WHO assesses Sudan's avian flu, confirms 2 cases elsewhere

Apr 19, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – A World Health Organization (WHO) team is reported to be in Sudan today to help the impoverished country respond to H5N1 avian influenza, which was confirmed there for the first time yesterday.

Authorities in Sudan announced yesterday they had found H5N1 in chickens and in the owner of an affected farm. The health minister, Tabita Butros Shokaya, said the farmer had been hospitalized with avian flu symptoms and had tested positive, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

WHO spokeswoman Maria Cheng said yesterday that the agency lacked details about what kind of tests were conducted. "We are obviously keen to have the samples sent abroad," Cheng told Reuters news service.

WHO described the farmer as being in stable condition today and said the team on the ground had conducted tests on him. The agency has not yet confirmed the man's illness.

The team from the United Nations agency will help Sudan's ministry of health through "technical assistance for active surveillance and strengthening of laboratories to facilitate investigations and confirmation of diagnosis and the supply of personal protective equipment," AFP quoted the WHO as saying.

Meanwhile, the WHO today confirmed two previously reported human H5N1 cases, one in China and one in Indonesia.

China's 17th case occurred in a 21-year-old migrant worker in Wuhan, Hubei province, WHO said today. He fell ill Apr 1 and remains hospitalized in critical condition. Authorities are investigating how the man contracted the virus. No poultry outbreaks have been reported in Hubei since Nov 2005. The man's contacts are being monitored.

In Indonesia, the 32nd case of H5N1 infection has been confirmed in a 24-year-old man from Tangerang who fell ill Mar 29 and died Apr 8, WHO announced. Authorities are still investigating how he caught the virus. 

The proportions of fatal cases in China and Indonesia are higher than the overall proportion. Globally, the 110 deaths in 196 confirmed cases represent a case-fatality rate of 56% among known cases. In China the case-fatality rate is 65%. The figure is even higher in Indonesia, at 75%. It is not yet clear, however, to what extent people may be having asymptomatic or minor infections that do not send them to the doctor.

In other news, the WHO today issued a two-page checklist for infection control for avian influenza in healthcare settings. The compact guidance appeared today on the agency's avian flu Web site, listed as an "aide-memoire." It emphasizes many of the points made in a longer guidance document updated in February.

In addition, drug manufacturer Roche today announced it has finished assembling a "rapid response stockpile" of 3 million treatment courses of oseltamivir (Tamiflu) for use by the WHO. Oseltamivir is an antiviral drug that plays a key role in a WHO plan to stop or delay a pandemic through rapid preventive treatment and quarantine. "Roche will deliver the required stockpile to an international airport of the WHO's choosing," the company said in a news release.

The 3 million treatment courses are part of a promised donation of 5 million treatment courses. The other 2 million courses are intended for use in developing countries. Those doses will be ready for delivery at the end of this year, the company said.

See also:

Apr 19 WHO update on Indonesia

Apr 19 WHO update on China

Apr 19 Roche news release about oseltamivir donation to WHO

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