French island has 3 possible H5N1 cases

Oct 26, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – Three people from the French island of Reunion who were exposed to birds during a recent visit to Thailand are suspected of having H5N1 avian influenza, and authorities are rushing samples to Paris for testing, according to a BBC News report.

A 43-year-old man was hospitalized in Saint-Denis, capital of the Indian Ocean island, on Oct 22 with weakness, headache, and a cough, the BBC reported. One test for H5N1 was inconclusive, but a second test was positive for H5N1, Reuters news service reported. The story did not say which tests were used.

The man was part of a group of 20 tourists who were in Thailand from Oct 12 to 19, Reuters reported. He and two fellow tourists suspected of having avian flu had close contact with birds at a park, the BBC said. Reuters said the other two people also were tested but results were not yet available.

Even if the tests don't show H5N1, the urgent response to the situation is representative of actions occurring worldwide as more countries try to manage and reduce the threat of the H5N1 virus to people and poultry.

Elsewhere today:

  • China has alerted the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) to another poultry outbreak, this one in Wangtang village in Hunan Province, which is north west of Hong Kong, separated by Guangdong Province. The report says 545 chickens and ducks died and 2,487 were destroyed.
  • Croatia has confirmed that the H5 flu found in dead swans there was indeed the lethal H5N1 strain.
  • The United Kingdom has announced that a second parrot died of H5N1 in a private quarantine facility in Essex, according to the Times Online. Initial tests on 32 birds that died in quarantine before Oct 16 identified the H5 strain in some birds, according to Margaret Beckett, the Environment and Rural Affairs secretary in the United Kingdom. Taiwan's representative to the United Kingdom sought an official report of the incident, because Britain has suggested that birds quarantined from Taiwan were the likely source of the virus, BBC reported. Taiwanese authorities deny that. The UK is contemplating a ban on some bird fairs, markets and shows, as well as new quarantine rules, the Times Online reported.
  • Thailand informed the OIE of outbreaks in five villages in three different provinces between Oct 20 and 24, leading to more than 23,000 poultry deaths from illness or culling.
  • Two migratory geese found in Neuwied in Germany are being tested for the virus, the Times Online reported. The BBC said they had tested positive for an H5 subtype and further tests were ongoing to determine the strain. German authorities also ordered that poultry be moved indoors and given only tap water to drink to cut the risk of exposure to migratory birds, which are thought to be transporting the virus, CBS News reported today.
  • In West Bengal state in India, officials are investigating the deaths of 10 migratory birds. About 40 dead birds were found in one bird sanctuary in the last week, but the deaths might have been storm-related, according to a Reuters report today.
  • Indonesia is investigating a spate of poultry deaths on Bali, the Jakarta Post said today. A local animal-health official suggested the chickens may have another poultry disease, which doesn't spread to people. About 600,000 chickens were culled on Bali last year because of H5N1, the story added.
  • The European Union (EU) has banned imports of captive live birds, but not poultry, BBC reported today. In the past 3 months, about 232,000 wild birds were imported there for resale, an EU official said. In addition, the European Food Safety Authority issued a statement saying there is no evidence that consumers risk contracting avian flu by eating properly cooked poultry and eggs.

See also:

CDC information on banned bird imports
http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/outbreaks/embargo.htm

China's OIE report today
http://www.oie.int/downld/AVIAN%20INFLUENZA/China%20Follow-up%20report%20No5.pdf

Thailand's OIE report yesterday
http://www.oie.int/downld/AVIAN%20INFLUENZA/Thailand%20Follow-up%20Report%20No74.pdf

Jan 21, 2005, CIDRAP News story on animal smuggling and quarantine issues in the US

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