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Ciptapangan Visitor
Thai Bird Flu Case Suggests Virus Is Under-Reported in Poultry
posted by admin on 04/08/06

His phlegm tested positive for the H5N1 avian flu strain.

Aug. 4 (Bloomberg) -- A 17-year-man who died of bird flu in Thailand last week, the country's first case this year, suggests the virus is being under-reported in poultry, the influenza team at the European Centre for Disease Surveillance and Control said.

The youth from a northern province was hospitalized on July 18 suffering fever, cough and headache and died six days later, the Thai Bureau of General Communicable Diseases said in a July 26 report. A week before his symptoms appeared he buried 10 dead chickens, touching the carcasses with his bare hands. His phlegm tested positive for the H5N1 avian flu strain.

The case ``could be an example of the phenomenon of a sentinel human already seen in other countries, where it is only the severe illness or death of a person from H5N1 that triggers detection or reporting of H5N1 in poultry,'' the team in Stockholm said in a report. ``This suggests under-detection or under-reporting of poultry deaths.''

Thailand widened the search for avian flu patients and improved surveillance for the virus in poultry as a result of the death of the youth. New cases create chances for H5N1 to mutate into a pandemic form and world health authorities are tracking the disease for signs it's becoming more contagious.

The virus is known to have infected 232 people in 10 countries, killing 134 of them. Most infections occurred in Asia through contact with birds. The disease may kill millions should it start spreading easily between people, researchers have said.

About 280 people with respiratory symptoms are being investigated for H5N1 infection in Thailand, of whom 70 are from Phichit, the same province where the teenager died last week, the country's Bureau of General Communicable Diseases said in an Aug. 2 report on its Web site.

2,300 Patients

So far this year, Thai health authorities have investigated more than 2,300 clinical influenza or pneumonia patients as part of routine surveillance. Only one of these has been found to be infected with H5N1.

Laboratory tests on a 9-year-old girl, who died earlier this week in Lop Buri province, showed she had a seasonal influenza virus and not the H5N1 strain, Paijit Warachit, director general of Thailand's Medical Science Department, said in a telephone interview today. Tests on a patient in Chachoengsao also didn't find H5N1.

Health Minister Pinit Charusombat and other senior government officials will brief reporters at 2 p.m. in the capital, Bangkok, today on measures to prevent infections.

Concern of fresh outbreaks of the disease have been fanned by reports of new infections in poultry. Laos said the virus killed thousands of poultry in several farms owned by a commercial producer near the capital, Vientiane, last month.

Ho Chi Minh City

The virus was found in storks in a district of Ho Chi Minh City, Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper reported, citing the city's veterinary department.

Ducks from two flocks in the southern province of Tay Ninh also tested positive for avian flu, the newspaper said. Tay Ninh is on the Cambodia-Vietnam border, west of Ho Chi Minh City. The ducks were tested after mass poultry deaths, the report said.

``There remains a constant risk of outbreak reoccurrence'' because of the large numbers of free-range poultry that haven't previously been exposed to the virus, and the movement and mixing of fighting cocks, the influenza team at the ECD said in its report, published yesterday in Eurosurveillance.

``There is also the additional risk from wild birds mixing with the free-grazing birds,'' the team said. The report was published in Eurosurveillance, an online journal of peer-reviewed information on communicable diseases.

A swan found dead in Dresden zoo in eastern Germany was infected with H5N1, the first such infection in the country in almost three months, Agence France-Presse said yesterday, citing local authorities. The Saxony state health ministry will confine all birds at the zoo as a precaution and ban dogs and cats being allowed to stray in a 10-kilometer (six-mile) radius, AFP said.

To contact the reporters for this story:
Jason Gale in Singapore at j.gale@bloomberg.net;
Anuchit Nguyen in Bangkok at at anguyen@bloomberg.net

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