Thai boy has avian flu; UK finds H5 virus in parrot

Oct 21, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – The 7-year-old son of a Thai farmer who died 2 days ago of H5N1 avian influenza also has the virus, but there is no evidence that the boy caught it from his father, according to news services.

Reuters and Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports said the boy tested positive for the virus, but they didn't say what test was used or where it was done. The boy is hospitalized but is expected to recover.

"There is no evidence that the boy contracted the disease from his father," said Siriraj Hospital Director Prasit Watanapa, as quoted in the AFP report.

The father fell ill after slaughtering sick chickens. Prasit said the boy "had close contact with the virus" from being around the chickens, AFP reported.

"The H5N1 virus found in the boy and the father was the same strain that has been found for the last two years, with no signs of a mutation," Prasit added.

Reuters reported that the 7-year-old was treated with the anti-flu drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu) early in his illness. The boy has recovered his appetite and his fever has resolved, the story said.

If the boy in fact has avian flu, his illness is the 19th case in Thailand since the disease began spreading in East Asia in late 2003. The country has had 13 deaths. The World Health Organization (WHO), which has not yet confirmed the boy's case, currently lists a total of 118 human cases, with 61 deaths.

In Britain, meanwhile, a parrot that was imported from South America and died in quarantine tested positive for a highly pathogenic H5 avian flu virus, government officials announced today.

The parrot had been imported from Suriname, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said in a news release. It was part of a shipment of 148 parrots and "soft bills" that arrived Sep 16.

All the birds in the consignment were being destroyed, DEFRA said. Chief Veterinary Officer Debby Reynolds said, "The confirmed case does not affect the UK's disease free status because the disease has been identified in imported birds during quarantine."

As an additional precaution, the few people who had contact with the birds in the quarantine unit were being given antiviral drugs, the statement said.

H5N1 avian flu has not been reported in the UK or in South America. DEFRA said no form of avian flu has been confirmed in Britain since 1992.

Officials said another serious avian illness, Newcastle disease, has been detected in imported quarantined birds and successfully contained five times previously.

In Indonesia, a 63-year-old man and his 22-year-old son who were suspected of having avian flu have tested negative, according to an AFP report today. The report of their cases yesterday had prompted talk about a possible family cluster.

"The pneumonia they are suffering from was not caused by bird flu," a health ministry official named Hariyadi Wibonoso was quoted as saying. He said further confirmatory tests would be conducted in Hong Kong.

The WHO has recognized five cases of avian flu in Indonesia, including three deaths. But government officials have described several more cases as probable on the basis of local tests.

Many news items related to avian flu were reported from around the world today. Here is a sampling:

  • Three racing pigeons imported into Australia from Canada were found to have avian flu antibodies, which prompted Australia to consider banning all live bird imports. No virus was found, and it was known not what viral strain the antibodies were related to. A Canadian official said the antibodies are not dangerous to humans, and the pigeons could have been exposed to a virus years ago.
  • Taiwan said it had developed its own version of oseltamivir and would begin producing it if avian flu surfaces there, according to a Deutsche Press Argentur (DPA) report. "We are ready to begin mass production and are waiting for Roche [the manufacturer of oseltamivir] to license us to do so," a health official was quoted as saying.
  • Canadian officials promised to endorse a Mexican proposal for wealthy countries to share their flu vaccine stockpiles with poorer countries, AFP reported. The idea is to be presented at an international meeting in Canada next week.
  • To protect poultry from avian flu, the Swiss government banned outdoor poultry farming from Oct 25 to Dec 15, when seasonal bird migrations should be over, according to AFP.
  • Officials in one German state eased a ban on outdoor poultry farming by saying farmers could keep geese outside so long as they are under nets or tarpaulins, DPA reported.
  • David Nabarro, the United Nations avian flu coordinator, met with Chinese Health Minister Gao Qiang, who promised full transparency and cooperation in efforts to stop the virus, AFP reported.

Newsletter Sign-up

Get news & practices.

Sign up now»

OUR UNDERWRITERS

Unrestricted financial support provided by

Bentson Foundation 3M United Health Foundation Gilead Become an underwriter»