury of one field to raise poultry in the province of Babylon, central Iraq, bird flu, and days after controlling the focus of the disease in Diyala province.

The World Organization for Animal Health announced on Monday that Iraq reported the outbreak of the H5N1 strain of highly pathogenic avian flu in Diyala in the center of the country.

The virus was discovered on December 27 at a farm of 43,000 birds, killing 7250, the Paris-based group said in a report on its website, citing the Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture.

Also of note, while this report refers to the recent outbreak of avian flu in Diyala, they call it H5N1, while the OIE reports shows H5N8.

While the Iraqi Ministry of Health website has been silent on all of this, they do have a high profile report today on flu vaccination campaign for the Iraqi media, which suggests the `pandemic' flu mentioned above may actually refer to seasonal H1N1.

The Ministry of Health implements a vaccine campaign against seasonal flu in the Iraqi Media Network

Implementation of the directives of the Minister of Health and Environment, Dr. Adila Hammoud Hussein to implement preventive health campaigns for citizens and the Ministry of Health has implemented a vaccine campaign against seasonal flu to employees of the Iraqi Media Network and the presence of a media team chaired by the official spokesman of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Saif Al-Bader.

He said Al-Bader said the vaccination campaign influenza vaccine Amoosamh implemented throughout Baghdad, where he embarked on the health of Baghdad, the Department of Rusafa and Gaza Adhamiya vaccination campaign vaccine seasonal flu in the Iraqi media network, indicating that the vaccination campaign in the Iraqi media network came to support and promote the media about the availability of flu vaccine in all centers health and to urge citizens and invite them to review near the center of their home to take the vaccine, which the ministry was keen to import it from a global Menashe solid.

(Continue . . . )

While seasonal H1N1 seems the most likely explanation, it isn't the only possibility, and so we'll keep a close eye on any developments in the days ahead.

Meanwhile, the media continues to describe the bird flu outbreaks in `aflockalyptic' terms (see report below), while the Ministry of Agriculture appears eager to downplay the impact.  Two (translated) reports:
Bird flu sweeping Diyala, Babil and losses in billions
The head of the Committee on Agriculture and Water Parliament MP Furat al-Tamimi said poultry farmers losses in the provinces of Diyala and Babil due to bird flu, more than five billion dinars barrier, while the government has called for accelerating the pace of compensation.

Tamimi said in a statement , "pride" got a copy of " The outbreak of bird flu in poultry farms in Diyala and Babil liver owners huge material losses exceeded five billion dinars barrier," adding that "most of them can no longer re - production because of the accumulated debt."

He called Tamimi, the central government to " the formation of committees for urgent compensation to accelerate the payment of compensation to the owners of the affected fields of bird flu in order to re - start production again to support the local economy."

The Veterinary Department had previously announced the emergence of bifocal disease pathologies of bird flu strain {H5N8} in the provinces of Diyala and Babil time.

With an exchange rate of roughly 1200 dinars to 1 USD, the `5 billion' number works out closer to 4 million US dollars, but still a hefty loss.   By contrast, the MOA today reports that bird flu is `fully controlled'.

The Ministry of Agriculture conducts veterinary health measures to reduce bird flu disease and prevent its spread
Mr. Technical Undersecretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Mehdi ligature Qaisi confirmed the full control of the disease of bird flu, which appeared in small spots in the provinces of Diyala and Babil through the veterinary health methods necessary action to prevent its spread to other regions

 Qaisi said that the rapid spread of viral diseases affecting livestock, especially poultry, have been identified where the injury area and take appropriate veterinary measures and rapid control it and prevent its spread.

Indicating that the focus of disease has been controlled completely through the landfilling process and assure that citizens and livestock breeders that the disease is not dangerous or leakage to other areas, and that the cadres of the Veterinary Department continuing its campaign to contain and control it and determine the movement of poultry and poultry products
As to what is the real truth in all of this, there is a pretty good chance we'll never find out.  At least, that has been the outcome of previous reports like these around the world.

But, if anything does develop, FluTrackers will be on it, as shall I.

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