Dec 29, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – China has recorded its seventh human case of H5N1 avian influenza, involving a 41-year-old factory worker who died Dec 21, according to the Chinese news service Xinhua.The victim was a woman surnamed Zhou who lived in Sanming City in the eastern province of Fujian, Xinhua reported today. She became ill with fever and pneumonia on Dec 6 and was hospitalized 2 days later.Samples from the patient initially tested negative for the virus, but later tests by provincial and national laboratories were positive, the report said.The Chinese Ministry of Health said no poultry outbreak of H5N1 was reported near where Zhou lived, according to Xinhua. The report did not suggest how she might have contracted the virus.People who were in close contact with the patient are under medical observation, and no problems have been seen so far, the report said.China’s previous six human cases have been widely scattered, including two deaths in Anhui province and nonfatal cases in Hunan, Liaoning, and Jiangxi provinces, plus Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Xinhua said. The last previous case was reported Dec 16 in a 35-year-old man from Jiangxi; the outcome has not yet been announced.The World Health Organization’s current overall human case count stands at 141, including 73 deaths, not counting the Chinese case reported today.A trial of a human H5N1 vaccine developed in China began Dec 21 with six volunteers, Xinhua reported. “The whole trials will need nine months of tests, but initial results are expected within the first three,” the story said.China has reported 31 outbreaks of H5N1 avian flu in poultry so far this year, according to Xinhua. Twenty-six of those have occurred since Oct 19, an Associated Press report said.
The UK’s Pensions Regulator (TPR) has urged DB pension fund trustees to take a long-term view of investment risks, governance, and strategy in fresh guidance published this week.The lengthy online document detailed the regulator’s expectations of trustees in charge of defined benefit (DB) pensions, and came as part of a wider push to improve scheme governance.Fred Berry, TPR’s head of investment consultancy, said: “The investment strategy is one of the most important drivers of a scheme’s ability to meet the objective of paying the promised benefits as they fall due, and we expect trustees to set this in the context of their integrated risk management approach.“It’s important to set clear investment objectives for your scheme and to identify how and when they should be achieved. Our guidance states that trustees should focus on areas that have the most impact for meeting their scheme’s objectives, and identify the necessary skills for the board of trustees of their scheme. It also provides some practical guidance on how to get the best from their advisers.” The guidance encouraged trustees to focus on “highest level strategic decisions” and delegating other tasks to third parties, including consultants and fiduciary managers.It also emphasised the importance of establishing policies for stewardship of assets – particularly when this responsibility is delegated to a third-party asset manager – and for long-term risks such as climate change.“Most investments in pension schemes are exposed to long-term financial risks, which may include risks around long-term sustainability,” the regulator stated. “These can relate to factors such as climate change, responsible business practices and corporate governance. We expect you to assess the financial materiality of these factors and to allow for them accordingly in the development and implementation of your investment strategy.”Stuart O’Brien, partner at Sackers, said: “TPR is right to draw out specific elements such as ESG, as trustees need to take an active decision as to whether these factors are financially material for their scheme – something which is not always straightforward in practice.”The regulator also emphasised the importance of cash flow matching and modelling.Calum Cooper, head of trustee consulting at Hymans Robertson, welcomed this, but warned that most cash flow modelling systems “typically don’t allow for the primary reason schemes hold assets: i.e. for income to pay the pensions promised”.He claimed this could put members’ benefits in danger, as trustees would not have a full grasp of the risks of not meeting obligations.Cooper added: “Model misbehaviour matters. Cash flows matter. The models used by schemes should reflect both asset and liability cash flows to improve the chances of paying members’ pensions in full.”TPR’s guidance is available here.