Experts urge action after H7N9 shows Tamiflu resistance

South China Morning Post, March 1, 2017. Experts said signs of resistance in a new strain of the deadly H7N9 bird flu virus against a drug used to treat people with the infection needs swift investigation to clarify how to handle the mutation.

Two patients in Guangdong province with a new and more virulent strain of the virus have shown signs of failing to respond to the drug Tamiflu, the Nanfang Daily reported this week, citing Zhong Nanhsan, an expert in respiratory diseases.
Virologists said the finding did not mean the drug was ineffective against bird flu, but a swift investigation was needed to assess how to handle the situation. There have been over 1,200 laboratory confirmed cases of human infection for bird flu in mainland China since the first was reported in 2013.
As of Sunday, 94 people have died from the illness on the mainland this year. The number of deaths so far this year have already surpassed the total number of H7N9 fatalities last year, which was 73.
Mutation of H7N9 bird flu strain found in Guangdong patients

The drug resistance was found in two patients found to have the mutation of the virus, the report said. The new strain was identified by the China Centre for Disease Control.
Taiwan’s Centre for Disease Control announced earlier this month that gene sequence analysis of a H7N9 bird flu patient, who fell ill after visiting Guangdong, found the virus had a mutation that was resistant to antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu and Relenza. The patient, a 69-year-old businessman, died earlier this week.

Zhong was quoted in the Nanfang Daily as saying most patients on the mainland were responding to Tamiflu treatment, suggesting the mutated strain of H7N9 was not the dominant virus, or “a considerable amount of viruses” did not mutate.

He Jianfeng, chief expert in infectious diseases at the Guangdong Provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, told the newspaper both patients with the new strain had taken Tamiflu before and it was not clear whether the drug resistance was caused by previous use of the treatment or the virus mutation.
Professor Malik Peiris, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong who published a paper in the medical journal The Lancet four years ago saying H7N9 patients in Shanghai had previously shown antiviral resistance, said Tamiflu resistance occurred occasionally in bird flu patients treated with the drug before.

China’s H7N9 bird flu measures came too late, experts say

His further work showed these patients can be treated with alternative antiviral drugs. Professor Peiris called for a quick investigation into the latest H7N9 virus mutation.
“We need more information on how widespread this resistance is in recent viruses, especially those with the high pathogenic mutation,” he said.

Tamiflu can still be useful for treatment and early use of the drug will reduce the chance of resistance developing and increase the chance of a cure, he added. Patients who have begun antiviral treatment need to be monitored to see whether there was a good response and to change to alternative drugs if there was no improvement, he said.

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Anoxia – Applying the technique

Anoxia technique

High expansion foam

The Anoxia technique is unique for creating an environment without oxygen under atmospheric circumstances. High expansion foam is produced by mixing nitrogen, a mixture of water and specially developed high expansion detergent. The expansion rate is upto 1:1000, meaning that 1 litre of water/foam agent mix expands up to 1 m3 foam. Due to the specially designed foam generator, the high expansion foam bubbles are filled with a > 99% concentration of nitrogen. Therefore, the oxygen level surrounding the animal drops from 21% in atmospheric air to < 1 % once the animal is submerged in the foam.

Convulsions, but no stress or pain

The animals need a constant supply of oxygen to the brain. Applying Anoxia foam, the oxygen is replaced by nitrogen. As a result the nitrogen level is raised to > 99% and the oxygen level is lowered to < 1%. Considering the natural reaction to sudden lack of oxygen the animal is rendering quickly into unconsciousness. As a consequence, behavioral indicators like loss of posture and convulsions will appear. With this in mind, unconscious animals are insensitive to perceive unpleasant sensations like pain.

How Anoxia foam is created

First of all, a mixture of 97% water and 3% high expansion foam agent is sprayed into the Anoxia foam generator, creating a thin film on the outlet of the generator. At the same time, nitrogen is added with overpressure into the foam generator. The nitrogen expands when it exits the generator. This creates a robust high expansion foam. The high expansion foam bubbles are filled with > 99% nitrogen.

Single foam generator systems

In practice, one Anoxia foam generator creates a volume of up to 750 liter of high expansion foam per minute. This volume is more than sufficient to fill a wheelie-bin container within 30 seconds. The most common container volumes are:

 

  • M size – 240 liter;
  • L size – 340 liter;
  • XL size – 370 liter

The choice of the volume of the container depends of the size of the animal and/or the number of animals that need to be stunned/killed. A lid with a chiffon seals the container. As soon as the foam exits the chiffon, the gas supply is stopped and the chiffon is closed. The nitrogen gas concentration in the container remains at 99%.

 

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Animal Euthanasia: What are the challenges?

 

Animal Euthnanasia and its challenges

 

Although commonly used in other settings, defining animal welfare as part of a CSR (corporate social responsibility) setting is not new.
There are many ways to define CSR. What they have in common is that CSR describes how companies manage their business processes. This is to produce an overall positive impact on society. The phenomenon CSR is a value concept that is susceptible to particular ideological and emotional interpretations. Different organizations have framed different definitions – although there is considerable common ground between them.

Some important national players of the food chain at different steps (mainly food retailers and food services) have included animal welfare in their CSR.

The anoxia technique

The anoxia technique

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Anoxia: What is it?

An explanation of the anoxia principle

The Anoxia technique is developed as alternative for existing animal stunning methods that are based on the use of CO2, electrocution, neck dislocation, captive-bolt, as well as killing methods like de-bleeding and maceration.
In the past 10 years, Wageningen University and University of Glasgow conducted several studies that proved that the technique could be applied successfully for culling poultry (Proof of Principle Anoxia Technique). This was the start of the development of several applications based on the Anoxia principle, using high expansion foam filled with >99% Nitrogen.

The technique has now been introduced in:

    1. Stunning and killing of sick and cripple killing piglets less than 5 kg
    2. Stunning and killing of sick or cripple poultry (especially poultry > 3kg) who need to be killed on the farm by the staff for welfare purposes (avoiding unnecessary stress or pain)
    3. Stunning and killing of poultry that arrives on the slaughterhouse but that are unfit to be slaughtered (due to injuries occurred during transportation – providing signs of possible illness etc.)
    4. Stunning and killing of male pullets at the hatchery
    5. Stunning and killing of half-hatched chickens and embryos in partly-hatched eggs, before destruction
    6. Stunning and killing parent stock poultry
    7. Killing of animals that have been stunned (captive bolt – blow-on-the-head method, etc.) replacing killing by de-bleeding
    8. Culling of ex-layers
    9. Culling of poultry for disease control purposes

 

Last November 2016 the campaign started the launch of the commercialization of the Anoxia applications in Holland, Germany and Sweden, focusing on the areas where a solution is most needed: piglets (< 5kg) and poultry (> 3kg) on farms.

AVT

AVT

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Revolutionary new stunning method launched on the EU market

anoxia-presentatie-foto-3-overviewCelle, December 22, 2016, by Harm Kiezebrink

Revolutionary new technique

After 10 years of research & development a revolutionary new stunning technique is introduced. Based on the principles of animal welfare as described in the Terrestrial Animal Health Code of the International Standards of OiE: The Anoxia technique – stunning and killing animals by placing them under atmospheric conditions in an environment without oxygen. The solution is not only simple and safe and cost-efficient; it is also not physically demanding to the farmer and his employees.


Animal welfare

The principle guarantees that the animal(s) are placed in an environment with pure nitrogen, once the high expansion foam, filled with 100% nitrogen, replaces the atmospheric air inside the container. From that moment on, the animal inhales pure nitrogen, an atmospheric gas that all living species are used to and that can be inhaled without any physical reactions because atmospheric air contains 78% nitrogen that is inhaled by every breath.


Simple technique

The newly developed and patented technique is simple. All it needs is a soap dispenser connected to a water tap; a soap concentration; a bottle of pure nitrogen including a regulator; a standard waste 240/340/370 liter wheelie-bin container; and the Anoxia lit that closes and seals of the container. Inside the container, a high expansion foam generator is placed, connected to the water/soap and nitrogen through flexible tubes, connected to the inside of the lid. A chiffon is added to the lid, in order to allow atmospheric air to escape the container when it is filled with foam.

Standard Operating Procedure

According to the Standard Operating Procedure, the water/soap and the nitrogen tubes are connected to the electrical valves on outside of the Anoxia lid. Then the animal(s) are placed in the bin, next to the foam generator. The lid is closed and the foam production is started.


Stunned within 30 seconds

After 30 seconds, the container is filled completely with foam. At the moment that the foam is placed in the container via the chiffon, the foam production is stopped and the chiffon is sealed off. Throughout the foam production process the animals remain calm. The high concentration of nitrogen replaces the oxygen in the blood and via the longs; nitrogen is transported to the organs instead of oxygen. The first organ that reacts is the brain that immediately shuts of consciousness.

Body reactions

The contractions of the muscles start after the brain is no longer able to control the movements of the muscles and is not a sign of stress, like with traditional gas stunning methods, where oxygen is gradually replaced with gasses like CO2 or Argon.
Therefore the Anoxia technique is the revolutionary alternative for existing stunning methods that are based on the use of CO2, electrocution, neck dislocation, captive-bolt, as well as killing methods like de-bleeding and maceration.


Anoxia applications

Several applications based on the Anoxia principle are now introduced for:
1. Stunning and sick and cripple killing piglets less than 5 kg
2. Stunning and killing of sick or cripple poultry (especially poultry > 3kg) who need to be killed on the farm by the staff for welfare purposes (avoiding unnecessary stress or pain)
3. Stunning and killing poultry that arrives on the slaughterhouse but that are unfit to be slaughtered (due to injuries occurred during transportation – providing signs of possible illness etc.)
4. Stunning and killing of male pullets at the hatchery
5. Stunning and killing of half-hatched chickens and embryos in partly-hatched eggs, before destruction
6. Stunning and killing parent stock poultry
7. Killing of animals that has been stunned (captive bolt – blow-on-the-head method, etc.) replacing killing by de-bleeding
8. Culling of ex-layers
9. Culling of poultry for disease control purposes


Sales started December 2016

The first application that’s introduced on market in Germany, Holland, Sweden and Denmark can be applied for Stunning and killing piglets less than 5 kg; – poultry > 3kg (turkey and parent stock); and embryos in partly-hatched eggs.

More info

For more detailed information on the Anoxia technique, please visit www.Anoxia.EU, or send your request for information to the N2GF team at info@n2gf.com and one of our consultants will come back to you as soon as possible.

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Korea’s response to birdflu outbreaks complete fail: Disaster for poultry industry

sanatizing-rivers [at the picture – Large mobile sprayers spew sanitizers into Seongho Reservoir in Icheon, Gyeonggi, on Thursday, to prevent highly pathogenic avian influenza from spreading in the region.] Published at December 15, 2016 in the Korean Joonang Daily.

Avian Influenza in Korea

It’s official – the H5N6 avian influenza (AI) virus that touched down in Korea one month ago. It has caused the largest amount of damage the domestic poultry industry has ever experienced with bird flus. That’s 284 farms hit, nearly 15 million ducks, chickens and quails culled, and more to go. No other AI virus in the past has killed this many birds. Egg prices are soaring, now fixed at around 6,580 won ($5.63) per tray of 30 at the largest discount retail chain, E-Mart. Paris Baguette raised prices by an average of 6.6 percent earlier this month, their first hike in almost three years.

According to local experts, the crisis will last through April 2017 unless the government dramatically reforms current measures, which have been criticized for being far too weak. In an article published Tuesday, the Korea JoongAng Daily wrote that the first major government meeting discussing the outbreak was not held until one month after the virus was discovered on Oct. 28 in Cheonan, South Chungcheong, in the feces of migratory birds. By then, it had been a week since it reached nearby farms.

Measurements

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs announced that it would “negotiate” whether to raise the national AI crisis level to the highest of the four-tier system, from the current level 3. On Thursday it was upgraded. “Things can really get worse unless the central government closely collaborates with regional governments and farms,” said Seo Sang-heui, a veterinary medicine professor at Chungnam National University in Daejeon.

Kim Jae-hong, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Seoul National University, warned that for the domestic poultry farming industry the next one to two weeks will be a matter of “life or death.” One problem is that regional governments are not doing enough to quarantine areas, due to a lack of human resources and money. In a recent investigation by the Ministry of Public Safety and Security, there were 20 cases in which a government office wrote on official documents they set up an AI control team for their communities, but did not actually do so.

In Sejong City, a farmer was caught shipping off 100,000 chickens to his retailers last month and reporting to the government the next day that his farm appeared to be hit by AI. It later tested positive and authorities are now investigating whether he had known about the infection ahead of time. In a country where the government relies on farmers to report viruses on their own, and punishes those who turn out to have failed to take proper quarantine measures in the first place, many farmers hesitate to report their circumstances. Moreover, movement bans are imposed on poultry farmers and their vehicles at locations where the virus has tested positive, but rarely are these restrictions taken seriously.

Choe Nong-hoon, a veterinary medicine professor at Konkuk University in Seoul, thinks it is time for Korea to reform its entire poultry farming industry as current circumstances will only attract more forms of AI in the future. In Korea, chickens are normally raised in a closed, artificial setting, Choe said, as opposed to European countries and Japan, where free-range farming is more common. Free-range farming is more expensive, but cheap goods can be replenished by foreign imports, said the professor. “It’s about time to negotiate changes in related policies not just for Korea’s poultry industry,” Choe said, “but for the sake of public health.”

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WHO warns of H7N9 pandemic

birds-in-container

H7N9 Pandemic?

Published at 15 December 2016 in The Standard Hong Kong, by Mary Ann Benitez and Carain Yeung.

World Health Organization director- general Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun warns bird flu H7N9 is particularly worrying as it could be a flu pandemic strain. This is because H7N9 is unique as it does not make chickens sick but is deadly in humans. Sick birds could usually provide early warning for imminent outbreaks, Chan told The Standard. This comes as Macau reported its first human case of H7N9 yesterday. “The biggest challenge for the world is the next influenza pandemic,” Chan said.

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Fear of African Swine Fever triggers biosecurity step up

asf

Fear of African Swine Fever triggers biosecurity step up

ASF is considered a major threat to Danish pig producers, largely due to its presence in locations of export and its highly contagious nature. With the industry continuously under strain to make sure extensive measures are in place to safeguard the country from the disease.

 

 

 

Danish prevention plan

Soren Sondergaard, vice-chairman, of SEGES Pig Research Centre, said that ASF prevention utilised a massive amount of the annual budget but was necessary as an outbreak could cost the sector billions of kroner.
New regulations have been implemented to mitigate the risk, including new regimes which call for trucks to be thoroughly cleaned and held in a restricted area for a certain amount of time between transportation.

Mr Sondergaard said: “We are spending between 15-18 million Danish krone a year on cleaning the trucks, and have hired trained staff to do so, minimising the pressure on the drivers. If trucks are transporting to regions where ASF has been recorded, the vehicle must be cleaned and then left for seven days before returning to Denmark. We are working very hard to prevent an outbreak as it would cause devastation to our industry and economy as a whole.”
In the event of an ASF spread, parts of Denmark would be closed off with immediate effect, in order to ensure the flow of production could still continue in other areas.

As the virus is a noted problem in countries with vast numbers of wild pigs, Mr Sondergaard suggested that culling regimes could be another option to consider, as well as changing the drop off points where live animals are exchanged.
He said: “In risk areas such as Poland, it would be ideal to transport animals to Russia and then arrange collection so our trucks do not have to drive on the infected land. However, this would be expensive and so more safeguarding action needs to be developed.”

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New outbreaks of avian influenza in Europe

New outbreaks of avian influenza in Europe

New outbreaks of avian influenza have been reported among wild birds and poultry across Europe since the end of October 2016. The highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N8 virus is identified in Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, and the Netherlands.

EFSA investigation

EFSA experts are supporting Member States in their data collection activities. These collections are aimed at identifying how the virus enters poultry farms and the risks posed by wild birds. This information will help EFSA to re-assess the risk of introduction of avian influenza into the EU. The risk assessment is based on new scientific knowledge. The updated scientific advice will be published in 2017.

The European Commission has called on Member States to be vigilant and to reduce the risk of further outbreaks. They will do so by taking measures such as increasing biosecurity levels in poultry holdings and backyard flocks.

EFSA has worked on this topic extensively in recent years. Its work has included a scientific opinion on migratory wild birds and their possible role in the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses.

outbreaks of Avian influenza

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Dossier Ventilation Shutdown: How to Kill Half a Million Chickens at Once

Published on February 9, 2016 on Motherboard.vice.com, Written by Kaleigh Rogers. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who would argue that killing a flock of chickens by shutting down ventilation systems to their barn and letting them slowly overheat and suffocate is a pleasant way to go. In fact, a year ago, this method of killing sick birds—called ventilation shutdown—was not permitted by the Department of Agriculture. But after a devastating bout of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) decimated US chicken and turkey farms last year, the USDA approved and has started using this controversial killing technique to cull infected flocks at massive, commercial farms in an effort to prevent another outbreak.

Nobody is keen on killing hundreds of thousands of chickens at a time—aside from it being a grim task, it also results in a huge loss of revenue—but it’s a necessary evil to shut down disastrous outbreaks. The USDA acknowledges that ventilation shutdown is not a great way to go, though a representative told me the agency can’t say for sure how long it takes birds to die this way. The fact that the USDA would resort to a killing technique most experts agree is less-than-ideal at best and inhumane at worst, without fully understanding what this method does to the animals, shows how ill-prepared we are for dealing with a massive agricultural epidemic. If we want to be more prepared in the future, shouldn’t the USDA be looking for better ways to kill half a million birds at once?

When a flock of poultry is infected with HPAI, swift action is imperative. As long as the birds are alive, they actively shed the live virus through their feces and saliva, which increases the risk of the disease spreading to other farms. So when the virus is detected, the USDA requires the flock to be depopulated—a term meaning the mass killing of livestock in response to a disease outbreak—within 24 hours. In some cases, like on some turkey farms in Indiana last month, this means resorting to ventilation shutdown.

“I don’t think anyone denies that there are more welfare challenges with ventilation shutdown than any of the other techniques,” said Maurice Pitesky, a veterinarian and expert in poultry epidemiology at the University of California. “But if you’re just thinking solely about how to depopulate the flock, ventilation shutdown is the quickest way to do that.”

It’s true that, from a procedural standpoint, ventilation shutdown is the option that can be executed most quickly. Other methods, like gassing the birds with carbon dioxide or suffocating them with a dense CO2 foam, require more time to orchestrate: you have to find a way to get a CO2 tanker to the farm, pump the gas into the barn, and wait for the concentration to get high enough to depopulate the flock. Depending on the location and size of the farm, this could take more than 24 hours to complete—beyond the USDA’s deadline. Ventilation shutdown, on the other hand, is just a matter of flipping a few switches.

The USDA guidelines for ventilation shutdown are to turn off the ventilation systems, then raise the temperature inside the barn to at least 104F for a minimum of three hours. This can be done by turning up the temperature, but because the barns are so densely packed they can sometimes heat up that much just by virtue of the air systems being shut off. It’s happened in the past by accident, when pranksters shut off power or electrical failures cause the air systems to shut down. From start to finish, the actual process is the quickest way to depopulate a flock.

The trouble is that, for each individual bird, it might be one of the slowest and most painful ways to die. Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection for the Humane Society of the United States, described the process as “essentially baking the birds to death,” and called it “horrific.”

The HSUS claims it could take birds hours to die through ventilation shutdown, but there are no studies that have looked at the time to death with this method. USDA officials have previously estimated the process takes 30 to 40 minutes to kill birds, but when I reached out to the agency, it couldn’t confirm how long it takes birds to die this way.

“The majority of birds will die quickly, but it is advisable to maintain the recommended temperature for three hours to account for poor heat distribution and, importantly, inactivate much of the HPAI virus in the poultry house,” Andrea McNally, a spokesperson for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, told me, stressing that ventilation shutdown was considered a last resort option. When I asked McNally to clarify what the USDA considered “quickly,” she said she couldn’t.

“The variabilities of structures and density of poultry make it hard to give you an easy answer,” McNally said.

It’s not all that surprising that the USDA doesn’t know precisely how long it takes birds to die via ventilation shutdown, because nobody really does, according to Patricia Turner, a veterinarian and pathobiology professor at the University of Guelph who has researched depopulation methods and is a consultant on the American Veterinary Medical Association’s depopulation panel.

“It hasn’t been studied, to be very honest,” Turner told me over the phone. “You want the animal to become insensible as soon as possible. The time to death is pretty rapid with ventilation shutdown, within probably 10-25 minutes depending on the size of the barn. The problem is that we don’t know what the animals experience in that time.”

One of the arguments in favor of using ventilation shutdown is that if farmers delay in an attempt to use another method like CO2, the virus could spread, putting even more animals on death row. But if there are other, potentially more humane methods, why aren’t we set up to put them in place quickly if needed?

“It’s unheard of, the methods they’re applying,” said Harm Kiezebrink, an expert in humane poultry depopulation who has developed painless slaughtering technology. “Anybody with a little common sense understands that if you don’t research animal welfare for a method that is now the standard, that is very, very bad.”

Kiezebrink has worked around the world to help governments manage avian influenza outbreaks, depopulating farms from the Netherlands to China. Ventilation shutdown isn’t widely used in other countries, according to Kiezebrink (gassing is usually preferred). It was green-lit in the UK in 2006 but never implemented. It’s far from the most gruesome depopulation method around—in the past, some countries have resorted to burning or burying birds alive—but Kiezebrink said the lack of understanding of the method’s effect on birds should rule it out, at least until further research is done.

But other options aren’t cheap. The technology Kiezebrink once marketed—including a machine that kills birds instantly by dragging them through electrified water—cost as much as $600,000. Recently Kiezebrink said he’s been researching a nitrogen-based foam that would, he says, basically just put the birds to sleep when inhaled. But this, too, would likely be too expensive to use on a widespread basis.

“Gas-injected foam is better because the animals actually die of lack of oxygen, which occurs much faster and much more quietly—they don’t seem to show the same distress,” Turner told me. “The problem is nitrogen is expensive and difficult to source. For the huge farms prevalent in the US, which are much bigger than anything in Europe, it’s probably not feasible.”

So where does that leave us? The good news is, after the ventilation shutdown in Indiana, there haven’t been any more reports of HPAI so far this year. That buys us some time to work on more humane methods, including potentially developing vaccines, Turner said. She said when the AVMA completes its depopulation guidelines, the USDA will likely need to reassess its use of ventilation shutdown.

“I would be very surprised to see this technique accepted [by the AVMA] without peer-reviewed papers that support it,” Turner said. “In addition to needing data on it, there needs to be public acceptance. You can think of a number of procedures that might be very quick but would not be interpreted to be humane, or that the public just might not have the stomach for.”

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