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. Avian Flu Numbers Increase Across SE Asia

It has been more than six months since Thailand saw a human death from avian influenza, and prior to the current suspected infections in Phichit it was believed the Southeast Asian country's bird-flu surveillance program was one of the most effective in the region.
by Kate Walker
Le Bugue, France (UPI) Jul 20, 2006
Thai authorities have announced two suspected cases of avian-influenza infection in a pair of sisters hospitalized earlier this week, local media has reported.

The sisters, from the northern province of Phichit, were hospitalized after displaying symptoms similar to those seen in bird-flu sufferers, local health authorities told the Thai media.

Local test results from the two sisters, who are 3 and 4 years old, are expected to be returned Thursday, before which time no firm diagnosis can be made. Once the local test results have been returned, however, they must be confirmed by an official World Health Organization laboratory before an official statement regarding new human cases can be made.

The girls were initially sent to Ta Pan Hin District Hospital after developing flu-like symptoms, including respiratory difficulties above those associated with seasonal influenza, shortly after a number of local birds died of unknown causes. They were then moved to Phichit Provincial Hospital for additional care, where they have been placed under quarantine and their symptoms monitored for signs of deterioration.

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Also in Thailand, health authorities across the country are preparing themselves for a possible resurgence in avian-influenza infections as a result of the imminent monsoon season.

The health authorities have placed three provinces -- western Suphan Buri and Kanchanaburi, and Nakhon Pathom, near Bangkok -- on special alert, as all have suffered outbreaks within the past two years. The northern provinces of Uttaradit, Sukhothai, Phitsanulok and Phichit have also been designated as worthy of special monitoring.

It has been more than six months since Thailand saw a human death from avian influenza, and prior to the current suspected infections in Phichit it was believed the Southeast Asian country's bird-flu surveillance program was one of the most effective in the region.

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Azerbaijan is bracing itself for a fall resurgence in avian-influenza outbreaks, ever mindful of its position on the migratory flight paths that many believe place it at greater risk of increased poultry infections.

Having earlier seen human cases of H5N1 infection and a number of deaths from the disease, the country, with the assistance of the WHO, is increasing its efforts to stem the spread of the virus by better educating its healthcare workers.

The WHO office in Azerbaijan is preparing a range of recommendations for better health and hygiene practices designed to stem the spread of many communicable diseases -- with a particular view to avian influenza -- which will be distributed, free of charge, to healthcare workers across the country.

Hungarian poultry farmers have been pressing the government to compensate them for birds lost in the battle to halt the spread of avian influenza, which first arrived in the country in early June, affecting farms near Kiskunmajsa in the southern part of the country.

Around 100 farmers gathered in front of the Agriculture Ministry Tuesday demanding increased compensation more in line with their losses, bbj.hu news agency reported on its Web site.

Agriculture Minister József Gráf was presented with a petition by Magosz, the Hungarian farmers' association, requesting that he authorize an official assessment of the impact -- financial and otherwise -- of avian influenza on the Hungarian poultry industry. Once an assessment is complete, Magosz claims, the government will be in a better position to support what bbj.hu called the "ailing poultry industry."

Following the initial bird-flu outbreak approximately 500,000 local birds were culled to prevent the spread of the disease, a necessary measure that nonetheless dealt a sharp blow to the region's poultry farmers.

Compensation offered by the government and matched by the European Union is unlikely to exceed a fraction of the lost income.

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Following the official WHO confirmation of another avian-influenza fatality, the bird-flu death toll in Indonesia has now reached 42.

The most recent death to be confirmed following official testing in a WHO laboratory was that of a 3-year-old girl.

The World Health Organization has now confirmed 132 deaths from avian influenza worldwide since the H5N1 strain of the virus re-emerged and began to affect humans in 2003.

Source: United Press International

Related Links
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Scientists Develop SARS Vaccine
College Park MD (UPI) Jul 20, 2006
U.S. scientists using the Newcastle Disease virus -- a common poultry disease -- say they have developed a vaccine for severe acute respiratory syndrome. The University of Maryland-College Park researchers say their vaccine, in early National Institutes of Health trials, successfully immunized monkeys against SARS and human parainfluenza viruses. They are now working on a vaccine for H5N1 avian influenza under a $4.1 million NIH contract.

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