China has avian flu case; Ivory Coast awaits tests

Apr 27, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – China reported its 18th human case of H5N1 avian influenza today as Ivory Coast awaited the results of tests that will tell whether it is Africa's latest country faced with outbreaks in poultry.

China's Ministry of Health said the new patient is an 8-year-old girl from the southwestern province of Sichuan, according to a statement from the World Health Organization (WHO). She became ill with fever and pneumonia Apr 16 and is in a hospital.

The WHO said investigators determined that some poultry died recently near the girl's home. Test results confirmed yesterday that her infection was H5N1, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported today.

Twelve of China's 18 human cases have been fatal. The WHO's global tally now stands at 205 human cases with 113 deaths.

Ivory Coast officials reported the two suspected poultry outbreaks of H5N1 to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) on Apr 25. The disease is suspected on the basis of clinical signs and tests at two laboratories in the country, the report said. The OIE reference lab in Padua, Italy, is running confirmatory tests.

The sick birds included 16 backyard ducks and chickens and one sparrow hawk in two communes in the Abidjan district of the Lagunes region, says the report by Dr. Denis Kouakou, the country's director of veterinary services.

The Ivorian government said it would set up telephone hotlines and send out mobile surveillance units while waiting for the test results, according to an AFP report today.

If cases are confirmed, Ivory Coast will be Africa's seventh country invaded by the virus. Nigeria was hit first, in early February, followed by Egypt, Niger, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, and Sudan. Egypt is the only one of the group with human cases—12 of them, including 4 deaths.

In the United Kingdom, meanwhile, an H7 strain of avian flu is suspected in some poultry deaths on one farm in Norfolk in eastern England, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

"The preliminary test results show that it is likely to be the H7 strain of avian influenza, and not H5N1," the agency said yesterday. Confirmatory tests were under way.

H7 viruses can be highly pathogenic in poultry and can infect humans but have rarely caused serious human illness. During a major poultry outbreak of H7N7 in the Netherlands in 2003, 89 people were infected and one veterinarian died. The human cases were generally mild, mainly involving conjunctivitis. In addition, a few poultry workers became ill during an H7N3 outbreak in poultry in British Columbia, Canada, in 2004.

BBC News said today that 35,000 birds on Witford Lodge Farm, about 13 miles west of the city of Norwich, would be killed to contain the outbreak.

Dennis Foreman, a spokesman for the company operating the farm, said the number of infected birds was "minimal" and the outbreak came "completely out of the blue," according to an AFP report.

The outbreak comes a few weeks after the H5N1 virus was first discovered in the UK, in a dead swan found on the east coast of Scotland in late March. No further cases were found, and fears about the virus had been subsiding, according to AFP.

In other recent avian flu developments:

  • H5N1 was found in pet chickens in the northern Afghan province of Kapisa, the country's fourth affected province, according to an Apr 25 AFP story. An Italian lab identified the virus, a spokesman for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization told AFP. The virus had previously been found in Kabul, the capital, and in the eastern provinces of Nangarhar and Logar.
  • Authorities on Bali in Indonesia said they had killed more than 400 ducks and chickens after random testing had revealed flu infections among them, according to an Apr 25 AFP report.
  • The killing of more than 6,000 birds, mostly chickens, as part of control efforts in Burkina Faso has been completed, AFP reported today.
  • In the Czech Republic, the government said testing at the European Union's avian flu reference lab in Britain confirmed the presence of the H5N1 virus in 12 wild swans, AFP reported yesterday. Authorities said the country has had no cases in domestic birds.

See also:

Apr 27 WHO statement on case in China

Ivory Coast report to the OIE

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