WHO confirms Thai avian flu death; Indonesia reports fatality

Aug 7, 2006 (CIDRAP News) - A World Health Organization (WHO) reference laboratory confirmed today that a 27-year-old man who died on Aug 3 in central Thailand's Uthai Thani province had H5N1 avian influenza.

The WHO said investigators found that the man had contact with household chickens, which started dying about 1 week before the patient began having influenza symptoms.

The man had symptoms beginning Jul 24 and was hospitalized Jul 30. The Bangkok Post reported today that the man developed flulike symptoms shortly after burying dead chickens in his backyard with his bare hands.

The WHO announcement brings Thailand's official avian flu toll to 24 cases, with 16 deaths. The man's death marks Thailand's second avian flu death in 2 weeks.

The Post also reported six suspected cases in Uthai Thani province where the man died, which is about 137 miles north of Bangkok: the man's wife and five of his neighbors. Thai agriculture minister Sudarat Keyuraphan told the Post that 200 fowl died on a poultry farm in the province yesterday, which prompted an order to cull nearly 20,000 chickens on the farm. She told The Nation, a Thai newspaper, that the culling would be postponed until laboratory tests confirmed an outbreak in the province's poultry.

The WHO notes that avian influenza outbreaks have been officially recorded in the northern provinces of Phichit and Nakhon Phanom. Thailand's only confirmed human avian flu case so far this year was in a 17-year-old boy who died of the disease Jul 24 in Phichit province.  Thai news outlets, however, have reported poultry outbreaks in several northern and central provinces, and on Jul 31 all of Thailand's provinces were put on avian flu alert.

As of today, the Thai Health Ministry has reported that 122 patients from 16 provinces are under surveillance for possible avian flu.

Thailand launched a week-long campaign today to check every house in 29 provinces to help slow a resurgence of bird flu in the country, Reuters reported today. Volunteers will inspect backyard farms for sick or dead birds and will educate residents about the H5N1 virus. Until last week, the country had reported no avian flu since 2005.

In Indonesia, The Associated Press reported today that a 16-year-old boy died after testing positive for H5N1 virus. The boy was admitted to the hospital 2 days ago. Reuters reported earlier today that the boy lived on the outskirts of Jakarta and was being treated at a human bird flu facility at a local hospital.

An Indonesian health ministry official told Reuters that the boy had been in contact with sick chickens. He said samples from the boy had been sent to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

If the results confirm the findings of the local test, Indonesia will surpass Vietnam as the country with the most avian flu deaths. Confirmation will mean the boy becomes Indonesia's 55th human case and its 43nd death, according to a WHO tally. In July, Indonesia recorded its 42nd death, which ties it with Vietnam. All of Indonesia's deaths have occurred in 2005 and 2006.

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