Another human bird flu case confirmed in Vietnam

Jan 28, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – Another human case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (bird flu) was confirmed in Vietnam today, bringing total confirmed cases to 11, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The case involved a 4-year-old boy who fell ill Dec 22, was hospitalized a week later, and is now fully recovered, the WHO said. Vietnam now has had eight confirmed cases, and Thailand has three. Six cases in Vietnam and two in Thailand were fatal.

Meanwhile, the WHO said reports of two other deaths in Vietnam due to avian influenza were premature. News reports today said two sisters, aged 23 and 30, who died last week had avian flu, but the WHO said test results were inconclusive. Further tests were under way at WHO reference laboratories in Hong Kong, officials said.

The WHO has recognized outbreaks of avian flu caused by an H5N1 virus in Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and Cambodia, and outbreaks have also been reported in Indonesia, China, and Laos. The disease has killed millions of chickens and prompted the sacrifice of millions more in containment efforts. Milder strains of avian flu have been reported in Taiwan and Pakistan.

An international meeting of health officials and experts in Bangkok, Thailand, today produced no unanimous response plan for avian flu, according to the Associated Press (AP). The WHO and international animal health agencies are urging affected countries to quickly kill all infected and exposed poultry to stop the disease, but Indonesian officials said they plan to try vaccination instead, the AP report said.

Meanwhile, the WHO talked with drug firms and laboratories today in a teleconference about developing a vaccine to fight the avian flu, according to the AP. Health experts are worried that the disease could spark a human flu pandemic if the virus infects a person who already has ordinary flu. The two viruses could potentially combine into a new strain that could spread easily from person to person. No person-to-person spread has been seen in the current outbreaks.

WHO officials have estimated it will take at least 6 months to develop an H5N1 vaccine. For now, according to the AP, the agency is considering recommending that anyone exposed to infected chickens should get a conventional flu shot. That would not protect them from the avian flu, but it might prevent mixing of the viruses, the report said.

The AP also reported that an international drug industry organization said member companies would donate 220,000 doses of normal flu vaccine to the campaign against bird flu. The promise came from the Geneva-based International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations.

In other developments, Pakistani officials reported than an H7 strain of avian flu has killed 1.2 million chickens in Karachi state. The report, which was posted by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), said officials have quarantined the affected farms and vaccinated their poultry flocks.

See also:

Jan 28 WHO update
http://www.who.int/csr/don/2004_01_28a/en/

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