Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Shark Has Been Jumped

Lawmakers reject emergency bird flu funds

Thu Nov 17, 2005 11:44 AM ET
By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Emergency money that President George W. Bush requested to combat a looming influenza pandemic has been deleted from a U.S. health-funding bill after conservative Republicans insisted it would have to be paid for by cutting other government programs.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday was set to debate the massive health-funding bill. After days of intensive talks between the House and Senate, negotiators dropped a plan for $8 billion in funds that Democrats pushed through the Senate last month.

Following that Senate vote, Bush on November 1 asked Congress for $7.1 billion in emergency money.

The funding fight erupted after conservative Republicans in the House insisted that an emergency U.S. effort to stockpile vaccines and anti-viral drugs that could be effective against the deadly flu would have to be paid for by cutting other government programs.

Republican leaders in the House said that instead of attaching the bird flu money to a massive $602 billion health and labor spending bill that is rapidly moving through Congress, they would try separate legislation later this year or early next year.
WHO warns of further China bird flu outbreaks

Thu 17 Nov 2005 7:26 AM ET
By Chris Buckley

BEIJING, Nov 17 (Reuters) - China is likely to suffer more outbreaks of bird flu among poultry and possibly people in coming winter months, a WHO official said on Thursday after China confirmed its first cases of human infection.

China announced on Wednesday a woman in eastern Anhui province had died from the H5N1 avian flu strain which was suspected in the death of a 12-year-old girl last month in southern Hunan.

The strain was also confirmed in the girl's 9-year-old brother who recovered. The World Health Organisation was "seeking further information" about a possible human infection in Liaoning province in China's far north, said Henk Bekedam, WHO's chief official in Beijing.

China is now the fifth country to report human deaths from H5N1, as fears grow the virus will trigger a pandemic.
Indonesia confirms 2 more deaths

Thu Nov 17, 2005 9:17 AM ET
JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia has had two more deaths from the H5N1 strain of bird flu confirmed by a laboratory in Hong Kong, bringing the total to seven in the country, the Health Ministry said on Thursday.

Hariadi Wibisono, a senior official from the ministry, said the tests were from a 20-year-old woman who died last weekend and a 16-year-old girl who died last week. Both victims, who died in Jakarta, had contact with dead chickens, he said.

"We received the test results this morning and both victims were positive for bird flu," Wibisono told Reuters.

He said that took total confirmed deaths to seven, with four positive cases where patients survived.

The highly pathogenic H5N1 strain is endemic in poultry in parts of Asia, where it is known to have killed more than 60 people.(ed. note: that's now 70 people, counting the deaths confirmed this morning between China and Indonesia)
FDA probes deaths of Tamiflu patients

Thu Nov 17, 2005 1:15 PM ET
By Lisa Richwine
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. regulators are studying the deaths of 12 children in Japan who took Roche AG's flu-fighting drug Tamiflu, officials said on Thursday, but they said it was difficult to tell whether the drug played a role in any of the cases.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it was "concerning" that 32 psychiatric events, such as hallucinations and abnormal behavior, also had been reported in children who took Tamiflu, which is in high demand because it is considered to be one of the best defenses against avian flu in people.

All but one of the psychiatric problems also were reported in Japan, the FDA said.

The agency will ask for input on the cases from an advisory panel of outside experts at a public meeting on Friday. Officials said the review was part of the routine monitoring of the safety of medicines used by children.

In a separate summary posted on the FDA Web site, Roche said: "There is no increase in deaths and neuropsychiatric events in patients on Tamiflu versus influenza patients in general."