Thailand, Vietnam probe possible human H5N1 cases

Aug 3, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – Concern about H5N1 avian influenza intensified in Thailand and Vietnam today as health officials reported more suspected human cases, but Indonesian officials said six people in two suspected case clusters in North Sumatra tested negative.

In Thailand, a 9-year-old girl from Lop Buri province died yesterday of suspected avian flu, the Bangkok Post reported. She is from the same province where a suspected case was reported in a 61-year-old woman yesterday.

A provincial health official, Pranor Khamthieng, told the Post the girl had initially tested negative for the H5N1 virus, but her symptoms suggested the disease. The Thai News Agency reported that the girl suffered fever, sore throat, and severe cough for 2 days before she was hospitalized with breathing difficulties. Samples were sent to a lab in Bangkok for a more thorough investigation, the Post reported.

The Thai News Agency said the girl’s family raises about 20 fighting cocks, but provincial authorities inspected her house and nearby areas and found that none had died suspiciously.

Elsewhere in Thailand, the Post reported today that two patients in Chachoengsao province, east of Bangkok, have been isolated at Ban Pho Hospital because of suspected avian flu. Doctors at the hospital told the Post that initial tests indicated the patients had regular influenza and that they were awaiting the results of avian flu tests.

One doctor said the patients, a 17-year-old boy and a 42-year-old woman, had touched ducks at a slaughterhouse where they both worked. A local livestock official, however, said no bird flu outbreaks had been reported on chicken farms in the province, according to the Post.

As of yesterday, the Thai Health Ministry reported that 164 patients from 21 provinces were under surveillance for possible avian flu.

Thailand’s only confirmed avian flu case so far this year was in a 17-year-old boy who died of the disease Jul 24 in Phichit province. The entire country is on bird flu alert after outbreaks surfaced in July in the northern and central provinces, ending a nearly 8-month hiatus.

In Vietnam—which hasn't had a confirmed human H5N1 case since November 2005—Bloomberg News reported today that health authorities are awaiting tests on a man from the southern province of Kien Giang, on the Cambodian border in the Mekong Delta. The report said the man was hospitalized with lung damage and a high fever about a week after eating duck.

Cao Bao Van, head of the molecular biology laboratory at the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City, told Bloomberg that test results may be reported over the weekend.

Vietnamese news media have reported that ducks from two households in the southern province of Tay Ninh recently died suspiciously and test results were pending. Tay Ninh is also on the Cambodian border.

Meanwhile, in Indonesia, preliminary tests came back negative for H5N1 in six patients from the same district in Sumatra where the world’s first lab-confirmed human-to-human transmission of avian flu occurred in a family cluster, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported today.

The suspected illnesses in the six patients had raised fears of more human-to-human transmission, because the group appeared to include two family clusters. Of the six patients, three were children: two siblings, aged 10 and 6, and an 18-month-old neighbor.

An Associated Press report yesterday had said there were a total of seven patients in the two possible clusters. But AFP reported today that a local hospital official in Kabanjahe village said it appeared that one patient had been counted twice.

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