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Officials in Laos Verify First Case Of Human Bird Flu
posted by admin on 28/02/07

Health officials in Laos have confirmed the country's first human case of bird flu, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.

A 15-year-old girl living outside the capital, Vientiane, fell ill on Feb. 10 with flu-like symptoms, WHO and the Lao Ministry of Health said in a joint statement. Days earlier, the H5N1 bird-flu virus was confirmed in poultry in the same area, they said.

The girl was hospitalized in Vientiane and later transferred to Thailand, where she remains in stable condition, they said. Lab results came back positive for the virus on Saturday. It was unclear whether the girl had contact with sick poultry. No one who had close contact with her has reported any flu-like symptoms.

See complete coverage of efforts to contain avian flu, including an interactive graphic on the science of the virus and a look back at major flu epidemics.

This is the first human case confirmed in Laos, although bird flu has killed people in surrounding countries, including Vietnam, Thailand, China and Cambodia. The last reported outbreak of the H5N1 virus among poultry in Laos occurred in July 2006, also near Vientiane.

"I think the government has approached it in a very strong way," said Amy Cawthorne, a WHO epidemiologist in Laos. "They have intensified surveillance, and they're dealing with it from the animal health end as well."

On Monday, a new poultry outbreak was reported in Vietnam, and the disease has recently surfaced in a number of countries, including Russia and Kuwait.

Bird flu has killed at least 167 people since the virus began ravaging Asian poultry stocks in late 2003. It remains hard for humans to catch, but experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that passes easily among people, potentially sparking a pandemic. So far, most human cases have been linked to contact with infected birds.

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