Sep 7, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – Vietnamese officials have blamed the Sep 5 death of a 14-month-old boy on avian influenza, according to news reports from Vietnam.
Officials said the boy was infected with an H5 strain of influenza A, but doctors had not yet determined whether the virus was H5N1, according to an Associated Press (AP) report today. The boy, who lived on the outskirts of Hanoi, died of pneumonia, the report said. H5N1 avian flu has killed at least 27 people in Vietnam and Thailand and devastated poultry flocks in much of Southeast Asia this year.
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced today it had received "informal reports of a laboratory-confirmed fatal case of influenza A H5 infection in Vietnam." The agency said H5N1 is the only H5 subtype that has been known to cause disease in humans.
"Detection of an H5 subtype of influenza A in a human should always arouse a very high level of suspicion that the case was caused by the H5N1 strain," the WHO said.
The AP story said the boy fell ill with high fever, coughing, and seizures on Aug 28. Reports did not say how the boy might have been exposed to the virus. Authorities were disinfecting the area around the child's home in the Thanh Tri district, the report said.
Vietnam reported three human deaths caused by H5 virus in early August; the viral subtype was later identified as H5N1. Earlier this year, Vietnam had 16 human deaths that were attributed to H5N1 avian flu, the last of them in March.
The WHO now says that Vietnam and Thailand have had 39 confirmed human cases of avian flu this year, with 28 deaths. These include 27 cases with 20 deaths in Vietnam (including the case reported today) and 12 cases with 8 deaths in Thailand.
In other developments, a second outbreak of avian flu in poultry was reported in Malaysia, and two people there were under hospital observation with a flu-like illness, the AP reported today.
Workers were killing 1,200 chickens and ducks to fight the outbreak in northern Malaysia, near the Thai border, the report said.
The two human patients, a 10-year-old boy and a veterinary worker, were among more than 800 people who were screened for signs of avian flu in a quarantine zone around the village where the disease was first identified in poultry Aug 17, the story said.
The AP said the disease is believed to have been brought into the area by fighting cocks smuggled in from abroad. Peter Cordingley, a WHO spokesman in Manila, was quoted as saying the latest outbreak is probably an extension of the one reported in August.
Elsewhere, researchers in South Korea reported last week that migratory ducks were probably the source of avian flu that erupted in South Korean poultry last winter. A study by the National Veterinary Quarantine Service indicated that H5N1 virus first infected ducks in the central city of Cheonan "around last October," according to a Sep 2 Agence France-Presse report.
The virus was first detected on a chicken farm in the central province of Chungcheon in December. The disease subsequently spread widely, forcing authorities to cull 5 million chickens and ducks, the story said.
H5N1 avian flu struck poultry flocks in eight Asian countries last winter. Since late June, the disease has resurfaced in poultry in parts of Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, China, and Malaysia.
Sep 7 WHO statement