Avian flu: human case in Thailand, infected bird in Kuwait

Nov 11, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – Thailand has reported its 21st human case of H5N1 avian influenza, while an infected flamingo was found in Kuwait and new poultry outbreaks surfaced in China, according to news reports today.

An 18-month-old boy in Bangkok was diagnosed with the H5N1 virus today, but he was already well on the way to recovery, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report quoting Thawat Sunthrajarn, Thailand's disease control director.

"He is recovering and almost back to normal," Thawat said.

An Associated Press (AP) report said the boy became ill soon after the death of three fighting cocks and a chicken kept in his household in the Bangkok suburb of Minburi. According to the AFP report, Thawat said the boy's 65-year-old grandmother also has symptoms, and test results on her were awaited.

The boy's case is Thailand's fourth in the past month, according to AFP. Before mid-October, the country had gone for more than a year with no human cases. Thirteen of the 21 cases there have been fatal.

In Kuwait, the confirmation of H5N1 in a flamingo marked the first detection of the virus in the Persian Gulf region, an AFP report said.

The flamingo was found by the sea and killed by authorities, said Mohammed al-Mehanna, a Kuwait agriculture official, as reported by AFP. He said a second bird, a falcon imported from an Asian country and quarantined at the Kuwait airport, tested positive for an H5N2 virus.

Sheikh Fahd Salem al-Sabah, head of the country's agriculture authority, said yesterday the two birds were discovered earlier this month, AFP reported. "Kuwait is so far clean of the disease as the two cases came from abroad," Sabah said.

In China, two new H5N1 outbreaks in poultry have been reported in the past 2 days, one in the northeastern province of Lioaning and one in the central province of Hubei.

An outbreak in the Liaoning village of Beining killed 300 chickens and triggered the slaughter of 5,500 more at the affected farm and another 2.5 million in the surrounding area, according to a Chinese report on the Web site of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

The report said contact with wild birds caused the outbreak. But it was the fourth outbreak in the province since Nov 3, according to AFP.

The outbreak in Hubei province killed 2,500 birds and prompted the culling of 31,000 more, according to an AP report today. The story said officials didn't specify what kind of birds were involved, though most poultry in central China are chickens or ducks.

AFP reported that a female chicken farmer from Heishan County in Liaoning province was being tested for avian flu after coming down with severe pneumonia. She initially tested negative for the virus, but further test results were awaited.

The woman, surnamed Liu, was among 121 people from the county who had had contact with sick chickens and were hospitalized with fever or flu-like symptoms, the story said. Avian flu has been ruled out in all the other cases.

In Italy, health officials reported finding an H5N1 virus in a wild duck this week, but they said it was a low-pathogenic strain unrelated to the poultry outbreaks in Asia.

According to an AFP report, the Italian health ministry said tests on the duck, found near Padua in northern Italy, "clarified that this virus is of low pathogenicity which has no relationship with the Asian virus."

Donato Greco, an animal health expert with the health ministry, said that usually about 3% of migratory birds that winter in the Italian wetlands carry "the low pathogenic H5-type virus," according to the story.

Italy has tested hundreds of samples from migratory birds in recent weeks without finding the deadly virus, AFP reported. The H5N1 virus has been found in birds as far west as Turkey, Romania, and Croatia in recent weeks.

In northern Vietnam, a local newspaper named Tienphong reported that two people were hospitalized with suspected avian flu, according to a Bloomberg News report published yesterday. A 43-year-old man and a child from different villages in Bac Giang province were suffering from fever and breathing difficulty, the report said.

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