Vidyya Medical News Service
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Volume 6 Issue 16 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 16-Jan-2004 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 17-Jan-2004-Jan-2004
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Avian influenza A(H5N1) in humans and poultry: 12 dead from bird flu in Vietnam, WHO Says

Laboratory results received on Sunday have confirmed the presence of avian influenza virus strain A(H5N1) in samples taken from humans. The samples were taken from two children and one adult admitted to hospital with a severe respiratory illness in Hanoi.

Since the end of October, hospitals in Hanoi and surrounding provinces have admitted 14 persons with severe respiratory illness. The cases are in thirteen children and one adult, the mother of a deceased child. To date, eleven of the children and the adult have died.

It is not known whether all of these cases were caused by the same pathogen. At present, there is no evidence that human-to-human transmission has occurred. No reports indicate that health care workers have been infected.

The presence of avian influenza A(H5N1) in samples from three of these cases was confirmed by Hong Kongís National Influenza Center, which is a member of the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance Network. Samples have also been sent for analysis to Japanís National Institute for Infectious Diseases, another member of the WHO influenza network.

The H5N1 strain implicated in the outbreak has now been partially sequenced. All genes are of avian origin, indicating that the virus that caused death in the three confirmed cases had not yet acquired human genes. The acquisition of human genes increases the likelihood that a virus of avian origin can be readily transmitted from one human to another.

Investigations are focusing on the source of infection and possibilities of human-to-human transmission.

An outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza was detected in southern Viet Nam in the beginning of January. The outbreak is now known to have spread to other provinces in the country. Reports indicate that pigs and ducks have also been infected.

Yesterday, officials in the Republic of Korea announced the spread of H5N1 avian influenza to an additional farm. Japan is also experiencing an outbreak in poultry caused by the H5N1 virus.

In response to these developments, WHO has initiated a series of activities. These include support to national authorities in investigating the outbreaks and enhanced surveillance activities in Asia. WHO has also initiated the development of candidates and reagents for vaccine production, and antigenic and genetic assessments of the H5N1 strain to provide up-to-date diagnostic tests to national influenza centres.

The WHO Global Influenza Network will receive virus and clinical specimens shortly. As a precautionary measure, network laboratories will immediately begin work on the development of a strain that can be used to produce a vaccine.

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