NEWS SCAN: WHO confirms 5 Egyptian H5N1 cases, Jakarta culls backyard birds, 'silent' avian flu infection

May 22, 2009

WHO confirms 5 cases of H5N1 in Egyptian preschoolers
The World Health Organization (WHO) today confirmed five previously reported cases of H5N1 avian influenza in Egypt. The cases were reported by Egypt's Ministry of Health between May 13 and May 20 and involved three 4-year-olds and two 3-year-olds. One of the 4-year-olds died on May 18, and the rest are listed in stable condition. All of the cases had close contact with dead or sick poultry. The cases bring the total of WHO-confirmed H5N1 cases in the country to 74, including 27 deaths. Twenty-three of the 34 cases confirmed by the WHO this year have come from Egypt. The worldwide count now stands at 429, including 262 deaths.
[May 22 WHO notice]

Jakarta officials seize, cull 1,600 backyard birds
Officials in East Jakarta, Indonesia, recently confiscated and culled 1,609 birds in efforts to decrease the spread of avian influenza in the city, the Jakarta Post reported today. Adnan Ahmad, chief of the East Jakarta Animal Husbandry Office, said workers doing spot checks had seized 746 chickens, 703 pigeons, 126 swans, and 34 ducks in response to a 2007 law designed to curb backyard poultry holdings in the city. "We plan to conduct the spot checks once a week until the municipality is fowl-free," Ahmad said.
[May 22 Jakarta Post story]

Evidence of 'silent' H5N1 infection in Cambodia
A study in the Jun 15 Journal of Infectious Diseases (JID) found 7 of 674 villagers (less than 1%) to have antibodies to the H5N1 avian influenza virus, indicating they were exposed to the virus without exhibiting significant symptoms. All those testing positive for H5N1 antibodies were younger than 17, with a median age of 12, compared with a median age of 27 for those who had no antibodies. In addition, the researchers determined that bathing or swimming in household ponds that may have harbored the virus may have increased the villagers' exposure. "This conclusion is somewhat reassuring, because it suggests that large pockets of infected persons are probably not being missed," wrote Drs. Sylvie Briand and Keiji Fukuda of the WHO in an accompanying editorial, but added a caveat: "Although these results cannot be considered to be representative without broader confirmation, they show that, in some settings, surveillance may substantially miss H5N1 virus infections."
[Jun 15 JID study abstract]
[Accompanying editorial]

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