Another avian flu death in Thailand

Oct 4, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – A young girl who died Sunday night is Thailand's 11th avian influenza victim, a health ministry spokeswoman told news services on Monday.

The girl's H5N1 infection had just been confirmed on Sunday. She was from the northern Thai province of Phetchabun and had been in the hospital for about a week, Reuters news reported. Reports put her age at 8 or 9 years old.

Her death comes at a time of heightened surveillance and political pressure. Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Sinawatra on Sep 29 threatened to fire a deputy prime minister, as well as the health and agriculture ministers, if the virus isn't eradicated in a month, news agencies have reported.

The Thai government has begun ordering up to 1 million officials and volunteers to inspect every village for flu symptoms among people and birds, the state-owned radio reported on Oct 1.

The approach of migratory bird season has added fresh urgency to such efforts because the wild birds can carry the virus and spread it.

During the weekend, Thai officials believed that scientists had found avian flu in dogs. Officials on Sunday said they had confirmed the first case of avian flu in a dog but later rescinded the announcement. The positive result in one round of testing may have been due to a sampling error, a health ministry spokesperson said in The Nation newspaper of Thailand. A second test indicated the dog did not have avian flu. The dog in question will be rechecked, authorities told the paper.

The spread of the virus among mammals heightens concern about transmission to humans. The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that only pigs could harbor both avian and human flu strains. That can create the opportunity for the viruses to combine, which could foster conditions for a human flu pandemic.

The dog flu tests come only weeks after a Dutch report found that cats can contract H5N1 influenza and an earlier report from China that the virus had been detected in some pigs. A leopard and a tiger at the Bangkok zoo were confirmed with the virus last February, reports said.

In Indonesia, avian flu has reappeared in Central Java province, the Jakarta Post reported. Officials were told 350 chickens were found dead at one farm. Laboratory tests confirmed by Sep 29 that those chickens had H5N1 avian flu, the newspaper said. The chicken carcasses were cremated and the farmer ordered not to breed any new stock at his farm for 1 to 3 months.

The local Animal Husbandry and Fisheries Office at the Grobogan government is recommending other local chicken breeders vaccinate their fowl, maintain clean, warm coops and isolate sick chickens immediately, the Post reported.

Avian flu outbreaks in Indonesian fowl last year hit 17 of 35 regencies in Central Java and led to the deaths of about 600,000 chickens, the newspaper reported.

See also:

Oct 4 WHO update on Thailand situation
http://www.who.int/csr/don/2004_10_04/en/

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