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Public Health Sector

25. August 21, ABC News Online 'pandemic' a virtual gold mine for epidemiologists. Widespread quarantines. Bodies by the hundreds lying dead in the streets. A mass hysteria that converted once−bustling cities into ghost towns. Such was the scenario in the fall of 2005, when a plague known as Corrupted Blood swept across the land. The calamity did not occur in the real world. But the pandemiclike event that occurred in September 2005 in the online multiplayer realm of World of Warcraft has some researchers interested in whether such online environs could be used to predict the spread of infectious diseases in the real world. World of Warcraft is a game in which players from around the world log on, interact and develop their characters in a fantasy setting. "Here, we have a large−scale computer simulation where we know everything about the disease, but its spread is determined largely by human behavior," said study co−author Eric Lofgren, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "This is all free from the fact that you can't do this sort of thing in the real world because it would be horrifyingly unethical." Source: http://www.abcnews.go.com/Health/Germs/story?id=3502957&page =1

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    August 21, The Age (Australia) Second Bali death blamed on bird flu. A second woman may have died from bird flu on the Indonesian resort island of Bali. Preliminary test results show the 28−year−old had the H5N1 strain, an Indonesian Health Ministry staffer says. If more reliable tests being carried out in Jakarta confirm the results, she will be the second person to have died in Bali from the virus within two weeks. The island's first confirmed victim was a 29−year−old woman, who died on August 12. Her five−year−old daughter died on August 3 after suffering flu−like symptoms, but her body was cremated before samples were taken for testing. The woman who died on Tuesday, August 21, in Bali's Sanglah Hospital was a poultry distributor from Tabanan District. Source: http://www.theage.com.au/news/World/Second−Bali−death−blamed −on−bird−flu/2007/08/21/1187462238146.html

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    August 20, St. Jude Children Influenza survey uncovers key differences between bird flu and human flu. Scientists have found key features that distinguish influenza viruses found in birds from those that infect humans. The St. Jude team used a mathematical technique to identify specific amino acid building blocks that are statistically more likely to appear in avian influenza virus proteins and those that are more likely to be in human influenza virus proteins. The differences in these amino acids can be used as markers to track changes in H5N1 avian influenza strains that threaten humans. "Influenza mutates rapidly, so that any marker that is not the same in bird flu but remains stable in human flu is likely to be important," said David Finkelstein, research associate at the St. Jude Hartwell Center for Bioinformatics and Biotechnology. "If human specific markers start accumulating in bird flu viruses that infect humans, that suggests that the bird flu may be adapting to humans and could spread." The researchers also found that various strains of the H5N1 virus that have infected humans are more likely to contain human markers than are H5N1 strains that have not infected humans. Only occasionally have H5N1 samples obtained from human patients shown any of these markers, and no H5N1 strain has permanently acquired any of them.


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