Jan 23, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – A 36-year-old Chinese woman was in critical condition in Chengdu City, suffering from what the Chinese authorities announced today was the country's 10th human case of H5N1 avian flu, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
The woman, whose surname is Cao, is from Sichaun province in southwest China, AFP noted. She fell ill on Jan 12; tests confirmed her H5N1 infection on Jan 17.
The Chinese ministry did not explain whether there was a poultry outbreak in her area. People who have had close contact with the woman are under observation but have shown no signs so far, according to AFP.
Xinhua, the Chinese government news service, announced today that the country had seen 32 outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian flu in 13 provinces during 2005 but that quarantine has now been lifted in 31 affected areas. The Xinhua report did not make it clear if each outbreak was considered an affected area.
Chinese Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu today pushed for continued efforts across China to prevent and control avian flu, particularly in light of increased travel and celebrations linked to the Chinese Lunar New Year, which begins Jan 29. He called for better monitoring, better prevention, and improved quarantine measures.
World Health Organization (WHO) spokespeople also have emphasized the importance of effective surveillance of poultry. Roy Wadia, the WHO Beijing spokesman, said in the AFP report that "human cases should not be the sentinels for animal outbreaks."
The recent outbreaks of bird and human H5N1 cases in Turkey illustrates the problem, as Lee Jong-Wook, director-general of the WHO, told the WHO executive board at the start of a week-long meeting in Geneva.
"The turkey experience demonstrates the dangers posed by avian influenza in birds and the vital importance of surveillance and effective early warning systems," he said today, according to a Reuters news service story. "A pandemic could arise with little or no warning from the animal side."
Lee also defended the agency. "Concern has been expressed that we are overplaying this threat. We are not," he said in his opening speech. "We can only reduce the devastating human and economic impact of a pandemic if we all take the threat seriously now and prepare thoroughly. This is a global problem."
Underscoring Lee's remarks was a report that the Turkish Agriculture Minister, Mehdi Akar, has claimed that some of Turkey's neighboring countries also are home to the H5N1 virus but have been concealing it, according to an AFP story.
US experts in animal and human epidemiology were slated to visit Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia, which border parts of Turkey hit with H5N1 outbreaks, according to the AFP story. No outbreaks have been reported in those countries.
In addition, officials in northern Iraq were taking emergency measures to prevent avian flu after a girl died, according to the United Nations Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN).
A WHO spokesman confirmed that the teen did not have H5N1 infection. "We have totally discounted the possibility of an avian influenza infection," WHO's Dick Thompson said in the IRIN story. "But we can't take away the possibility of an appearance in Iraq, as many cases have been reported in Turkey."
Also today, the WHO confirmed that two members of an Indonesian family did die of H5N1 infection, Indonesian authorities had announced last week. That raised Indonesia's tally to 14 deaths and 19 cases, according to the case count table, updated today.
Two other family members—a 14-year-old girl and the family's 43-year-old patriarch—remain hospitalized with respiratory symptoms, the WHO said. Samples from those two patients are being tested, and the family cluster remains under investigation.
The Jakarta Post reported on Jan 21 that an 11-year-old girl who is suspected of having H5N1 was a distant neighbor of the two children whose infections have just been confirmed by WHO.
"Similar to the two deceased children, the new patient had also been in contact with dead fowl near her house," said Hadi Yusuf, a health official, in the newspaper report. Samples from the girl are being tested.
WHO announcement on Indonesian cases http://www.who.int/csr/don/2006_01_23/en/index.html