Human bird flu cases reported in 3 countries

Apr 11, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – Egypt and Indonesia each reported a new human case of avian influenza today, while the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed a suspected case in Azerbaijan.

An 18-year-old Egyptian woman from the northern governorate of Menufiya is that country's 12th victim of the avian flu virus, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported today. She was hospitalized today and remains in stable condition, AFP added.

Although details were scant, the news service said she contracted the illness 4 days ago after handling infected poultry.

All of Egypt's 12 human infections have been reported in the past 3 weeks, AFP noted. Of those patients, 3 have died, 5 have recovered and 4 are under treatment, AFP reported in a statement attributed to Egyptian health officials.

In Indonesia, a 23-year-old man in Sumatra has a confirmed H5N1 infection, Reuters news service reported today. His illness has been confirmed by a WHO collaborating laboratory, Hariadi Wibisono of the Indonesian health ministry told Reuters.

The man had been working at a chicken farm in West Java before becoming ill, the story said. He is the 33rd person in Indonesia to suffer avian flu, of whom 23 have died, an AFP story said.

United Nations avian flu coordinator David Nabarro, attending a meeting in Jakarta today, told reporters he would not recommend mass culling of birds in Indonesia, Reuters reported. Indonesia has not conducted the mass culling seen in some other nations, nor has it conducted a thorough mass vaccination campaign.

Teenager recovered in Azerbaijan
In Azerbaijan, follow-up tests at a WHO lab have confirmed an additional human H5N1 infection, the WHO announced today. The patient, a girl, 17, fell ill on Mar 11 but has since recovered and left the hospital. Her 15-year-old cousin also had an H5N1 infection, which had been confirmed earlier. They are neighbors from the Daikyand settlement in Salyan rayon, where seven of the country's eight cases originated.

"Active house-to-house surveillance in the settlement has failed to detect any further cases," WHO said in a news release. This brings Azerbaijan's human tally to eight cases, of which five were fatal.

WHO also updated its case count to reflect the confirmed case in Azerbaijan, with the deaths remaining at 109 and total cases climbing to 193.

A 41-year-old woman who has been hospitalized in southern China with pneumonia symptoms is undergoing testing for H5N1 infection, AFP reported today. She is from Guangzhou, just north of Hong Kong.

A Bloomberg news service report cites the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong as saying that the Chinese government has banned reporting of the woman's suspected illness.

Authorities asked local media to await an official government statement on the woman, whose surname is Li. She has been hospitalized since Mar 25, according to Bloomberg's report, which relied heavily on the Hong Kong newspaper.

The woman works in a public market, about 20 meters from a livestock area, according to Aphaluck Bhatiasevi, WHO spokeswoman in China, who was quoted in the Post.

The woman has been diagnosed as having pneumonia of an unknown cause and is in stable condition, according to an AFP report today. AFP quoted Bhatiasevi as saying that testing would take 2 to 3 weeks.

Mixed news elsewhere
Elsewhere in the world there was mixed news about the impact of the virus on people.

In Afghanistan, no evidence of avian flu was found in birds in a remote village where three children recently died, Reuters reported yesterday. However, 20 other samples from seven provinces have tested positive for an H5 avian flu, although the neuraminidase has not yet been determined.

The deaths of the children, all from the same family in the central province of Ghor, prompted fears of avian flu, Reuters said. Samples were not taken from the children before their burial, the stories noted.

The lack of samples left investigators to rely on bird samples. Officials found no evidence of disease among about 1,000 chickens in the village, Reuters said.

News from West Africa was more worrisome, if a Reuters report from Nairobi yesterday is any indication. A WHO official, Honore Meda, told Reuters at an avian flu seminar in Nairobi that human cases of H5N1 may be occurring undetected in Africans.

"So far, there is no confirmed human case of avian flu virus infection in West Africa, but this is not a reason to say there is no human case," Meda said. "There is a risk and probability of human cases occurring in West Africa but there's no evidence to say there is or there is not a human case."

WHO in February tested samples from four Nigerians, including a woman who died. The samples did not yield a clear result, Reuters reported. Four West African countries have experienced or are experiencing avian flu outbreaks in poultry.

In India, seven poultry farmers committed suicide because the H5N1 virus destroyed their livelihood, according to an AFP report that cited information from a farmers' organization.

The H5N1 infections and subsequent culling that have swept India have cost the industry $1.8 billion in 6 weeks, the National Egg Coordination Committee said today.

The seven suicides are not an unheard-of response to the stresses of farming in India. The AFP story noted that nearly 9,000 people in four Indian states are thought to have killed themselves in connection with rising costs, debt, and repeated crop failures in the past 5 years.

See also

Apr 11 WHO situation update on Azerbaijan

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