Confirmed human death toll from H5N1 climbs to 69

Editor's note: This story was revised Dec 8 to correct the erroneous statement that the World Health Organization had confirmed two more deaths from avian influenza (rather than two cases.)

Dec 7, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed two more human cases of avian influenza, one in China and a fatal one in Indonesia, bringing the global total to 135 cases with 69 deaths in nearly 2 years.

Indonesia had already announced that the Nov 25 death of a 25-year-old woman from Tangerang was due to the H5N1 virus, so the WHO's announcement on Dec 6 was confirmation of that diagnosis.

In addition, a 10-year-old girl from the south China province of Guangxi is hospitalized with H5N1 flu, the WHO said today. The girl developed a fever and cough on Nov 23. Health authorities were investigating to determine how she contracted the illness. Hers is the fourth human case of illness announced by China to date; two cases have been fatal.

Meanwhile, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) announced yesterday that an 8-month-old baby in Indonesia has tested positive for H5N1 infection. The story cited a spokesman at the Sulianti Soroso hospital in Jakarta as saying preliminary tests were positive for exposure to the virus.

The baby boy, from North Jakarta, was ill for 5 days before being placed in isolation on Sunday, ABC said in an online story yesterday.

Ukraine in state of emergency over poultry outbreak
Spreading infections in poultry prompted the Ukrainian government yesterday to approve President Victor Yushchenko's request for a state of emergency.

Mass poultry deaths have occurred in several villages in Ukraine's Crimean region, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) story published today. Tests are awaited to determine which subtype of H5 is causing the deaths.

Those six villages are added to the five villages where poultry die-offs began last week, AFP reported.

Yushchenko told reporters that "what happened in these villages is clearly a professional error of the veterinary service and it must accept responsibility," and ordered the dismissal of the chief veterinarian. That man, Petro Verbytsky, had offered to resign a month earlier, after being accused of not doing enough to keep Ukraine free of bird flu, Reuters news service reported.

The first avian flu cases were registered in the country's poultry 2 months ago, according to a Web site called ForUm, which describes itself as an Internet newspaper in Ukraine, but the government and local authorities did not respond.

Ukrainian Interior Ministry troops were patrolling exclusion zones around the affected villages, birds were being incinerated with leftover napalm from the Soviet era and monitoring zones have been imposed around affected areas, Reuters reported on Dec 5.

Farmers are being compensated for lost poultry, and villagers are being vaccinated for seasonal flu, which won't prevent H5N1 infection in humans but could reduce the opportunities for that virus to mix with human flu viruses and evolve.

Thailand makes oseltamivir
Thai authorities have announced the country can make its own antiviral oseltamivir, according to a story published today by AFP.

Swiss drug maker Roche does not have a patent on the drug in Thailand, AFP reported. Roche markets the drug under the name "Tamiflu." The drug is being widely stockpiled as a possible intervention against pandemic flu.

Lt. Gen. Mongkol Jivasatikarn, director general of the Thai Government Pharmaceutical Organization, said the country spent nearly a year readying production, according to the AFP. He projected that Thailand could produce 1 million capsules of Tamiflu in 2006. In the event of a pandemic, he added, the country has the capacity for making at least 400,000 capsules a day.

See also

WHO announcement of Chinese case http://www.who.int/csr/don/2005_12_07a/en/index.html

WHO announcement of Indonesian case, confirmed http://www.who.int/csr/don/2005_12_06/en/index.html

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