WHO confirms Iraq's third avian flu case

Sep 19, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – The World Health Organization (WHO) has retrospectively recognized Iraq's third human case of H5N1 avian influenza, involving a 3-year-old boy who was hospitalized with a mild illness in March and recovered.

The WHO says the boy was hospitalized in Baghdad but doesn't list his home, the source of his infection, or other details.

The agency said shipment of test samples was difficult during Iraq's H5N1 outbreak, which is now considered over. The boy's initial test results were inconclusive, possibly because of sample deterioration during shipment. Repeated testing with different methods confirmed his infection, the agency said.

The other two human cases in Iraq were fatal ones that occurred in January, involving a 39-year-old man and his 15-year-old niece from the northern province of Sulaimaniyah. H5N1 outbreaks in poultry were confirmed in the area in early February, and a WHO-led team was sent to the scene to assess the situation and support the local response.

In other news, a World Bank expert recently proposed a new estimate of the global financial impact of a flu pandemic: $2 trillion. Jim Adams, who heads the World Bank's avian flu task force, made the projection at the annual meeting of the bank and the International Monetary Fund, according to an Agence France-Presse report 2 days ago. Adams said a severe pandemic could cut the world gross domestic product by more than 3%.

Today, several news services reported an apparently peaceful military coup in Thailand, one of the countries hit hard by H5N1 avian flu in 2004 and 2005. In July, the disease resurfaced in poultry after an 8-month lull, followed by WHO confirmation of two new human cases, both fatal.

Thailand's prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, has been under pressure to step down because of alleged corruption, according to a report today by Cable News Network (CNN). Also, media reports say a separatist insurgency has been raging in the Muslim south of Thailand since 2004, killing 1,700 people.

In a Financial Times article 2 days ago, the United Nations' senior coordinator for avian influenza, David Nabarro, said the ongoing political crisis in Thailand may have weakened the government's response to avian flu outbreaks.

"You don't maintain control over this disease unless there is regular top-level direction from a committed senior political figure that wants to be sure that the necessary activities are being undertaken," Nabarro told the Financial Times.

Thailand has been without a fully functioning government since February, when the prime minister dissolved parliament to stem controversy over his family's financial dealings, the newspaper reported.

See also:

Sep 19 WHO statement on H5N1 case in Iraq
http://www.who.int/csr/don/2006_09_19/en/index.html

Feb 7 WHO statement on avian flu in Iraq
http://www.who.int/csr/don/2006_02_07/en/index.html

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