JAKARTA, Indonesia, June 20, 2005 (ENS):
Indonesia has confirmed its first case of avian influenza
in humans, bringing the number of countries with confirmed
human cases of the disease to four.
The virulent H5N1 strain of avian influenza virus has
killed 38 people in Vietnam since it appeared in December
2003. Twelve Thais and four Cambodians have also died.
A farm worker in South Sulawesi, Indonesia has tested
positive for the H5N1 strain, although health officials
report he is not feeling ill or showing symptoms. A
laboratory in Hong Kong found the infection in his blood,
sent in a batch of samples from 79 farm workers in March.
The farm workers were tested after the avian flu epidemic
killed at least 25,000 chickens in Sulawesi.
A second confirmatory test took weeks to conduct because
the man left his job and had to be traced to his home
village before his blood could be retested.
The Indonesian health ministry's chief of epidemiological
surveillance Muhammad Nadhirin confirmed that the Sulawesi
worker had tested positive for bird flu.
Since 2003, the H5N1 viral strain has infected chickens
and other birds in 18 Indonesian provinces on seven
islands, and the government is conducting a vaccination
effort to protect poultry against the disease.
To date, most human cases of bird flu have happened
as a result of human contact with infected birds.
Health authorities are watching closely for human cases
of the H5N1 strain of the virus. They fear the virus
might develop into a form which can be transmitted from
person to person.
That could happen even in an individual who shows no
symptoms of the avian influenza. Officials worry that
if that person also catches human flu at the same time
as a bird flu virus is circulating in his or her blood,
there could be a genetic crossover, yielding a new influenza
strain that spreads rapidly around the world.
In Vietnam, where most of the human cases have occurred,
the Ministry of Health in Vietnam said Friday that since
June 1, four cases of human infection with H5N1 avian
influenza virus were reported. Two of the patients are
from Hanoi and one is from the nearby province of Hai
Duong. The fourth patient is from the central province
of Nghe An.
All four of the patients are alive. At present, a total
of seven patients are being treated for H5N1 avian influenza
at a hospital in Hanoi.
A Vietnamese doctor in Hanoi who helped take samples
from the avian influenza patients initially tested positive
for the disease on Friday, but a second test showed
negative results, said Tran Quy, director of Bach Mai
hospital in Hanoi.
Eleven avian influenza patients have been hospitalized
at the National Institute for Clinical Research of Tropical
Medicine in Hanoi, health officials said. The center
is also treating 12 suspected avian influenza cases.
Their conditions are all "relatively stable."
Although the development of avian influenza in humans
has been less serious than at the beginning of the latest
outbreak in late 2004, its indications are "untypical
and changing," doctors at the hospital warned.
In a government notice this month that seeks to limit
the spread of bird flu, China warned scientists against
conducting "unsafe" research into avian influenza.
Scientists have been ordered to seek approval from the
ministry of agriculture before transporting microbe
"No unit or person is allowed to dissect poultry
or wild animals that have died from disease, or to collect
or transport samples without the approval of animal
health authorities at the provincial level or above.
No unit or person is allowed to collect samples and
microbes and ship them overseas without the agriculture
ministry's permission," the notice said.
Millions of chickens and ducks have been killed in
China in an effort to combat bird flu, yet outbreaks
are still occurring in the country.
Jia Youling, director general of the Veterinary Bureau,
Ministry of Agriculture, Beijing, said more than 13,000
geese were destroyed on June 8 in Tacheng City in the
Xinjiang autonomous region after about 1,000 birds were
found to be infected with the H5N1 viral strain. The
disease was spread by migratory birds, the ministry
Xinjiang autonomous region borders the province of
Qinghai, where an extensive outbreak in wild geese and
other wild birds was reported by the Chinese authorities
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2005. All Rights