Agencies to seek accord on naming of H5N1 strains

first_imgDec 11, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – International health officials who met with Chinese health experts last week said the dispute over the “Fujian-like” strain of H5N1 avian influenza reflects confusion over names and vowed to seek an agreement on terminology for the various H5N1 subgroups.The meeting in Beijing came a few weeks after US and Hong Kong scientists reported in a medical journal that the Fujian-like strain had emerged as the predominant H5N1 strain in southern China in the past year and caused increased poultry outbreaks. Chinese authorities rejected the report, saying the strain did not exist as a distinct subgroup.A postmeeting statement from the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) affirmed the existence of the Fujian-like strain, but said it has been called several different names.Participants agreed that “a number of significant H5N1 virus groups have been identified from poultry and wild birds in China since 2004,” the statement said. “One such identified group of viruses has been termed differently by several groups. Terms include the ‘waterfowl clade’, ‘clade 2.3’, and ‘Fujian-like’.”The statement also said, “It was agreed there is a need for a shared understanding and a common nomenclature for influenza A(H5N1) groups and that some of the recent confusion about the avian influenza situation in China resulted from multiple terms used to describe the same virus groups.”FAO/OIE/WHO will establish an international working group including Chinese experts to develop global consensus on terminology to be used when describing different influenza A(H5N1) virus groups.”According to a Reuters report, the WHO’s David Heymann told reporters after the meeting, “It’s very important that naming of viruses is done in a way that doesn’t stigmatize countries, that doesn’t stigmatize regions and doesn’t stigmatize individual people.” Heymann is the WHO’s assistant director-general for communicable diseases.Media reports on the meeting said Chinese experts didn’t deny the existence of the Fujian-like strain but did take exception to the name. According to a Canadian Press (CP) report, Chinese officials said the Hong Kong–US researchers had renamed a known H5N1 subgroup that some other authorities called Anhui-like, Anhui being another Chinese province.The FAO-OIE-WHO statement affirmed some aspects of the Hong Kong–US researchers’ report, which was published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. For example, the statement said information presented at the meeting indicated that the Fujian-like strain has grown more common in parts of southern China since 2005 and has been found in poultry in Laos and Malaysia this year.In addition, the statement said, “This virus group has been documented to cause some human infection in 2005 and 2006 in China,” as the Hong Kong–US researchers had said.But contrary to another possibility the researchers have suggested, “There is no evidence to date to link the emergence of this virus group with use of poultry influenza vaccination in China.”The statement affirmed that vaccination can control H5N1 in poultry, provided that vaccines are of high quality and well matched to circulating viruses and that vaccination coverage is adequate.”China has recently strengthened poultry surveillance to include serological (antibody) and virus surveillance as well as surveillance for disease outbreaks,” the statement added. With the increased surveillance, China is now publishing data monthly on the Ministry of Agriculture Web site, rather than annually, news services reported.China has been criticized for sharing too little data on the H5N1 virus and too few samples. Last month the country promised to provide samples to the WHO.Keiji Fukuda, coordinator of the WHO global influenza program, said all participants at the meeting agreed that sharing information and virus samples “is critical for the defense of everybody,” according to Reuters.The FAO-OIE-WHO statement said there has been no evidence that the Fujian-like strain is more transmissible to humans than other H5N1 viruses and no evidence that it has sparked human-to-human transmission.See also:Nov 10 CIDRAP News story “Chinese promise H5N1 samples, deny claim of new strain”Nov 3 CIDRAP News story “Study says new H5N1 strain pervades southern China”last_img read more

UK public funds hit out at ‘simplistic’ pooling guidance

first_imgUK local authority pension funds have accused the government of imposing higher costs through changes in its stance towards asset pooling.The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) published a consultation in January on new guidance for funds within the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) regarding the ongoing asset pooling projects.LGPS funds in England and Wales have set up eight asset pooling vehicles designed to improve scale and cost efficiencies for the 88 schemes in the local authority system.The policy, brought in by former chancellor George Osborne in 2015, has required council finance officers to dedicate thousands of hours of work to setting up the vehicles, obtaining regulatory permissions, appointing new staff and systems providers, and conducting manager searches. With roughly a third of LGPS assets now overseen by the pools, some local councils have expressed “serious concerns regarding the appropriateness” of the latest guidance from central government. Source: Chris McAndrewRishi Sunak, UK local government ministerIn a letter to local government minister Rishi Sunak, the Northern LGPS – a £45bn (€52.5bn) collaboration between the pension funds for Greater Manchester, Merseyside and West Yorkshire – said there were “many inconsistencies between the LGPS investment regulations and the draft guidance”.In particular, the letter highlighted a shift of stance from the ministry to require all pools to set up an entity directly regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the UK’s main finance regulator.The Northern LGPS pool opted not to set up an authorised entity, maintaining that to do so would incur additional costs that would outweigh any benefits of pooling assets. So far it has established an infrastructure vehicle used by Northern’s three member funds along with the three LGPS funds within the Local Pensions Partnership, another pool. GLIL, as it is known, has so far raised more than £1.8bn from its investors.“Based on our research in this area, we estimate that establishing an FCA-regulated company would increase Northern LGPS’ costs by approximately £10m to £15m,” the letter said. Having initially estimated savings of £28m, the pool has since said the total saved could be “substantially higher”.It said it would expect central government to meet these additional costs as part of a 2018 agreement with the MHCLG not to impose excessive cost increases onto council tax payers.center_img Source: timajoThe Merseyside Pension Fund is one of several LGPS funds criticising government plansLondon funds weigh inMeanwhile, local authority pension funds in London have also criticised the MHCLG’s draft guidance. The pension committee for the £2.4bn Wandsworth Pension Fund, one of 32 LGPS funds in the London CIV pool, hit out at the “simplistic” guidance, which it said failed to take into account the diverse nature of individual pension funds.“If too much of the [investment] process is delegated to the pool operator there is a significant risk that offerings will be too generic to allow for differing attitudes to risk appetite, volatility, ESG considerations and… currency decisions,” Wandsworth said.It also argued that “enforcing too strict an approach will hinder the market and restrict who will be able to tender for any mandates”, including potential preventing “good quality boutique managers being able to bid due to capacity constraints”.The £1.5bn Lambeth Pension Fund said the draft guidance “introduces significant risks of consequence falling on council tax payers” due to its “dogmatic” demands on LGPS funds.In particular, the fund’s response highlighted a proposed 5% cap on investments individual funds would be permitted to make outside of the pool after 2020. As not all funds would be able to invest via pools by this point, given the timescales set out for launching new offerings, the proposed limit was “of no effect”, Lambeth argued.The fund called for the 5% limit to be scrapped and for the MHCLG to relax its requirements for investments outside the pool to allow for more time for establish the relevant expertise.In its draft response to MHCLG, the £1.3bn Islington Pension Fund said: “We do not believe the pools have had enough time to prove themselves on selection of managers to achieve optimum performance net of fees and value for money to pay our pensioners and sustain our funds and, as such, the mandated 2020 date should be flexible.”Further readingLGPS pooling: Funds under pressure to comply A consultation paper sent out by the MHCLG in January to funds within the £275bn LGPS system has heightened tensions between policymakers and pension fundslast_img read more