Vietnamese boy has avian flu

Mar 18, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – A 5-year-old boy from central Vietnam has tested positive for H5N1 avian influenza, becoming the 25th Vietnamese to contract the disease since late December, according to a Vietnamese newspaper.

The boy, named Hoang Trong Duong, is from Quang Binh province and was hospitalized Mar 15 in Hue with high fever, cough, and lung infection, according to Than Nien News, a Ho Chi Minh City newspaper. He was in stable condition.

Nguyen Tran Hien, director of Vietnam's National Institute for Hygiene and Epidemiology, said the boy tested positive for H5N1, according to the story.

With the latest case, Vietnam unofficially has had 25 human cases, 13 of them fatal, since late December. In addition, one fatal case occurred in Cambodia in that period.

The boy's 13-year-old sister died at a local hospital Mar 9 after suffering symptoms like her brother's, according to the Than Nien News report, which cited the Associated Press as the source of that information. The director of the provincial preventive medicine center said no samples from the girl were taken, leaving the cause of her illness uncertain.

The boy's uncle, Hoang Thai An, said the family had eaten a dead chicken given them by a neighbor 3 weeks ago, the story said.

A report today by the Chinese news agency Xinhua gave a slightly different account. It said the family had slaughtered and eaten a chicken given them by relatives, and several days later all three children in the family fell ill. The report cited the newspaper Saigon Liberation as its source.

More suspected cases
At least two other suspected cases of avian flu have been reported in Vietnam this week. Yesterday, Than Nien News said a person from the northern province of Bac Ninh was admitted to the Institute of Tropical Disease in Hanoi in "relatively good" condition with suspected avian flu. The patient's age and sex were not listed.

Today's Xinhua report said another person from Quang Binh province was admitted to a local hospital yesterday with a fever and breathing difficulty. The information was attributed to Hoang Van Min, head of the provincial veterinary bureau. No other details were provided.

Earlier this week, a Reuters report said avian flu was suspected in a man from the southern province of Kien Giang who died last weekend (Mar 12 or 13). A doctor at the province's general hospital said test results were pending; no other details were given.

Poultry outbreak in North Korea?
In other developments this week, a South Korean news agency reported an outbreak of avian flu in North Korea, previously untouched by the H5N1 virus. The report prompted the WHO to ask North Korea for information, which was not immediately forthcoming.

The Yonhap news agency reported the avian flu outbreak at a chicken farm in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital, according to a Mar 15 Agence France-Presse (AFP) report. Yonhap said the information came from a South Korean businessman who had met North Korean officials on a business trip to Beijing.

WHO officials said they regarded the report as a rumor and had asked North Korea for information about it. As of yesterday the WHO hadn't heard anything from North Korean officials, spokesman Dick Thompson in Geneva told CIDRAP News by e-mail.

North Korea has said it was free of the disease. However, experts said mirgratory birds heading north from Southeast Asia could have carried the virus into the country, according to AFP. Many waterfowl carry avian flu viruses without getting sick.

Harsaran Pandey, WHO regional information officer in New Delhi, told AFP the WHO has a representative in Pyongyang, but said it is difficult to get information from the secretive communist state.

Vietnam hopes to store vaccine
Also this week, a researcher said Vietnam hopes to stockpile 1 million doses of a human vaccine for avian flu, once testing is complete. That word came from Hoang Thuy Nguyen, who heads the vaccine research at Hanoi's Central Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, via an AFP story Mar 16.

Nguyen said he hopes the vaccine could go into production by the end of this year. The vaccine already has shown good results in chickens and mice, and it is currently being tested in monkeys, the report said.

Today's Xinhua story said 24 of 35 Vietnam localities involved in the current round of avian flu outbreaks in poultry have gone for at least 3 weeks without any new cases, suggesting that the outbreaks are "cooling down."

Elsewhere, Indonesia's agriculture minister said avian flu has killed 50,000 chickens in South Sulawesi and West Java since the beginning of this year, according to a Mar 16 AFP report. He said trade in chickens from the two areas had been banned in an effort to contain the disease.

Reuters reported that J. R. Wasito, director-general of animal husbandry at the nation's agriculture ministry, had ordered isolation and culling in the affected areas, plus vaccination of poultry within 5 kilometers. He said more than 1 million doses of vaccine had been distributed.

Indonesia has had a number of avian flu outbreaks in poultry since late 2003, but no human cases have been reported.

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