H5N1 virus continues to strike humans, poultry

Jan 12, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – A flurry of H5N1 avian influenza activity continued today with reports of another confirmed human case and several suspected cases in Indonesia, along with poultry outbreaks of probable H5N1 in Nigeria and Japan.

Indonesia's health ministry confirmed a case in a 22-year-old woman from Banten province who fell ill Jan 3, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced today. Investigators found reports of chicken deaths near the woman's home in the days before she became ill, the agency said.

The woman is Indonesia's third confirmed case-patient this year. A 14-year-old boy and a 37-year-old woman from Tangerang, west of Jakarta, died of the disease this week. Indonesia has had 77 confirmed cases and 59 deaths, by the WHO's count. Worldwide, the tally is 265 cases with 159 deaths.

A Jakarta television station reported the death of a 27-year-old woman from suspected avian flu in Jakarta's Persahabatan Hospital, according to an item in the Jakarta Post today. In addition, the newspaper—citing a radio news report—said three teenagers were admitted to the hospital with suspected H5N1 cases today.

Yesterday the father and son of the 37-year-old Indonesian woman who died of avian flu were reported to be hospitalized with suspicious symptoms, but no new information about them was available today.

In Nigeria, avian flu outbreaks were reported in two states, prompting the culling of 25,000 chickens and pigeons.

Veterinary officials culled more than 20,000 chickens on a farm in the northwestern state of Sokoto, which had no previous outbreaks, a Reuters report said. In the northern state of Katsina, 5,000 infected chickens and pigeons on three farms were culled, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Agriculture Commissioner Ali Hussein Dutsin-Ma said all the evidence in the Katsina outbreak pointed to avian flu, though the disease had not yet been confirmed by lab testing, AFP reported.

Japan this week had its first suspected outbreak of H5N1 in 3 years, according to Reuters. About 2,400 chickens died on a farm in the Miyazaki area in southwestern Japan over the past 3 days. Initial tests pointed to H5N1, the story said.

The recent reports suggest that this year's pattern of H5N1 activity may echo the past 3 years, with human cases increasing in the northern hemisphere winter. Human cases in 2004 peaked in January, and in the past 2 years they peaked in March, according to a chart published by Eurosurveillance Weekly in December.

Dr. Keiji Fukuda, coordinator of the WHO's global influenza program, told Reuters, "It really looks like this has a kind of seasonal pattern that increases in winter months in the northern hemisphere."

Fukuda added that health officials' concern about the threat of a flu pandemic remains high. "It's not that these new cases increase it; our concerns have been high all along," he said.

He also said there was no evidence of any person-to-person transmission of the H5N1 virus in the recent cases, Reuters reported.

See also:

Jan 12 WHO statement on Indonesian case
http://www.who.int/csr/don/2007_01_12/en/index.html

Eurosurveillance Weekly report with chart of human H5N1 cases by month
http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=3098

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