WHO confirms Indonesia's 54th avian flu case

Jul 20, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – A World Health Organization (WHO) reference laboratory confirmed today that a 44-year-old man who died on Jul 12 near Jakarta had H5N1 avian influenza.

The WHO announcement brings Indonesia’s official avian flu toll to 54 cases with 42 deaths. The country is now tied with Vietnam for the most deaths.

The patient lived in East Jakarta and was hospitalized for high fever, coughing, and breathing difficulties 2 days before he died.

The WHO said investigators have taken samples of poultry from around the man’s home. Health authorities are also investigating another potential source of infection: the local wet market the man regularly visited as part of his job as a food vendor. Previous reports said he sold fried chicken and freshwater catfish.

All of Indonesia’s H5N1 avian flu cases have occurred within the past year, whereas Vietnam has had no human fatalities this year. An Indonesian health official said this week that he expects more human fatalities this year because the disease is so widespread among the country’s poultry populations (in 27 of 32 provinces) and because widespread culling would be too expensive.

Meanwhile, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported today on Bulgaria’s apparent first case of avian flu in poultry. Agriculture minister Nihat Kabil told AFP the virus was detected at a barnyard in the southern village of Slantchogled. Kabil said he ordered that all poultry and poultry products in the region be destroyed.

The report did not say what strain of virus was found, but it said the Sofia laboratory that detected the virus will give a definitive answer in 4 days on whether it is H5N1. Samples will also be sent to a European Union reference lab in Weybridge, England, for testing.

In February, the deadly H5N1 virus was detected in four swans in northern Bulgaria, the story said.

In other developments, a Connecticut congressman has criticized the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for its handling of smuggled Chinese poultry parts found recently in Michigan, according to a report today in The Detroit News. In a letter to USDA Secretary Mike Johanns, Rep. Rosa DeLauro faulted the agency for not testing the poultry for the H5N1 virus before destroying it and for not alerting Michigan officials to a possible health risk.

On Jun 5, the USDA seized 1,940 pounds of illegal Chinese frozen poultry from a Troy, Mich., warehouse. The agency destroyed the product without testing it. The USDA said testing the product would have served no food-safety purpose. The agency states that poultry cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees poses no threat.

State officials did not find out about the USDA probe until June 22, according to previous reports. Michigan and USDA officials continue to track other poultry products from the same warehouse that were distributed to restaurants and grocery stores.

A USDA spokeswoman told The Detroit News that officials were reviewing DeLauro's letter and looked forward to addressing her concerns.

DeLauro, ranking member of the House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee, has criticized the USDA over avian flu before. On Jun 21 she raised concerns about the USDA’s plans for detecting avian flu and questioned how the agency could ensure the safety of imported Chinese poultry products. According to a press release on DeLauro’s Web site, she inserted language into the fiscal year 2007 agriculture appropriations bill to bar the USDA from implementing a rule allowing the importing of processed Chinese poultry products.

See also:

Jul 20 WHO update on Indonesian situation
http://www.who.int/csr/don/2006_07_20/en/index.html

Jul 13 CIDRAP News story "Michigan officials track smuggled Chinese poultry"

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