Indonesia confirms H5N1 case; more suspected

Mar 31, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – Indonesia has confirmed a case of H5N1 avian influenza in a 1-year-old girl who died last week, and the illness is suspected in another Indonesian and in a teenager in Azerbaijan, according to news services.

An Indonesian official said testing by the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that H5N1 caused the death of the baby girl, who lived in Jakarta, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report today. She had had contact with sick chickens.

Previous local tests in the girl's case were positive, and samples had been sent to the WHO reference laboratory in Hong Kong for confirmatory testing. Counting the 1-year-old, Indonesia has had 30 human cases with 23 deaths. The WHO has not yet added the girl's case to its official count, which stands at 186 cases with 105 deaths.

I Nyoman Kandun of the Indonesian health ministry said a 23-year-old man in West Sumatra province has tested positive for avian flu in a local lab, AFP reported. "He's still alive and being treated in Padang," the provincial capital, Kandun said. The story provided no other details.

In Azerbaijan, a 16-year-old girl from Daikyand, the same settlement where six previous avian flu cases occurred, is suspected of having the illness, according to an AFP report published yesterday.

Afghan Deputy Health Minister Abbas Velibekov said the girl was hospitalized and had tested positive for an H5 virus, AFP reported. Samples were sent to Britain for confirmatory testing.

Earlier this month, seven Azerbaijanis tested positive for avian flu. The WHO said six of them were from Daikyand in the southeast and one was from the western area of Tarter. AFP reported that five of the cases in Daikyand were fatal, though the WHO previously had reported only four deaths there.

The WHO earlier said it was suspected that the victims had caught the virus by collecting feathers from dead swans.

In Afghanistan, officials were investigating the possibility of avian flu in the cases of three children who recently died of a respiratory disease, according to a Reuters report yesterday.

The three children lived in the central province of Ghor, where no bird outbreaks of avian flu have been reported or suspected, the story said. It didn't say when the children died.

Abdullah Fahim, a health ministry official, said no samples had been taken for testing before the children were buried, Reuters reported. He also said he didn't believe they had bird flu and that pneumonia is common in the Afghan mountains at this time of year.

In Cambodia, H5N1 infection was found in a chicken on the family farm of the 3-year-old girl who died of avian flu Mar 22, according to an AFP report today. The girl reportedly had played with sick chickens, but poultry testing in the girl's village hadn't identified any cases until now. The infected chicken was among 95 birds recently tested, according to the report.

The 3-year-old was Cambodia's fifth avian flu case-patient and the first in close to a year.

Elsewhere, European Union (EU) officials said the EU is "reasonably well prepared" for the threat of a major human outbreak of avian flu, AFP reported yesterday. The comment came from John Simpson, a British public health official, as the EU released an evaluation of an avian flu simulation exercise called "Common Ground," conducted last November.

Philip Tod, the EU's spokesman for health issues, said there had been "tremendous improvement since the beginning of 2005" in preparations for a pandemic, AFP reported.

An EU news release said the evaluation report showed considerable improvement since a previous simulation exercise but also identified some problems. One was that Europe's Early Warning and Response System, though a "robust" tool for its original purpose, became overloaded when it was used for crisis management.

Meanwhile, several new avian flu cases or outbreaks in birds have been reported in recent days:

  • Cameroon has reported its second discovery of the virus, in a wild duck found on Lake Malape, near the Nigerian border, according to a report yesterday by the United Nations Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). An Italian lab confirmed the case. Cameroon reported its first bird outbreak to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) on Mar 12.
  • In Israel, authorities began killing 20,000 chickens on a collective farm near the border with the Gaza Strip and Egypt after H5N1 was found there, according to a Reuters report today. The story said Israel has culled more than 1.2 million turkeys and chickens since avian flu was discovered about 2 weeks ago.
  • Officials in the former Soviet republic of Georgia found 10 wild swans infected with avian flu, according to a report filed with the OIE on Mar 27. The discovery prompted the culling of 1,700 poultry within 5 kilometers of the small lake where the swans were found.
  • Avian flu was confirmed in dead poultry on a farm in Russia's southern province of Volgograd, northwest of the Caspian Sea, according to an AFP report published yesterday. Provincial officials said they were expecting a shipment of 2 million doses of avian flu vaccine from Moscow.

See also:

Mar 30 European Commission statement on the November 2005 avian flu response simulation

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