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August 23, 2005

FT coverage of bird flu

Today the Financial Times features a number of bird flu articles, starting with a front page story on the latest measures taken by European countries. In another article we learn that there is considerable divergence of opinion in the EU on how big of a threat bird flu is:The Netherlands yesterday ordered farmers to keep poultry inside to prevent bird flu spreading into the country.

However, the UK played down the threat posed to domestic fowl from migratory birds. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was not planning any measures to keep poultry indoors.In Europe, the Netherlands has most experience in dealing with the bird flu:The spread of the virus two years ago among its nearly 2,000 poultry farmers led to the slaughter of 30m animals at a cost of hundreds of millions of euros.

“Poultry farmers are very afraid that this strain will arrive in western Europe. In 2003 many farmers were hit hard by what happened and it took a lot of time for them to get going again. Nobody wants this to happen ever again,” said Klass Johan Osinga, of the LTO Dutch farmers’ union.

The Netherlands last year exported almost €500m worth of eggs, making it the seventh largest producer among the EU’s then 15 countries. In 2003 it produced nearly 600,000 tonnes of poultry meat.A separate FT article covers the latest vaccine developments:GlaxoSmithKline is gearing up to file for preliminary European regulatory approv- al by the end of this year for a pandemic flu vaccine that could be used to tackle the future spread of the lethal H5N1 virus.

The move marks an early attempt by one of the world's largest vaccine manufacturers to prepare for high-volume production in accordance with European Union regulations on pandemic flu passed in 2004.

[...] GSK is in the final stages of compiling all the necessary documentation designed to show the European Medicines Agency its technical skills and production methods in order to make subsequent authorisation of a specific vaccine easier.

The company has already run clinical trials showing successful treatment of other flu strains using its flu vaccines in combination with a common “adjuvant” designed to help further boost the response of the human immune system.

The move comes ahead of its planned launch of clinical trials early next year with a potential H5N1 flu vaccine in combination with a proprietary adjuvant, from its “AS” range, which it believes will provide it with a substantial edge over its competitors.GlaxoSmithKline currently manufactures the antiviral medicine Relenza, also reviewed in an article from today's FT.

Read the entire batch of articles in the FT, hat tip to the New Economist for the links.

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Posted by dymaxion at August 23, 2005 01:55 PM

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