Dec 14, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – Reports of suspected human H5N1avian influenza cases among brothers in Pakistan are raising fresh fears in the global health community of human-to-human transmission of the virus, amid uncertainty about how a father-son pair in China contracted their H5N1 infections.Media outlets in Pakistan have been reporting on a possible family cluster in the northwestern part of the country over the past few days, but the sources of the information were often murky, and the details of the cases were confusing and often contradictory. And even though today’s news reports flesh out more details about the suspected cases, they still contain contradictory statements.If the World Health Organization (WHO) confirms the Pakistani cases, they would represent the country’s first reported appearance of the H5N1 virus in humans in Pakistan.Confusion, concern in PakistanToday an anonymous source in Pakistan’s health ministry told Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) that authorities are testing samples from two poultry farm workers who died in a hospital isolation ward from suspected H5N1 infections. The ministry official said the brothers are from Mansehra district and were admitted to a hospital in Peshawar, in northern Pakistan, KUNA reported.”We have received their blood samples, and they have been sent to laboratory for clinical analysis,” the ministry official told KUNA, adding that results are expected tomorrow.The Mansehra district where the men are from has experiencedH5N1 in poultry, and thousands of birds have been culled in the area, the KUNA report said.Khushnood Akhtar, secretary of Pakistan’s health ministry, said the cases occurred in November but said that four brothers are involved, Deutsche Presse-Argentur (DPA) reported today. One of the men, who worked on a poultry farm, may have contracted the H5N1 virus after he helped cull sick birds, Akhtar told DPA.The man survived but may have infected three of his brothers, none of whom had been at the farm or in contact with sick birds, Akhtar said in the DPA report. The DPA report appears to contradict the KUNA story, which said the two men in its report were farm workers.Akhtar told DPA that two of the brothers died of pneumonia-like symptoms but were buried before health officials could obtain blood samples, which appears to contradict what the anonymous health ministry official told KUNA.A third brother who lives in the United States and was visiting Mansehra also tested positive for the H5N1 virus, but survived and returned to his US home, Akhtar told DPA.”We have requested the WHO to send a team to the area so we can find out exactly what happened there,” he said in the DPA report.Developments in ChinaMeanwhile in China, the military in Nanjing, located in Jiangsu province in the eastern part of the country, banned poultry sales this week after the H5N1 virus killed a 24-year-old man from the area and sickened his 52-year-old father, the Associated Press reported today. Chinese officials have said they aren’t sure how the two men became infected or if there is any connection between their illnesses.China has not reported any recent H5N1 outbreaks in poultry.The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control(ECDC) said in an influenza news assessment yesterday that despite the familial link between the two men, it is too soon to say if their cases represent an instance of human-to-human H5N1 transmission.”Even if limited human-to-human transmission is proven in this or other cases, that is not new,” the ECDC report said. “ECDC would not change its EU [European Union] risk assessment in the absence of enlarging clusters and chains of transmission of H5N1, which are not being seen at present.”Cases serve as stark reminderMichael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH, director of the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, publisher of CIDRAP News, said there is obviously a major uptick inH5N1 activity in birds and humans, and that increased reports of the virus aren’t surprising, given the cooler seasonal conditions that have been associated with increased influenza activity.Today the WHO confirmed Myanmar’s first human H5N1 case, and Indonesia’s health minister announced another death from the disease. (See today’s CIDRAP News article for more details.)Osterholm said he doesn’t see a reason to panic over reports of family clusters and suspected human-to-human transmission. “Part of the problem with trying to understand the potential of H5N1 to cause the next pandemic is that we still don’t know what it will take to make it happen, “he told CIDRAP News.The H5N1 virus continues to have opportunities to find the right combination for sustained human-to-human transmission, Osterholm said, “but maybe this is all it will ever do.””Surely, this should remind us that this virus is continuing an uncontrolled and incredibly exuberant genetic mutation pathway,” he said.The emergence of human H5N1 cases in Pakistan wouldn’t be surprising, Osterholm said, “I’ve never believed that these countries could isolate themselves.”
Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications has announced it will be partnering with Twitch to offer a collegiate course called “Esports & Media”. The announcement states the course will explore the “rapidly growing world of esports, tracing the historical roots of competitive video games to the current multi-billion dollar industry.” Students enrolled in this course will examine the history, technologies and business models behind esports along with opportunities to work with organisations to provide content such as live broadcasting and reporting.Olivia Stomski, Syracuse University Professor and Director of Newhouse Sports Media CenterOlivia Stomski, Professor and Director of the Newhouse Sports Media Center commented: “With the growing interest in and popularity of competitive gaming—not just in terms of participation, but also broadcasting and marketing—we made it a priority to offer our students a holistic look at esports and media. We will have a dedicated Twitch channel for our class and Twitch will assist with arranging guest speakers and supplying guidance to our students as they navigate the ever-changing world of esports and media.”Along with Stomski Assistant Professor of English, Chris Hanson will co-teach the course. Hanson currently teaches gaming-related courses such as Practices of Games and Game Studies for undergraduate and graduate programs.“The world of esports is expanding at an astonishing rate, as are the number of careers associated with the industry,” said Hanson. “By collaborating with Twitch, students in our course will have the opportunity to gain invaluable insights and cutting-edge experience from leaders in the field.”Mark Candella, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Twitch said the Esports & Media course will provide valuable insight to the entrepreneurial spirit in the gaming industry: “We envision this leading to students from every discipline finding the opportunity to contribute in their own unique ways to the competitive gaming scene as it continues to gain momentum.”As esports has begun to expand to the collegiate community with scholarship programs, institutions are becoming more and more open to accepting coursework relating to gaming and esports. Kajaani University in Finland announced earlier this year it will offer a bachelor’s degree program in esports business, while both The University of Oxford and The University of Leicester have announced plans to offer esports courses as well.Esports Insider says: Education is something that is severely lacking in esports and the best way to combat that is to educate early and accurately. It’s very exciting to see a prestigious university partner with an esports platform powerhouse like Twitch. This partnership will certainly groom the next generation of esports professionals.Sign up to our newsletter!