H5N1 cases rise in China, Indonesia, Vietnam

Feb 18, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – Chinese health officials said today that a 22-year-old man died of H5N1 avian influenza in the country's first reported case this year, as health ministries in Indonesia and Vietnam reported three more H5N1 infections, two of them fatal.

China's health ministry announced on its Web site today that the man, from Hunan province in central China, got sick on Jan 16, was hospitalized several days later, and died on Jan 24, according to a report from Reuters. If the World Health Organization (WHO) confirms the report, he will be listed as China's 28th case-patient and 18th fatality.

The health ministry said initial samples collected from the man on Feb 15 were positive for the H5N1 virus, and the results were confirmed at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing yesterday, Reuters reported.

Xinhua, China's state news agency, said today that the health ministry did not mention any details about the source of the man's infection, according to an Associated Press (AP) report. The ministry report said the man's close contacts were placed under medical observation, but none have shown any signs of the disease, according to the AP.

The ministry statement did not say why it took so long for the man to be tested for the virus. However, Hunan was one of the Chinese provinces hit by snowstorms that knocked out power and transportation systems right before the Lunar New Year (which began Feb 7), the Reuters report said.

China's last human H5N1 cases were reported in early December, when the virus killed a 24-year-old man and sickened his 52-year-old father, both from Jiangsu province in the eastern part of the country. The source of their infections was never reported, and their illnesses are thought to represent a family cluster.

In other developments, health officials in Indonesia announced Feb 16 that the H5N1 virus killed two more people, a 16-year-old boy from Central Java province and a 3-year-old boy from the outskirts of Jakarta, according to a Feb 16 AP report.

A statement on the health ministry's Web site said the 16-year-old boy came down with respiratory symptoms on Feb 3 and died Feb 10 in a hospital in the town of Solo, according to a Feb 16 report from the Vietnam News Agency. If the WHO confirms his case, he will be listed as Indonesia's 128th case-patient and 104th death.

The ministry reported that the boy's neighbors had sick chickens and that the boy was thought to have slaughtered some of them before he became ill, the AP reported on Feb 16.

Meanwhile, Nyoman Kandun, the health ministry's director of communicable diseases, said the 3-year-old, who was from South Jakarta, died on Feb 15 and that two tests confirmed that he had the H5N1 virus, according to a report today from Reuters. If the WHO confirms the findings, he will be listed as Indonesia's 129th case-patient and 105th death.

Kandun told Reuters today that most people in the boy's neighborhood keep backyard chickens and that he probably had contact with the birds.

Elsewhere, the health ministry in Vietnam announced on Feb 16 that a 7-year-old child from Vietnam's northern province of Hai Duong was sick with an H5N1 infection, pushing the number of cases reported over the past week to three, according to a Feb 16 report from Xinhua.

The Xinhua report, quoting the local newspaper Young People, said the child, whose gender was not listed, was receiving treatment at Central Pediatrics Hospital in Hanoi. If confirmed by the WHO, the case will be listed as Vietnam's 105th.

The child is from the same province as another of Vietnam's recent H5N1 patients, a 40-year-old man who died Feb 13 at a hospital in Hanoi. Media reports about the child's illness gave no details about the source of his infection.

People with suspected H5N1 infections are being treated at Hanoi's Tropical Diseases Hospital, and their samples were sent to Vietnam's National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, Xinhua reported.

Indonesia has the world's highest numbers of H5N1 cases and deaths, and Vietnam is second.

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