China has avian flu case; virus hits poultry in Sudan

Apr 18, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – A Chinese man in Hubei province has contracted the H5N1 avian influenza virus, while the pathogen has struck poultry in Sudan for the first time, according to news services.

The 21-year-old Chinese man, who represents the country's 17th human case, was in critical condition today, according to a Reuters report that cited China's Health Ministry. Reuters described him as a migrant worker, but an Associated Press (AP) report today, quoting Aphaluck Bhatiasevi, a World Health Organization (WHO) spokeswoman, listed the patient as a security guard in Wuhan.

The man fell ill on April 1 with a high fever and was eventually diagnosed with pneumonia of unknown cause, Bhatiasevi said. "The likely source of exposure is still under investigation and people who had close contact with him are under medical observation," she said.

The WHO is also seeking details from the Chinese government about a newspaper report that some 8,000 chickens were culled Apr 16 at a poultry farm about 300 miles southeast of Beijing, the AP story said. The Hong Kong newspaper the South China Morning Post reported today that the culling followed the deaths last week of more than 400 chickens at that farm.

Meanwhile, Sudan has announced its first poultry infections with avian flu and is monitoring a suspected human case, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported today.

More than 100,000 chickens on 15 farms near Khartoum have been exterminated, Mustafa Hassan, a Ministry of Animal Resources official, told AFP today. Suspected cases of avian flu in poultry have been reported in several Sudanese newspapers, AFP reported. But today's confirmation was the first official acknowledgement of the situation.

Hassan said the owner of a poultry farm near Khartoum had been hospitalized with suspected avian flu, and Health Minister Tabita Butros Shokaya later said the man had tested positive, AFP reported.

However, John Jabbour, a WHO regional health regulation officer, today confirmed cases of H5N1 in poultry in Sudan but did not confirm any human cases, AFP reported. He added that a WHO team and representatives from the US Navy laboratory in Cairo were leaving Cairo today to begin assessing the situation in Sudan.

The infected chickens were found at two farms in Khartoum and Jazeera provinces. The man suspected of having avian flu owns one of the farms, Reuters reported.

Sudan shares its long northern border with Egypt. Egypt is one of a handful of African countries to have confirmed the H5N1 virus in poultry, and the only one with human cases confirmed to date. Other African countries that have had outbreaks in poultry are Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso.

In addition to its proximity to at least one avian flu-affected country, Sudan faces a number of internal problems that could complicate response to H5N1. Infectious diseases still pose a major concern in Sudan: In less than 2 years, WHO has noted, Sudanese experienced Ebola, shigellosis, hepatitis E, meningococcal disease, yellow fever, and cholera. The overall life expectancy at birth is 58.9 years, according to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Factbook online.

Sudan is also in the midst of a complex emergency in the western region of Darfur. About 200,000 people have died and nearly 2 million are displaced, according to the CIA. In addition, refugees have flocked from Ethiopia and Chad to Sudan. Armed conflict, transportation woes, and other hurdles have hindered humanitarian assistance.

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