Indonesian teen is latest H5N1 victim; Chinese samples reach WHO

Jun 1, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – Indonesian officials announced today that a 15-year-old girl from Central Java died of H5N1 avian influenza this week, as the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that it received two human H5N1 samples from China, ending a nearly year-long delay in sharing promised samples.

An official named Tondro from Indonesia's bird flu center said the girl got sick on May 21 and was treated at a local hospital, but was transferred to Karyadi hospital in the Central Java capital of Samarang 4 days later and died there on May 29, the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported today.

The girl was reported to have had contact with sick birds, Reuters and Xinhua reported. Muhammad Nadirin, another official from Indonesia's bird flu center, told Reuters the girl handled a dead chicken when preparing to cook it. Several chickens died at her home and that of a neighbor, the Xinhua report said.

Her death marks Indonesia's third fatal H5N1 case, with all three cases from Central Java, in less than 2 weeks.

If the WHO confirms her case, Indonesia's H5N1 toll will be 99 cases with 79 deaths. The country's latest previous case, in a 45-year-old man who was reported to have slaughtered and eaten a sick chicken, was confirmed by the WHO yesterday, bringing the agency's count for Indonesia to 98 cases and 78 deaths, the most of any country. The global WHO count is 309 cases with 187 deaths.

Meanwhile, a shipment containing two human H5N1 samples from China arrived at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last night, a WHO official said today, according to Reuters. The CDC is a WHO collaborating center.

"We welcome it, it shows China is working with the international system of virus sharing," WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl told Reuters. Last week another WHO official told the Associated Press (AP) that the specimens were from a 2006 case from Xinjiang province in far western China and a 2007 case from Fujian province in the south.

Researchers use samples of both seasonal flu viruses and novel strains like H5N1 to monitor viral evolution and drug resistance and to develop vaccines. The WHO has coordinated the international flu surveillance system for more than 50 years.

In other avian flu news, a veterinary official in Vietnam said an H5N1 outbreak has been confirmed in another province, bringing the number of provinces with recent outbreaks to 13 out of 64, the AP reported today.

Pham Ngoc Anh, director of animal health for Quang Nam province, said an outbreak killed 300 unvaccinated ducks at a farm in the province, and tests confirmed the birds were infected with H5N1 avian flu, the AP report said. The remaining 400 birds were culled and the site was disinfected.

On May 25 an official from Vietnam's National Institute of Epidemiology confirmed that a 30-year-old farmer from Vinh Phuc province who got sick after slaughtering chickens for a wedding had tested positive for H5N1, according to previous media reports.

He was reported to be hospitalized in critical condition. The WHO, however, has not yet confirmed the man's case, so Vietnam's case count remains at 93 cases and 42 deaths.

In the past, Vietnam has been praised by animal health experts for its tough avian flu prevention efforts after widespread outbreaks in 2004 and 2005 led to the culling of 66 million birds and triggered many human cases. The disease subsided through most of 2006, but late in the year it flared up at farms where poultry flocks had not been vaccinated and birds were hatched illegally.

See also:

May 31 WHO statement

May 25 CIDRAP News story "China resumes sending human H5N1 samples"

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