Monday, April 02, 2007

Bird Flu Virus Continues To Spread Across The Planet

China, Indonesia Report New H5N1 Deaths, Infections

The past week has seen a sharp increase not only in the number of countries reporting new H5N1 infections in poultry birds, but also human infections and deaths.

This will not be a completely comprehensive round-up of the latest news, just what I believe are the main and most important cases. While new outbreaks and deaths are being reported by the mainstream media, few are putting all the new together in the same story. By spreading the news out across small articles on different days, the full impact of this alarming increase of new infections and deaths is diminished.

For example, two more people have died of bird flu in Indonesia, but three died last week. That means Indonesia reported five human deaths in less than nine days, and reported a spate of new human infections, including the infection of a doctor who was treating a boy who died.

The World Health Organisation is growing extremely concerned, as are the governments of China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Russia and the EU. Indonesia now regards the virus as endemic across the peninsular, but there is a mounting sense of panic amongst bird flu experts as nothing done is being seen as halting the spread of the virus, or stopping new human infections.

At the same time, the 'miracle' drug Tamiflu is not living up to expectations. The anti-viral is being given to people infected with the virus, but more are dying than surviving. Some of the countries with the highest infection rates are now looking at using double-doses of Tamiflu.

Comparing the number of human infections that resulted in the victims dying, the fatality rate for humans infected with the virus in Thailand, Indonesia and Egypt now sits above 69%.

The H5N1 virus is spreading, it's spreading fast and it appears to be growing more lethal.

INDONESIA : A 22 year old woman and a 28 year old man have died from the virus, the government reported yesterday. A doctor who treated one of the three victims who died last week was hospitalised himself after becoming infected with the virus. Indonesian scientists have admitted they are "baffled" by the random nature of new outbreaks and infections, as they are not able to detect a pattern to the spread of the virus.

: The H5N1 virus has spread to five more poultry farms in the past week. Sixteen farms have now reported infections. More than 60,000 birds have been culled.

CHINA : A 16 year old boy was reported to have died from the virus yesterday. He was hospitalised on March 20 and died seven days later. The Chinese government remains tight-lipped about how many regions are reporting infections. A second person is reported to have died, but no details have yet been released.

EGYPT : Three children under eight years old have been hospitalised after falling ill with H5N1, all three are being treated with Tamiflu. All three are believed to have caught the virus from poultry birds. The virus was first found in Egypt in February 2006. Since then more than 30 people have caught the virus, killing 13.

KUWAIT : The government is culling more another 1.1 million poultry birds to stop the spread of the H5N1 virus. More than 1.5 poultry birds have already been culled. The culls have devastated Kuwait's egg production, with more than 60% of layer birds now destroyed. Kuwait has shut down it's only zoo, has closed live bird markets and closed hundreds of shops that sold poultry birds. Bird imports and exports are now also under a ban. The government claims there are no human infections. The virus was first reported in Kuwait in late 2005.

VIETNAM : Only days after claiming the spread of the virus was contained, the government has reported two more duck farms have become infected. Vietnam was hailed by the World Health Organisation as a prime example of how the virus can be contained when the virus was believed to have been eradicated in 2005. Vietnam went a year without any new outbreaks.

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