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January 23, 2005

Bird Flu Pandemic Could Hit Tsunami Proportions

Topics: Health Issues

In my recent post on Saturday, as in several previous posts(most linked to in most recent post), I warned that the Avian influenza is continuing to increase in frequency of outbreaks. In that same post I wrote that WHO is concerned that it can become a global epidemic (pandemic), and that you should be aware that avian influenza(bird flu) kills people, and lots of them. I also provided comments from the CDC that warned:

"If these H5N1 viruses gain the ability for efficient and sustained transmission between humans, there is little preexisting natural immunity to H5N1 in the human population, and an influenza pandemic could result, with high rates of illness and death."

Today I again bring up this topic, because now MedicineNet.com. is reporting on it.

The recent outbreak of bird flu-related human deaths in Vietnam may be a harbinger of a global pandemic that could kill far more people than the recent tsunami, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The current death toll from the December 26 tsunami stands at 221,000 people. Millions could die in a bird flu pandemic, the WHO said.

"If we continue to experience these frequent new outbreaks with the virus spread both in poultry and people, it might finally result in an awful virus strain that could become a pandemic with a horrendous outcome," Hans Troedsson, the WHO representative in Vietnam, told CBC News Online.

Seven bird flu deaths have confirmed in Vietnam in the past three weeks.

Since the end of 2003, bird flu has killed 27 people in Vietnam and 12 people in Thailand.  Source

See extended post for secondary article - "Bird flu kills Vietnam teenager, virus fears rise."

Bird flu kills Vietnam teenager, virus fears rise

Last Updated: 2005-01-20 12:32:17 -0400 (Reuters Health)

HANOI (Reuters) - An 18-year-old girl has died of bird flu in southern Vietnam and the first confirmed human infection in the country's north has raised concerns about possible human-to-human transmission of the virus.

The girl died in a Ho Chi Minh City hospital on Wednesday after battling the highly virulent H5N1 strain for nearly two weeks since she was hospitalized on Jan. 6 from the southern province of Tien Giang, the Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper said.

Her death takes the Asian bird flu death toll to 38 -- 26 in Vietnam and 12 in Thailand.

In the latest wave of outbreaks, seven Vietnamese people have been confirmed as infected by bird flu. Six of them have died and all the deaths are in the south.

The latest confirmed case of H5N1 infection was a 42-year-old man in the capital, Hanoi, which has raised fears the virus could jump from person to person, state-run Vietnam Television said late on Wednesday.

It said the man had had no contact with sick poultry but that he went to take care of his older brother in a Hanoi hospital earlier this month. The older man died of a respiratory illness on Jan. 9, although tests showed he did not have bird flu.

"The Ministry of Health is conducting epidemiological investigations into these cases and WHO will keep in close contact with the Ministry of Health over the progress and findings of these investigations," the U.N.'s World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement on its Web site (www.who.int).

What the WHO fears most is that the virus could mutate if -- and there is no evidence it has -- it got into an animal capable of hosting a human flu virus.

That would probably be a pig, and if the H5N1 were to merge with a human flu virus, it could produce a strain capable of sweeping through a human population without immunity, the WHO says. Millions could die worldwide.

The H5N1 virus already kills a high proportion of the people it infects.

More human deaths are feared. The WHO said in Geneva on Tuesday it had been told by Vietnam that up to 10 more suspected human cases were under investigation.

State media said at least nine cases were now suspected of contracting bird flu, including two who were hospitalized in Ho Chi Minh City from the southern province of Dong Nai on Wednesday. Four are in Hanoi, two of them in critical condition and on a respirator.    Source

For extensive commentary and more information, go to Hyscience's most recent post and click through to the links for yet more information.

Posted by Hyscience at January 23, 2005 5:47 PM



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