H5N1's human toll rises, poultry outbreaks plague several countries

Oct 24, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – While international officials today confirmed three more human deaths from the H5N1 avian flu virus, several countries battled new outbreaks in poultry.

A 7-year-old boy in Thailand's Kanchanaburi province, a 4-year-old boy from Sumatra Island in Indonesia, and a 23-year-old Indonesian man from West Java are the latest human victims of H5N1, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced today. These deaths bring the known human toll to 121 cases with 62 fatalities.

Although two of these cases are linked to other cases of avian flu, the WHO did not suggest they were caused by human-to-human transmission of the virus. The Thai boy is recovering–his father died on Oct 19 from avian flu. News services have reported there was no human-to-human spread in that family.

In addition, the 4-year-old Indonesian boy is the nephew of a confirmed case, a 21-year-old man from Lampung. The boy has recovered fully; his uncle died. Exposure to infected poultry is the likely source of illness in the two Indonesian cases confirmed today, WHO said.

Meanwhile, poultry outbreaks in several countries drew world attention to the pressing possibility of pandemic flu:

  • Croatia announced today it would continue culling poultry after finding two dead wild swans with the H5 avian flu virus, Reuters news service reported. Avian flu was first detected in the area a week ago when 6 wild swans were found dead at a pond, prompting the culling of about 13,000 birds in some 500 area farms and homes. Tests detailing whether the strain is H5N1 are expected this week, another Reuters story noted.
  • Russia today confirmed more avian flu cases, with a dozen hens dying in Tambov, about 250 miles southeast of Moscow, Reuters said in a separate story. A regional health official there told Reuters local tests confirmed the presence of H5N1.
  • In Russia's southern Urals, veterinarians noted 31 dead chickens in the village of Sunaly, in Chelyabinsk region, and found avian flu in six of a dozen samples tested, Reuters reported on Oct 22. The 1,060 birds in that village were to be culled, authorities said. Avian flu was also suspected in the village of Pokrovka on Oct 21 in the Altai region of Russia, close to the Kazakhstan border. Further testing was being done to determine if the 59 birds died of avian flu.
  • China notified the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) of a new outbreak today. The outbreak, which started on Oct 20, included 550 deaths in chickens and geese. Authorities culled 44,736 poultry to stop the spread. That outbreak occurred in Anhui province, west of Shanghai. The previous Chinese outbreaks have been far north and west of Anhui, with the most recent occurring in the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia.
  • A parrot quarantined in Essex did have H5N1 virus, British authorities announced yesterday. The strain most closely matches one found in ducks in China earlier this year, although the Veterinary Laboratory Agency hadn't seen this exact strain before, according to a news release yesterday from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in the United Kingdom. The test results were obtained from a tissue sample that may have included 2 birds. It wasn't clear whether both birds were infected. All quarantined birds will be held until risk assessments can be conducted for all the birds, DEFRA announced. "Our working hypothesis is that any infection in the birds from Surinam is likely to have arisen in the quarantine system, mostly likely in the facility in Essex where the Surinam birds shared airspace with the birds from Taiwan," said Debby Reynolds, chief veterinarian. "There are more tests under way on the birds from Taiwan because we have established that some of them died before October 16."
  • Romanian officials suspected a new case of avian flu had occurred when a heron found in the county of Vaslui, near the border with Moldova, was found positive for the H5 virus. Further tests are being done to determine the strain.
  • In Portugal, several geese and seagulls were found dead north of Lisbon and are being tested for avian flu, authorities told Reuters.
  • A dead duck discovered west of Stockholm had a mild type of H5 avian flu virus and not the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus, Swedish authorities said, according to Australia's news.com and other online sources. Four ducks were found dead in Eskilstuna, about 65 miles west of Stockholm, the Associated Press wrote.

See also:

WHO's confirmation of human deaths http://www.who.int/csr/don/2005_10_24/en/index.html

OIE report on Chinese outbreak http://www.oie.int/downld/AVIAN%20INFLUENZA/China%20Follow-up%20report%20No4.pdf


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