FAO says avian flu still spreading; more human cases cited

Feb 13, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – Thailand reported two more confirmed human cases of H5N1 avian influenza and another death today, while the United Nations warned that the virus is still spreading in Asian poultry.

In the United States, meanwhile, an outbreak of avian influenza at four live-bird markets in New Jersey was attributed to a low-pathogenic strain that poses no threat to humans.

Thai health officials reported the confirmation of H5N1 infections in a 2-year-old boy and a 27-year-old woman, both of whom have fully recovered, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). They apparently were the first Thais to recover from confirmed infection; six previous patients died. One of them, a 13-year-old boy whose case was confirmed yesterday, died today, the WHO said.

The WHO now reports a total of 27 confirmed human cases of the illness, with 20 deaths. Those include 19 cases with 14 deaths in Vietnam, in addition to the eight cases in Thailand.

FAO says 80 million chickens killed
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today, "The spread of the avian influenza virus in several Asian countries is still not under control. . . . Cambodia, China, Indonesia and Laos continue to report new outbreaks in poultry."

Roughly 80 million chickens have been sacrificed in the battle to contain the disease, not counting efforts in China, the FAO said. The number includes 30 million each in Vietnam and Thailand, 15 million in Indonesia, and 4 million in Pakistan. (The outbreaks in Pakistan have been attributed to an H7 virus, according to the World Organization for Animal Health [OIE)].

"The cooperation with countries affected by bird flu has significantly improved," the FAO said. "Countries realize that cooperation and transparency are absolutely essential in the fight against bird flu." The statement came 3 days after WHO officials implied that some affected countries were putting economic concerns ahead of public health in responding to the crisis.

The FAO statement said China, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam have set up "information and response structures," but added that "poorer countries" have responded slowly because of a lack of veterinarians, diagnostic tools, transportation, and other resources.

Poultry outbreaks in United States
New Jersey state officials announced yesterday that H7N2 avian flu virus had been found in four of the state's 30 live-bird markets, a development they said was not unusual. "Avian influenza thrives during the winter months, which is why we test during this period," said Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus. "Typically about 40 percent of New Jersey's live bird markets intermittently test positive during cold-weather months."

"The avian influenza subtype H7N2 currently detected in New Jersey live bird markets is not a human health threat," said Clifton R. Lacy, MD, state commissioner of health and senior services.

In Pennsylvania, routine tests yesterday revealed possible signs of an H7 flu virus in a chicken flock in the southeastern town of Mount Joy, the state agriculture department said. The chickens showed no signs of illness, and the test results may only reflect past exposure, said Agriculture Secretary Dennis C. Wolff in a news release.

Officials said samples from the flock have been sent to the US Department of Agriculture's laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for further testing. The virus is believed to be an H7 subtype, but officials were awaiting confirmation from the Ames lab, agriculture department spokeswoman Stephanie Meyers told CIDRAP News. She said there were no signs of other outbreaks, but the affected farm was quarantined, and 16 chicken flocks within 2 miles of it were being tested.

In Delaware, testing of poultry farms within 6 miles of two outbreak sites was continuing yesterday, state officials said. They said 36 of about 80 chicken houses in the two areas had tested negative.

The state agriculture department reported earlier that the first avian flu outbreak involved a low-pathogenic H7N2 virus. The virus at the second farm was an H7 subtype, but the "N" number was not yet known as of yesterday.

See also:

Feb 13 WHO statement
http://www.who.int/csr/don/2004_02_13/en/

Feb 13 FAO statement
http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2004/37067/index.html

New Jersey Department of Agriculture statement
http://www.state.nj.us/agriculture/aviannews.htm

Delaware Department of Agriculture
http://www.state.de.us/deptagri/

WHO chronology of avian flu crisis
http://www.who.int/influenza/resources/documents/chronology/en/index.html

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