Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Indonesia : Researchers Confirm Bird Flu Virus Passed From Human To Human During April 2006 "Cluster" Outbreak

World Health Organisation Failed To Raise Alert Level When Eight Members Of Same Family Died From H5N1

"We Dodged A Bullet"

How close did we come to a pandemic outbreak of the bird flu virus amongst humans in 2006?

American researchers now claim we "dodged a bullet", because the H5N1 virus did pass from family member to family member during a surge of deaths in Indonesia in April, 2006 :

Ira Longini and colleagues at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle looked at two clusters - one in which eight family members died in Sumatra in 2006, and another in Turkey in which eight people were infected and four died.

Experts were almost certain the Sumatra case was human-to-human transmission, but were eager to see more proof.

"We find statistical evidence of human-to-human transmission in Sumatra, but not in Turkey," they wrote in a report published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

"This does not mean that no low-level human-to-human spread occurred in this outbreak, only that we lack statistical evidence of such spread."

In Sumatra, one of Indonesia's islands, a 37-year-old woman appears to have infected her 10-year-old nephew, who infected his father. DNA tests confirmed that the strain the father died of was very similar to the virus found in the boy's body.

"It went two generations and then just stopped, but it could have gotten out of control," Mr Longini said.

"The world really may have dodged a bullet with that one, and the next time, we might not be so lucky."

The researchers estimated the secondary-attack rate, which is the risk that one person will infect another, was 20 per cent. This is similar to what is seen for regular, seasonal influenza A in the United States.

The Indonesian government admitted there was probably human to human spread in the April-May, 2006, "cluster" of deaths. Here's a report on that.

Back in June, 2006, a spokesman for the World Health Organisaion referred to the Indonesian outbreak, where ultimately eight members of the same family died, as "the mother of all (bird flu) clusters".

There was a very real sense of panic, particularly in the Indonesian government and the World Health Organisation, that this was it, the beginning of a worldwide pandemic. But little of that terror filtered through to the media.

The WHO admitted, back then, it was possible that human to human transmission had occurred, but denied the virus had mutated into one that could pass more easily amongst humans, the event that all concerned fear the most.

If human to human transmission did occur during the Sumatra "cluster" of deaths, it is interesting to look back now on a decision by the World Health Organisation mid last year to not raise the pandemic 'Alert' level they use, and of which we have heard nothing about since June 2006 :

WHO won't yet raise the Global Pandemic Alert level from Phase 3 to Phase 4..

Phase 3 translates as Human Infection : Rare Human To Human Transmission

Phase 4 translates as Human Infections : Small Clusters With Limited Human To Human Transmission, but during which the spread is highly localised.

There is good reason for the World Health Organisation to be reluctant to go with Phase 4.

When they officially confirmed that seven members of the same family had died of the bird flu virus, the Indonesian currency plummeted and stocks in airliners and travel companies plunged on fears of a pandemic cutting into airline industry profits, and of a general weakening of the Indonesian tourism industry due to decreased tourists, scared off by fears of the virus.

It's an incredibly fine balancing act that the World Health Organisation must conduct in raising its bird flu-related alert and warning levels.

Ramping up from Phase Three to Phase Four can slash billions from a nation's economy virtually overnight, as stocks tumble and tourists cancel trips.

But delaying the increased level of threat and warning over human deaths could also see the virus spreading much farther than it might have if the warnings were raised earlier. The further the virus spreads through a country or region, and the more people it kills, the greater the economic damage.

It's clear now that the World Health Organisation probably should have moved the Alert level from Phase Three to Phase Four, because there were clear signs of "clusters" and limited spread of the virus from human to human.

They didn't do this, but the bird flu deaths in humans slowed. In the end the WHO made the right decision and probably saved the Indonesian economy from suffering more damage than it did.

The bullet was dodged.

There were nine officially recognised bird flu-related deaths in Indonesia in only ten days through late March and early April this year, and at least 12 in a 30 day period.

April 7 : A 29 year man who died on Thursday in Central Java was confirmed Saturday as being H5N1 positive.

April 6 : 16 year old girl dies in Jakarta, believed to have had contact with sick chicekns.

April 5 : 29 year man in Central Java dies.

April 4 : 23 year old woman dies.

March 29 : 14 year old boy in West Sumatra dies - 28 year old woman in Jakarta dies.

March 28 : 39 year old man dies in Surabaya.

March 27 : 15 year old boy in West Java dies - 22 year old woman in Sumatra dies.

March 20 : 21 year woman in East Java dies.

March 16 : 32 year old man dies in Jakarta.

March 12 : 20 year old woman dies in East Java.

May, 2006 : Five Members Of Indonesian Family Die From Bird Flu In One Week

June, 2006 : The Bird Flu "Storm" In Indonesia

June, 2006 : Bird Flu Is Now "Probably" Spreading Human To Human In Indonesia

"The Mother Of All Bird Flu Clusters"

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Charting The Spread Of H5N1 Around The World

The BBC News site has published a series of thorough maps showing the state of the world as far as outbreaks and spread of the H5N1 virus goes. It's a couple of weeks out of date, but it's the most detailed we've come across so far.

The text which goes with these maps and chart from BBC News :

Much of the globe has now been hit by the lethal strain of bird flu that is fast becoming a major avian killer around the world.

Millions of birds have died or been destroyed as a result of outbreaks in dozens of countries since the H5N1 strain emerged in South-East Asia in 2003, before spreading to Europe and Africa.

The number of cases among humans is also rising - by the end of 2006 the number of human deaths from the disease had more than doubled in a year, with a noticeably higher mortality rate of almost 60%.

And by the following spring, the 300th human case was confirmed.

The first human deaths from H5N1 outside Asia, in January 2006, heightened concern about the spread of the disease, but the World Health Organization pointed out that the deaths, in Turkey, were among people who had been in close contact with infected birds, and were not passed from human to human.

And although a cluster of deaths in Indonesia in May sparked renewed fears about transmission between humans, the WHO maintains there is no evidence of sustained spread from person to person, and scientists do not believe it is mutating into a version that spreads more easily among humans.

In June 2007 Indonesia became the first country to have 100 confirmed cases of H5N1 among humans.

The main concern is that each new human case increases the chances of the feared "human" mutation.

The first outbreaks in the European Union were recorded in January 2006 when cases were confirmed in wild swans in Italy, Greece, Germany and Austria.

Within weeks, cases were confirmed in Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, and France, where mass vaccination of ducks and geese on farms was carried out.

At the end of February, the first case involving a cat in Europe was discovered on the German island where a number of wild birds died from the disease earlier in the month.

And in mid-March, human deaths were confirmed in Azerbaijan, where what is believed to be the first canine case was also diagnosed, in a stray dog.

The first case in the UK was confirmed on 6 April, 2006, in a swan found dead on the eastern coast of Scotland.

Pakistan : 14,000 Chickens Die From H5N1, Massive Cull Follows

More than 14,000 chickens have died from a bird flu outbreak in a town 90km from Pakistan's capital Islamabad. 35,000 chickens have been culled.

The H5N1 virus first appeared in Pakistan in early 2006.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bali : 2nd Victim Dies As Virus Claims 28 Year Old Woman

Indonesia : Another Bird Flu Death Where Victim Had No Direct Contact With Infected Poultry

A string of bird flu deaths and infections in Indonesia, and its province of Bali.

Particularly troubling is the growing number of victims who have had no contact with infected poultry before they died, or direct contact with an already infected family member. Contact with infected poultry or an infected family member is the consistent cause of infection for those who have died from the H5N1 virus across the world, but particularly in Indonesia :
A woman who suspectedly died of bird flu in Bali on Tuesday has tested positive for bird flu, bringing the death toll on the resort island to two and in Indonesia to 84, the Health Ministry said Wednesday.

The 28-year-old woman - who worked for a chicken trader - died Tuesday after being hospitalized for four days, said spokesman Joko Suyono."Tests in two local laboratories came back positive" for the H5N1 strain of the disease, he said. However, he could not say whether samples will be sent to a WHO-collaborating laboratory for confirmation.

From the Jakarta Post :
The Health Ministry's laboratory has confirmed a Tangerang domestic helper died from the bird flu virus Friday...

The victim died at Tangerang's Sari Asih Hospital on Tuesday after two days of treatment for a high fever and acute pneumonia...

The maid's employers, Wahyu Proyato and Winda Amalia, who are residents of Perumnas II in Tangerang regency, said they had no idea how their maid contracted the virus because there were no fowl at their home or in the neighborhood.

Wahyu said his family and the housemaid did not have direct contact with live poultry and birds near the house.

This death follows the reported death of a 17 year old girl in Tangerang on August 14 from the bird flu virus. The 17 year old girl was also reported to have had no contact with infected poultry.

Are these non-poultry contact human deaths the reason why Indonesia has now relented and decided to share H5N1 virus samples with the World Health Organisation?

More people infected by possible bird flu in Bali.

A two year old has also been hospitalised in Indonesia, showing signs of bird flu infection.

Bali has now banned poultry imports from Java, and are beginning culls of an estimated 5400 poultry birds.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

West Africa : The Fight To Contain Bird Flu

World Bank Claims Bird Flu Epidemic In Humans Would Cost "Trillions Of Dollars"

A comprehensive report from VOA on the massive scale of operations now under way to stop the spread of the bird flu through West Africa. The World Bank says an international donors conference to raise money to help poor and developing nations to fight bird flu raised less than a billion dollars, with billions more needed, and soon. The United States, the EU and Japan were the biggest donors.

West Africa has seen outbreaks in 2007 in Niger, Togo, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Nigeria.

As Vietnam knows all too well, once the H5N1 virus makes its appearance in a region, it has a nasty habit of returning, months, or a year later.

More from the Voice Of America report :
The West African country of Togo recently announced more bird flu infections outside its capital, making it the seventh West African country to report finding the deadly H5N1 virus in its poultry. Bird flu experts say sub-Saharan Africa still has a long way to go in its battle against the virus, and any other animal diseases that may develop. Phuong Tran has more from VOA's West Africa Bureau in Dakar.

The H5N1 virus re-emerged in poultry in Asia four years ago, and has since been reported to 60 countries around the world, killing more than 200 million poultry and more than half of the some 300 people infected.

Experts praised Togo's fast detection of the virus, but Togolese officials say getting people to listen has been hard.

Alex Thiermann, a director at the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health, says people who raise animals in sub-Saharan Africa tend to be among the poorest, which makes it hard to convince them to kill their livelihood.

"It is very difficult to explain to them that we need to destroy birds because we worry about a potential pandemic," he said. "They do not have time to worry about the potential. They have so many problems to fight on a daily basis so unless there is a good incentive program where there is an assurance they will not lose anything by reporting, then it is hard to guarantee full participation."

Donors have promoted paying farmers as one way to encourage fast reporting. But there have been problems paying farmers for their lost poultry because it is not easy to prove ownership.

Olga Jonas, the World Bank's economic advisor for influenza programs who coordinates bird flu donor giving, says local officials need to identify poultry farmers and inventory their stock to prevent corruption.

"When there is an outbreak, you do not get into a lot of discussion about whether somebody did or did not have the poultry they are now claiming compensation for," she said.

But she admits it is hard to track small producers who live in remote areas. Noncommercial family-owned poultry farming is common in West Africa, where people often live in close contact with their birds

"We are certain we are going to have a pandemic in the near future, but we do not know yet where it will begin and what that agent will be....We put so much emphasis on not only fighting the immediate problem, but also in building the infrastructure to allow these countries to early report and take rapid action, otherwise the entire world is going to be in danger."

At a bird flu donor meeting this past September, the World Bank asked countries to raise an additional $1.5 billion.

The response was one-third that amount, and most of the money pledged was from the United States, Japan and European Union.

World Bank economic advisor Jonas is preparing another appeal for the next bird flu donor conference this December.

"The cost of a human epidemic would just be absolutely staggering, trillions of dollars," she noted. "So relative to the cost that we are trying to avoid by these preventative programs and control programs at the source, the two-point-three billion that has been committed so far is just a very small fraction."

Read The Full Story Here

Friday, August 17, 2007

Indonesia : 17 Year Old Dies Of Bird Flu

Victim Had 'No Contact With Infected Chickens'

According this story, a 17 year old Indonesian girl who died from the bird flu virus had no contact with chickens, or H5N1 infected poultry :
The 17-year-old maid from Tangerang west of Jakarta died on Tuesday after falling ill with a high fever last week, Joko Suyono of the ministry's bird flu centre said by telephone.

The most common way for humans to become infected with the H5N1 virus is through contact with sick fowl, but officials were still investigating how she contracted the disease.

"There were no fowl in the neighbourhood. The family doesn't keep any and she had no direct contact with chickens..."

Indonesia has had 104 confirmed human cases from bird flu out of which 83 had been fatal, the highest death toll for any country in the world.

Experts fear if the virus develops the ability to pass easily between humans, millions might die in a pandemic

The World Health Organisation, and the majority of media reports covering the 200 odd official deaths attributed to the bird flu virus usually cite contact with H5N1 infected poultry as the main source for contracting the virus.

At the moment, it's a mystery how the teenager became infected.

The 17 year old's death is the third human death in Indonesia attributed to the bird flu virus in the past eight days. On the weekend, news broke that a mother and daughter, in Bali, both died from the virus.

You can read a report on the Bali deaths here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"One Day There Will Be A Bird Flu Pandemic" Says Australian Health Minister

Australian Health Minister Tony Abbott has refused to release the national stockpile of the anti-viral Tamiflu to deal with an epidemic of Influenza which has killed more than 160 people in the past two months alone, including six children.

From :

"One day there will be a flu pandemic – that is almost certain," (Mr Abbott) said to ABC Radio today.

"But we don't know when, we don't know where and we don't know if the current strain of bird flu is going to be the foundation for the next pandemic."

But Mr Abbott said despite the bird flu deaths of two Indonesians on Bali this week, the deadly virus remained difficult for humans to contract.

"There is no evidence as yet of efficient human to human transmission, so what we have at the moment is a disease of birds," he said.

Stockpiles of the flu treatment Tamiflu should not be released unless there was a national emergency, Mr Abbott said.

"The Tamiflu stockpile is out first line of defence against a possible bird flu pandemic and serious though this flu season is, it would be a mere blip if we actually had a bird flu pandemic."

Mr Abbott claimed that there had been only "one or two" deaths related to human to human transmission of the H5N1 virus. However, at least five members of the same family died from the virus, including a four year old boy, in Indonesia in 2006.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bali : First Test Confirms Mother And Daughter Died Of Bird Flu, Two Year Old Girl Hospitalised

Deadly Flu Epidemic Fills Australian Hospitals

Latest reports claim that a mother and child from a small Balinese village have died from bird flu. A two year old child, from the same village, has also been hospitalised with bird flu symptoms :

Health officials in Bali have confirmed that a woman and her daughter died there from the deadly H5N1 strain of influenza.

The deaths of the 29-year-old woman and her five-year-old daughter were the first from bird flu in Bali and took the nation's toll to 83, a health official said.

The woman, Ni Luh Putu Sri Windani, lived in the northwest of the island, far from the major tourist centres.

She died yesterday, while her daughter died on August 3, said Bayu Krisnamurti, head of Indonesia's national bird flu commission.

"Both people are positive, from (tests at) the Eikman Institute and the health ministry's lab," he said.

In Indonesia two tests must be returned positive before a human infection is confirmed.

Chickens in Ms Windani's neighbourhood were positively infected, said Joko Suyono of the Bird Flu Information Centre in Jakarta.

Ms Windani, from a village in the district of Jembrana, was suffering from a high fever before dying of multiple organ failure, said Ken Wirasandi, a doctor at Sanglah Hospital in Denpasar.

Mr Suyono said there had been sick chickens around the woman's house and many had died suddenly in recent weeks.

"The villagers didn't burn the carcasses. Instead they buried them or fed them to pigs," he said.

Go To 'The Osrtrahyun' Blog For More


Reuters is reporting that a 29 year old Indonesian woman who died over the weekend was infected with the bird flu virus. In Australia a 'killer flu' is now raging, filling emergency wards of city hospitals. More than 150 people in Sydney have died from influenza in the past six weeks.

In the past few days, the Australian influenza epidemic has killed infants and people under the age of 40.

The meeting of virulent influenza and H5N1 is the nightmare scenario long feared by the World Health Organisation :
Samples from an Indonesian woman who died on Sunday on the resort island of Bali have tested positive for bird flu after an initial test, officials said on Monday.

A second laboratory test, which is now being conducted, is necessary to confirm the initial findings, Joko Suyono of the health ministry's bird flu centre said.

The woman's five-year-old daughter also died recently after playing with chickens but it was unclear if the girl died of bird flu.

The woman, 29, from a village in the district of Jembrana in western Bali, was suffering from a high fever before dying of multiple organ failure, said Ken Wirasandi, a doctor at the Sanglah hospital in the Balinese capital Denpasar.

The woman had started showing symptoms more than a week ago, but was only admitted to hospital six days later.

Considering that hundreds of Australian tourists arrived back from Bali over the weekend, and there is a particularly virulent, and deadly, strain of Influenza A now killing infants and people under 40 years of age, the news that bird flu may have killed one or more people in Bali is remarkably close to the kinds of 'worst case scenarios' feared by Australian medical specialists and virologists and the World Health Organisation.

Bird flu pandemic-related exercises held earlier this year in Australia workshopped a scenario where virulent influenza was active in Australia, while the bird flu virus was claiming lives in Bali. The nightmare scenario workshopped was that Australia tourists, already sickened by influenza would come into contact with H5N1 and the combined viruses would mutate inside their hosts to create an easily transmissible form of H5N1.

With immune systems already weakened by Influenza A, the mutated H5N1 virus would then spread easily, and fast.


Friday, August 10, 2007

US Government Allows Americans To Eat Bird Flu-Infected Poultry

Fears Over Bird Flu Lead To International Bans On Poultry From Nebraska

So far Russia, Japan, the Philippines and Turkey have banned poultry originating in Nebraska. The ban is described as "short-term". A flock of turkeys from Nebraska tested positive to a mild strain of bird flu. Of course, if more flocks are found to be infected, the import ban will continue in those countries, and more countries are then likely to also ban the poultry.

From the IHT :

Deputy (Nebraska) state veterinarian Del Wilmot said Wednesday that the flock shows no sign of illness and was being prepared for slaughter and entry into the food supply.

...officials in the four countries are taking no chances. Wilmot said those countries have barred all poultry and related products, such as eggs, coming from Nebraska.

"This ban and other emergency measures were necessary to protect human health and the poultry industry in the Philippines," Arthur Yap, agriculture secretary for the Southeast Asian country, said in a news release issued Tuesday.

The Philippines is among three countries in Asia — the area with the greatest number human cases — to remain free of bird flu since 2003.

Karen Eggert, with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said the department has no qualms about sending the Seward County turkeys into the U.S. food supply.

To recap, Russia, Japan, the Philippines and Turkey have decided to ban Nebraskan poultry infected with a "mild" strain of bird flu.

But the American government doesn't believe bird flu can be caught from eating infected poultry meat or eggs and therefore has decided to allow infected poultry meat to enter the American food supply.

It's surprising the World Health Organisation has said nothing about this, so far.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

WHO Says Indonesia's Refusal To Share Live H5N1 Samples Puts World "At Risk"

The World Health Organisation is still demanding Indonesia hand over recent samples of the live H5N1 virus collected during operations to control bird flu outbreaks. By not doing so, the WHO says, the "entire planet" is being put at risk.

But Jakarta says it is still not happy with agreements that Indonesia will get equal and inexpensive access to any vaccines created from its samples :
Indonesia has yet to resume sharing samples from human bird flu victims with the World Health Organization, jeopardizing not o­nly the Asian nation but the entire planet, the UN health agency said Monday.

David Heymann, the assistant director-general for communicable diseases at WHO, said the agency had received three specimens from Jakarta in May, but none contained any live virus.

"What's important is that all countries share viruses that they isolate from humans," Heymann said.

"By not sharing the viruses, Indonesia is ... putting in danger its own populations, because if those viruses are not freely shared with industry, vaccines will not contain the elements of the Indonesia infections. The second thing that Indonesia is doing is therefore putting the whole world at risk."

Indonesia—the nation hit hardest by the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu—stopped sharing its samples with international scientists searching for mutations early this year because Jakarta wanted assurances that any vaccines developed would not be too expensive for developing nations.

It ended its boycott in May, however, after receiving assurances from WHO that the virus samples would be used for risk assessment and not passed o­n to private pharmaceutical companies without Jakarta's permission.

China—which had not shared H5N1 specimens with WHO for almost a year—sent bird flu samples in June. Vietnam has sent samples but has encountered shipping road blocks, Heymann said.

Jakarta Says It Will Not Share New Virus Samples Until A New Agreement Is In Place

Jakarta Warns Of 'Silent' Outbreaks Of Bird Flu In Poultry Stocks - Some Mass Poultry Deaths Believed To Go Unreported - 500,000 Poultry Killed By Bird Flu This Year
Vietnam : Officials Announce 2nd Death In Two Weeks

A 15 year old boy has become Vietnam's latest victim of the resurgent spread of the H5N1 virus. His death follows the demise of a woman, seven months, pregnant, only two weeks ago.

The 15 year old, the seventh human victim in Vietnam this year, is believed to have contracted H5N1 after coming into contact with ducklings, less than 150km from the capital Hanoi.

Meanwhile the bird flu virus continues to spread through poultry, defying the Vietnamese govenrment's once victorious attempts to keep it contained.

From the IHT :

The H5N1 virus continues to spread among poultry in Vietnam, killing or forcing the slaughter of more than 200,000 birds this year.

The country had been hailed as a bright spot in Asia for beating back bird flu after a nationwide poultry vaccination campaign was started. No human cases were reported in the country in 2006, but the virus flared again in poultry early this year.

A total of 46 people have died in Vietnam since the virus began ravaging Asian poultry stocks in late 2003. At least 192 people have died worldwide from the disease during that time, according to the World Health Organization.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

India : Four Quarantined Children Cleared For H5N1 Infection

But 51 People Still Remain Under Quarantine

First the good news :
On Friday, authorities cleared four boys who had been suffering from fever after handling dead or sick poultry in Manipur.
Now the not so good news :
India has quarantined 51 people in Manipur following an outbreak of the H5N1 strain of influenza in chickens last month, a senior official said on Friday.

"Since all these people had worked in culling or sanitising operations or monitoring people's health around the affected poultry farm they have to be quarantined and monitored," said Vineet Chawdhry, joint secretary in the health ministry.

Most had complained of being "unwell", he added, but did not say whether any had flu-like symptoms.

All 51 were on Tamiflu, the popular drug to prevent and treat bird flu, as a precaution, the health ministry said.

Hundreds of cullers were involved in killing nearly 300,000 fowl over the past week in Manipur, a state bordering Myanmar that saw two outbreaks of bird flu in chickens in July alone.

The culling, which took place within a 5-km radius around the affected poultry farm near Imphal, ended on Thursday.

Health officials have completed checks of around 235,000 people in the area, but said they would closely monitor the situation.

Remarkable work by the health officials there. Two hundred thousand plus people checked in a handful of days. That's how you rein in the spread of bird flu : fast, efficient health checks and quarantines.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Times Of India Asks : Is Bird Flu Now Spreading Between Humans?

Four Children From Same Family Sick, Under Observation

Like most countries that suffer poultry outbreaks of H5N1, medical authorities in India are extremely nervous about the possibility of the virus infecting and then spreading between humans. Internationally, the World Health Organisation is terrified. The crowded cities and numerous slums of India provide the perfect environment for a widespread, or pandemic, outbreak of human bird flu.

Four young children from the same family are now sick, on Tamiflu and under observation. Confirmation that all four children have the bird flu virus is pending.

So it is not surprising then that the Times Of India asks today - Is Bird Flu Infecting Humans?

Four children, all under 14 years, from a farm in Chingmeirong village in Manipur have been quarantined and administered Tamiflu, the most affective antibiotic against bird flu, after investigations revealed that they had handled dead poultry in their farm, soon after the disease was detected in dead chickens from a nearby farm.

All of them, part of the same household, were found suffering from fever and throat infection by health officials carrying out door-to-door surveillance on humans, within the 5-km radius of this year's bird flu outbreak site. The throat swabs of the four children have been sent to National Institute of Communicable Diseases in Delhi and National Institute of Virology, Pune, for testing.

Till now, all those who have been infected in bird-flu outbreaks across the globe have actually been poultry workers who came in contact with infected birds.

The WHO says, globally at least 192 people have died due to bird flu out of 319 cases since 2003. The next 24 hours will be a nervous wait for the government and India's health experts as results of these tests are expected on Friday morning.

India has not reported a single human infection with the H5N1 virus till now. What's worrying the health ministry officials most is the fact that they don't know whether the chicken that died in the farm of these four teenagers had been infected with H5N1 or not.

This is because soon after the government announced the outbreak, the four sold off their stock of 120 birds to a nearby hotel owner. So, the scientists failed to collect samples of these birds.

Interestingly, the teenagers also confessed to health officials of having eaten some of the dead chickens. Chicken cooked at over 70 degrees Celsius is safe as the virus gets killed.

On July 25, India's department of animal husbandry announced that the deadly virus had returned to haunt India for the second year in a row, with this year's outbreak being reported from a small poultry farm in Chingmeirong village of East Imphal district in Manipur.

The Times of India makes a basic, and remarkable, mistake in its reporting :
Till now, all those who have been infected in bird-flu outbreaks across the globe have actually been poultry workers who came in contact with infected birds.
This simply isn't true. The virus has been caught by humans from infected birds sitting on windowsills (Indonesia), from eating infected chicken meat (Vietnam) and from infected birds in crowded public markets (Egypt).

Was this "only poultry workers" mistake by the journalist just bad research, or were they told this as a fact by the Indian authorities?

For the authorities in India, and for the H5N1 specialists in the World Health Organisation, the next day or two of waiting to find out if the four children have H5N1 are going to be long and nerve-wracking.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

India : Outbreak Leads To "Bird Flu Raids" On Tens Of Thousands Of Homes

4 Children Monitored For Signs Of Infection

Four children in Manipur state came into contact with sick, or dead, poultry. They fell ill with fever and are now being monitored. India has been fighting H5N1 outbreaks in poultry in Manipur for weeks.

From Reuters :

The children have been restricted to their homes and are being visited twice a day by medical professionals, said Vineet Chawdhry, joint secretary in the ministry of health.

"We are being extra careful," Chawdhry said, adding that throat swabs and blood samples taken from the children had been sent to a federal laboratory, where tests for the H5N1 strain of bird flu will be carried out.

The children live within a 5-km (3-mile) radius of a small poultry farm where more than 130 chickens died last month from the H5N1 virus.

Health officials have checked more than 235,000 people around the affected farm since the weekend for flu symptoms, while veterinary workers have culled a similar number of birds in the remote northeastern state.

India had two major flare-ups of bird flu in its western region last year.

Manipur neighbors Myanmar, which has battled several outbreaks of bird flu in chickens this year, including one reported last week.

From Daily India :
Over 45,000 homes in Manipur's East Imphal District have been searched for signs of bird flu, and according to the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, 163 persons are suffering from respiratory-related symptoms, but not from bird flu.

The Department said that a Central Rapid Response Team is countering the outbreak of avian influenza in Chingmeirong Village, and as of now, 171 cullers are under the cover of Tamiflu. Their health status is being monitored.

The medical teams consisting of 680 health personnel in total have conducted house-to-house active surveillances in Luwangsangbam, Koirengei, Lamlongei, Ahalup, Matai, Kontha area, Achanbigei, Heingang, Laipham Siphai, Paomei Colony, Sangakpam, Khurai area and Kairang area.

Out of the 45,032 houses surveyed, 935 were having backyard poultry. A total of 2,35,161 persons were covered.

Illegal bird smuggling from Myanmar is being blamed for the H5N1 virus entering India.
France : More H5N1 Infected Dead Swans Found

From Forbes :

Two swans found dead in eastern France died of the H5N1 strain of bird flu, the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement Tuesday.

The swans were found in an area known as Diane Capelle, in the Moselle region, some 9 miles from the site where three swans died of bird flu in early July.

A wild bird in eastern Germany tested positive for the disease this month. Last month, several wild birds in neighboring Bavaria and Saxony also tested positive.

Bird flu is believed to spread along bird migration routes, and the H5N1 strain has been found in poultry farms in three other EU countries this year: Hungary, Britain and the Czech Republic, the European Commission has said.

France experienced a bird flu scare after an outbreak of the lethal disease in February 2006 in the eastern Ain region. It was quickly contained and a vaccination campaign of fowl was launched. However, dozens of countries briefly suspended imports of fowl and luxury items like foie gras from France.

Vietnam : H5N1 Kills Pregnant Woman

A 22 year old woman, seven months pregnant, died from the bird flu virus, in the northern Ha Tay province. The woman, referred to here as D.T.H. fell ill after eating what is believed to have been infected chicken meat :

Health officials have disinfected the woman's house and surrounding areas, an official at Ha Tay's preventive medicine center said.
The case marked the sixth infection since May with two people dying earlier – a 20-year-old man and a 28-year-old woman – in June, the first fatalities since November 2005.

Vietnam had been hailed as a bright spot in Asia for containing bird flu after starting a nationwide poultry vaccination campaign. No human cases were reported in the country in 2006, but the virus came back to infect poultry early this year.

Outbreaks have been reported since May in 18 of the country’s 64 provinces and cities, mostly among unvaccinated ducks and other waterfowl.

Bird Flu Hits Two More Vietnam Provinces