03/08/2007, 00.00
LAOS

Avian Flu kills a girl in Vientiane

It is the first death in Laos. Warning of outbreak of infection between birds from Tibet to Hong Kong, from Korea to Hanoi. The alarm grows in Arab nations, following cases of infection in Kuwait.

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A 15-year-old girl has died from bird flu, the first confirmed death from the H5N1 virus in Laos. Meanwhile across South East Asia and the Arab peninsula a growing number of cases are certified of infection among birds.

Today Laos Health Minister Ponmek Dalaloy confirmed the girl’s death, and that she had been brought to a hospital in Thailand.  The teenage girl had lived in a suburb of Vientiane, the capital, where the virus was found in poultry in January. The minister stressed the importance of surveillance and public awareness to avoid further infection. Most of the 5.9 million inhabitants live in remote villages.

January’s was the first case of bird infection in the country over 7 months. A 42-year-old Lao woman died of suspected bird flu last week, but tests have not yet confirmed the H5N1 virus.

South Korea. The 7th source of an infectious outbreak among birds since was confirmed today, despite the rigid quarantine measures put in place and the suppression of entire stock from poultry farms.  The virus was found among the poultry from a farm in Chonan, circa 90 km. South of Seoul and not far from January’s contamination source.

Vietnam. Yesterday animal health authority confirmed that the H5N1 virus had killed a total of 1,150 birds in two separate farms in Dong Anh district near Hanoi. All remaining poultry was destroyed and the are is currently under maximum surveillance.  In the last few weeks more infections were detected in ducks in the southern province of Vine Long and in chickens in the northern provinces of Hay Duong and Ha Tay.

China. March 6th an outbreak was detected in a farm in the Lhasa district (Tibet), where 680 fowl have already died from the virus.  The region was already hit by the disease May last. March 1st it was confirmed that a 44 year old farmer had contracted the virus from contact with infected chicken in Jian’ou County (Fujian). She is the 22nd human carrier of the virus in the country and has caused concern because it hadn't been forewarned by a poultry outbreak in the surrounding area. Joanna Brent, a Beijing-based spokeswoman for the United Nations health agency, observed that this confirms that “an exclusive focus on outbreaks among birds is no longer sufficient”, particularly in countries such as China because vaccination programs there may mask the virus in poultry.

On March 5th, researchers at the University of California in Irvine traced the H5N1 virus that's infected people in a dozen Asian countries during the past four years to Guangdong; their study was based on analyzed genetic sequences from 192 avian- flu samples collected across Asia and northern Europe to identify mutations that have occurred during the virus's evolution. Yu Yedong, head of the Guangdong Animal Epidemic Prevention Institute and chief of the team at the Guangdong Bird Flu Prevention Office, described the study as “unscientific” and “ridiculous” and that it was impossible to find out where the H5N1 virus first emerged.

Hong Kong. Trade in wild fowl has been banned, after 13 birds were found dead from the virus in the last few months.   About 70 percent of the infected birds were found within three kilometres of the Mong Kok bird market, where there is an elevated presence and heavy trade in birds.  However frequent testing has produced negative results.

Kuwait. In recent weeks over 52 birds have been found dead from the virus in diverse locations The bird markets have been closet down and imports and exports of fowl prohibited. Even the zoo has been shut down following the discovery of an infected falcon.

Saudi Arabia. Health authorities have proclaimed a “state of emergency”, to prevent possible infection, following news reports on many cases along the border with Kuwait. Numerous poultry farms are under constant surveillance, as are all migratory birds.

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