Woman may be 8th H5N1 fatality in Indonesia

Nov 30, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – An Indonesian woman who died in a Jakarta hospital yesterday has tested positive for H5N1 avian influenza, according to officials quoted in The Jakarta Post. Further testing is pending at a World Health Organization (WHO) reference laboratory in Hong Kong.

If further tests confirm the diagnosis, the case in the 25-year-old homemaker, Sri Wahyuni, will be Indonesia's 13th case of avian flu and the eighth fatal one, according to the Post. Wahyuni had been treated in a general hospital in Tangerang for 3 days before being transferred to Sulianti Saroso hospital in Jakarta on Nov 24.

"When we admitted her the condition was already bad," said Ilham Patu, a spokesman at the Jakarta hospital.

Indonesian, Chinese health infrastructures criticized
The Post said more than a dozen deaths from H5N1 are suspected in Indonesia. The story described the country's infrastructure as "an overstretched health system battling to respond to outbreaks and animal health experts also struggling to keep track of numerous clusters of bird infections."

China's infrastructure was also disparaged in a Reuters story today in which China's health minister, Gao Qiang, denied allegations that the Chinese government was covering up human H5N1 infections. (A U.S.-based Chinese Web service identified people it claimed have avian flu, but those claims have not been substantiated elsewhere, and the Chinese government has consistently denied the reports.)

"I am not worried about governments at various levels covering up an epidemic," Gao said at a news conference, according to Reuters. "But I am worried about the inability of our medical and quarantine personnel at the local level to diagnose and discover epidemics in a timely fashion due to their low abilities and relatively backward equipment."

Gao added that Shanghai Pharmaceutical is working with Swiss drug-maker Roche to get the technology to manufacture oseltamivir in China, Reuters reported.

FAO urges countries not to kill wild birds
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) yesterday urged countries to leave wild birds alone, following reports that such birds were being killed in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City as a precaution against avian flu.

"This is unlikely to make any significant contribution to the protection of humans against avian influenza," said Juan Lubroth, FAO senior officer in charge of infectious animal diseases, in an FAO news release. "There are other, much more important measures to be considered that deserve priority attention."

FAO, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and the WHO all emphasize the following priorities, the news release noted:

  • Improving veterinary services and preparedness plans and focusing on control efforts such as culling infected animals, vaccinating at-risk poultry, and compensating farmers for lost poultry stocks;
  • Improving detection and response systems for animal and human flu;
  • Bolstering laboratory capacity; and
  • Providing support and training to investigate animal and human cases and clusters and to plan and test quick containment efforts.

Controlling the virus in poultry is the best way to reduce the potential for a virus to develop efficient human-to-human transmission, Lubroth added in the news release.

See also:

FAO news release on wild birds
http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2005/1000166/index.html

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