Avarian Flu

Slightly disturbing althiugh not yet conclusivly proven........... 8O From the NY Times

Thais Report First Person-to-Person Case of Lethal Avian Flu

Published: September 28, 2004

ANGKOK, Sept. 28 — A 26-year-old woman who cradled her dying daughter in her arms for 10 hours at a hospital in northwestern Thailand, and later fell sick and died herself, has now become the subject of a hurried medical investigation across several continents.

Thai health officials confirmed today that the mother died of A(H5N1) avian influenza, and said that she probably contracted the disease from her 11-year-old daughter while caring for her. They labeled the mother's case as the country's first probable instance of human-to-human transmission of the lethal influenza strain that has swept east Asia, killing millions of birds and 29 people, 28 of whom are believed to have contracted the disease directly from fowl.

Public health experts said that the most important question now facing flu researchers in Asia, Europe and North America is whether the mother was killed by a strain of the virus that had evolved a greater capacity for transmission among people.

Thai health officials expressed doubt of that, based on initial genetic comparisons of viral samples from the mother and viral samples from Thai poultry. The Thai Ministry of Public Health said in a statement that it had consulted domestic and international experts and concluded that "there is no evidence to suggest that the virus has mutated or re-assorted."

But Dr. Scott F. Dowell, an influenza expert here from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, who has been working with the Thai health authorities, said that a lab here had only had time to obtain a genetic sequence from one segment of one of the virus's proteins. Thailand has sent viral samples from the mother and daughter and from the girl's aunt, who is now hospitalized with the disease, to the centers' main labs in Atlanta for a full genetic sequencing.

"This is clearly a serious public health concern," he said.

World Health Organization officials here and in Geneva said today that the family's illnesses did not yet seem to be the beginning of a broader outbreak.

"We are concerned, however, because the occurrence of such a cluster could also indicate the beginning of more widespread transmission, a so-called sustained transmission of an influenza virus in humans which could lead to the global spread of this virus,' said Dr. Klaus Stöhr, the coordinator of the W.H.O.'s global influenza program.

Public health experts have worried for years about the huge death toll that could result if a completely new influenza strain jumped from birds and started spreading easily among people, who would have little or no immunity. The Spanish influenza of 1918-19, believed to have been a new strain that jumped from birds, killed more than 20 million people worldwide, including 675,000 people in the United States.

Documenting that someone caught bird flu from another person, and not from birds, is especially difficult in families, because relatives may have all been exposed to the same birds. It was easier in the latest case because the mother lived in Bangkok while her 11-year-old daughter lived in a farming village in northwestern Thailand with the mother's 32-year-old sister, the girl's aunt.

While the daughter and aunt both disposed of dead and dying birds in their village, and so may have been infected, the mother only came back when the daughter was already in the hospital. The mother reached her daughter on Sept. 7 and held her through the night until the child's death the next morning, Thai health officials said in interviews.

The hospital allowed the close contact because the girl had been misdiagnosed as suffering from dengue fever, a mosquito-borne disease, the officials said.

Not realizing that she herself had become infected, the mother then spent three days at the girl's funeral ceremony in another village, where the birds have not been dying, the officials said.

The mother stayed two more days at home with the aunt, apparently without handling birds, before returning here and dying of pneumonia on Sept. 20.

The girl's body was cremated, but she was identified today as probably infected with bird flu following tests on leftover blood serum samples taken from her. The samples had been sent before her death to a dengue fever laboratory.

An outbreak of A(H5N1) in Hong Kong in 1997 included several probable cases of human-to-human transmission, but was brought under control through the immediate slaughter of all poultry in the territory.

Since the outbreak in Hong Kong seven years ago, A(H5N1) influenza has spread among poultry across much of east Asia, apparently carried by wild birds. The disease devastated poultry farms across southeast Asia in particular last winter and again in the last three months.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health warned on Monday that the disease would take years to bring under control and would require great attention.

The two agencies said that while the culling of poultry was the most effective approach, poultry could also be vaccinated. That would not necessarily prevent the birds from catching the disease, but would greatly reduce the virus they would excrete if they did become infected.

Thailand was one of the world's largest chicken exporters until many countries closed their markets to it early this year because of bird flu concerns. Thailand has killed millions of birds since then, but still has not culled in as wide a radius around each infected farm as would be the practice in more affluent countries.

In a very controversial decision, Thai authorities two weeks ago ordered that no chickens be vaccinated against the disease, and strictly banned all imports of vaccine to prevent farmers from doing so anyway.

While vaccinating poultry makes the birds less likely to infect farmers and villagers, it also becomes very hard for import inspectors in overseas markets to determine whether the birds are infected at all. So vaccination could make it more likely that foreign bans on Thai poultry would be extended.

International health agencies have also been urging Thailand without success since early this year to test its pigs to determine if they are infected. Scientists describe pigs as "mixing vessels," in which avian and human influenza viruses can mix to produce more readily transmissible strains.

But Thailand has not yet announced any pig-testing program; positive results may prompt other countries to halt their imports of Thai pork as well.

The government of Hong Kong warned its people today that anyone planning trips in Asia should stay away from live poultry and other birds and wash hands regularly with soap or an alcohol solution. Wednesday and Friday are public holidays in Hong Kong, for the celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival and China's National Day respectively, and this week is a heavy travel period across much of Asia.

Eh oop we could possibly be doing a 1918 here 8O
Where did I leave that S10 and Noddy Suit
Ventress said:
Try eBay!
Sorry I couldn't wait for the bidding................. Has just be found top of the wardrobe.......... have just found six more in various sizes......... now what is the URL link to ebay????? Must be loads of civies out there after sunday nights docu-drama :) :) :) :) :)
Hmmm. Now will you believe me when I say I'm sick as a parrot? :wink:


War Hero
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I still haven't worked out if the spelling of Avarian (as opposed to Avian) is an ironic reference beyond me.

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