JAPAN – Two chickens have tested positive for avian influenza at a farm in Japan where more than 1,000 chickens have died, marking the country’s first case of bird flu in three years, the Agricultural Ministry said on Sunday. The highly pathogenic H5N1 virus was detected through genetic testing of chickens at a farm in Kumamoto prefecture in the south, the ministry said on its Website. A total of 1,100 chickens have died and about 112,000 would be culled, media said. There is believed to be no risk of the virus spreading to humans through consumption of chicken eggs or meat, said Tomoyuki Takehisa, an Agricultural Ministry official. It is the first bird flu case in Japan since 2011 when it was detected in Chiba prefecture, north of Tokyo.
Paper published on how to create superflu: The Dutch virologist accused of engineering a dangerous superflu a few years ago is back with more contentious research. In 2011, Ron Fouchier and his team at Erasmus Medical Center took the H5N1 flu virus and made it more contagious. Now the team has published another study with more details on the exact genetic changes needed to do the trick. The H5N1 bird flu is known to have sickened 650 people worldwide, and of those, 386 died. So far the virus hasn’t been contagious in people. But Fouchier’s work, plus some similar research from another lab, showed for the first time that the virus had the potential to change in a way that would make it a real pandemic threat. Only a few mutations were necessary to make the H5N1 bird flu spread through the air between ferrets, the lab stand-in for people. Critics argued that the scientists had created a dangerous new superflu. And they pushed for the recipe not to be openly published. They feared that others would repeat the work and either not adequately safeguard the virus or would deliberately release it. More