Avian flu suspected in two Thai children

Jul 23, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – Two children in Thailand are being tested for possible avian influenza infections, which could be the first human cases since the disease resurged in recent weeks, according to news service reports today.

The cases involve a 14-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl, both in the northern province of Nong Khai near the Laotian border, according to a Reuters report.

A Health Ministry spokeswoman said the boy has a "probable" case but did not say whether he had had contact with chickens, according to the report.

The girl had played with chickens, said Dr. Charal Trinvuthiphong, head of disease control in the Health Ministry, as quoted in the story.

Meanwhile, suspected avian flu in a 53-year-old woman in Lop Buri province turned out to be a false alarm, the Bangkok newspaper The Nation reported yesterday. The woman was released from a hospital after tests showed she had ordinary influenza, the story said. The newspaper previously reported that the patient had touched a dead chicken in an outbreak area and was very ill.

The Reuters report said 10 people in Thailand have been rushed to hospitals this month because of suspected avian flu, but all were sent home after tests showed they were free of the disease. Today marked the first time senior officials publicly reported suspected cases, the story said.

In the widespread H5N1 avian flu outbreaks in Thailand last winter, the disease spread to 12 people and killed 8 of them. The disease also claimed 16 human lives in Vietnam. Both countries slaughtered millions of poultry to stop the outbreaks.

In recent weeks, avian flu outbreaks have been reported in 15 of Thailand's 76 provinces. An Agence France-Presse (AFP) report yesterday said the latest outbreaks included three in Bangkok.

In other developments, AFP reported yesterday that Indonesia launched a major vaccination program to stop avian flu, which has resurfaced recently on the island of Java.

Indonesia's director of animal health said avian flu killed 3,161 birds in three Java districts in May and claimed another 1,760 in another district in June, according to the story. The outbreaks all occurred in areas hit by avian flu last winter. The official said the government plans to distribute 300 million doses of vaccine in stages.

News services also reported today that veterinarians from ten Asian countries will meet in Bangkok from July 28 to 30 to discuss avian flu. The Vietnam News Agency said the meeting, planned by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, will focus on improving surveillance and diagnosis.

No more cases of avian flu have been seen in China since the outbreak reported in early July in Anhui province, the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported Jul 21. The story said that 131 people who had been held for medical observation in connection with the outbreak were released Jul 19.

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