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May 16, 2003

Stephen M. Apatow
Director of Research and Development 
Humanitarian Resource Institute Biodefense Reference Library
Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Center
Eastern USA: (203) 668-0282   Western USA: (775) 884-4680


The following news report discusses a new respiratory disease that has hit the booming south Chinese city of Shenzhen, generating a syndrome similar to that of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. 

Another respiratory disease spreads in south China city

Beijing,Friday, May 16, 2003:    A new respiratory disease has hit the booming south Chinese city of Shenzhen which is yet to recover from the bout of the killer epidemic SARS, state media reported today. 

Health officials in Shenzhen has confirmed the presence of influenza virus in the city, which is situated close to Hong Kong, Xinhua news agency reported. 

"The presence of influenza a has begun to have a negative impact on Shenzhen, in south China's Guangdong province, generating a syndrome similar to that of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome," it said. 

The Shenzhen disease prevention and control centre has initiated a public awareness campaign to enable residents to take precautions against the disease. 

The influenza virus consists of three types, namely, influenza A, B and C. Influenza 'A' is a kind of acute respiratory epidemic with strong antigen variability. 

The centre, following an examination of 22 patients with fevers and having close contacts with the influenza 'A' patients, found that ten of them carrying 'A' virus. 

At a separate test, among six patients with fevers, three of them were found carrying the influenza 'A' virus. 

-- End

Somehow the veterinary public health component of pandemics has been left out of the public discussion regarding SARS. 

As outlined in the CDC resource Influenza Pandemics: How They Start, How They Spread, and Their Potential Impact ( 

"The reservoir for Type A influenza viruses is wild birds, but influenza A viruses also infect animals such as pigs and horses, as well as people. The last two pandemic viruses were combinations of bird and human influenza viruses. Many persons believe that these new viruses emerged when an intermediate host, such as a pig, was infected by both human and bird influenza A viruses at the same time. A new virus was created. Events in Hong Kong in 1997, however, showed that this is not the only way that humans can become infected with a novel virus. Sometimes, an avian influenza virus can "jump the species barrier" and move directly from chickens to humans and cause disease."

Another reference I have mentioned previously is Heinen, Swine influenza and public health implications

"Around 1970, following the human 'Hong Kong' flu pandemic, the human H3N2 virus was transmitted to pigs. This human-like swine H3N2 virus continued to circulate, particularly in Europe and Asia, but only sporadically caused clinical signs. It has only started causing clinical disease since 1984, probably as a result of a reassortment with the avian-like swine H1N1 virus. The new virus was a reassortment human-like swine H3N2 virus with the HA and NA of the human virus and all the internal proteins of the avian virus. It has since replaced the original H3N2 virus in Europe. It was only recently that H3N2 started to circulate in the US, where it has caused serious illness and reproductive losses in sows. The viruses evolved from reassortments involving classical H1N1 and human H3N2 viruses and are antigenically and genetically distinct from the European human-like H3N2 viruses."

It may be prudent to acknowledge the contributions, on a global basis, of Veterinary Public Health (VPH) programmes to human health, with a particular emphasis on the future contributions that VPH could make in developing countries (DC) and the consensus definition of VPH at the Teramo meeting (FAO/WHO/OIE Conference on Veterinary Public Health and Control of Zoonoses in Developing Countries: Summary of Comments and Discussions: 

“The contributions to the physical, mental, and social well being of humans through an understanding, and application of veterinary science”

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