04/04/2007, 00.00

Bird flu found among Hong Kong’s migratory birds. China remains silent

A new strain, previously denied by China, is found. FAO issues a pandemic alert for Indonesia and Egypt.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Bird flu is spreading among Hong Kong’s wild birds, while China remains silent regarding new cases of infection.   In Japan, a new strain of the virus, resistant to antiviral drugs, has been found, while Indonesia declares its 72nd death from the disease.  Fao reports that both Indonesia and Egypt are run the risk of a human epidemic.  

Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said that of 3,430 wild birds found dead and tested for H5N1 this year, 15 had tested positive, all for the “Fujian " strain of the virus. It is the same strain identified in a scientific paper published in October 2006 by University of Hong Kong virologists Guan Yi and Malik Peiris and US flu expert Robert Webster, of St Jude's Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.  The researchers called it a new strain of the deadly H5N1, and said it had emerged in October 2005. The strain had been found in almost all poultry outbreaks and in some human cases in southern China, and had been detected in Hong Kong, Laos and Thailand.  In 2006 15 wild birds and 2 hens were tested positive to the strain in the area.  The scientific community now suspects that China has not been transparent about its mapping of the virus.  The Chinese Agriculture Minister defined the research data as “false” and the viral strain “non-existent”. Yet in December 2006 WHO acting assistant director-general David Heymann said the strain had been circulating since 2005 and that the mainland had provided information and sequencing data about the strain.

Hong Kong sources confirm that diseased migratory birds died in large numbers in periods when China did not report any infections in the area.  They fear that the virus is far more widespread than official Chinese data claims, given the lack of information forthcoming from Beijing regarding new cases of infection among poultry and humans.  Hong Kong has halted imports of live poultry and poultry meat from 13 provinces, were infection had been confirmed.

Indonesia and Egypt. A Health Ministry official today confirmed the death of a 23 year old woman, on April 1st, immediately after she was admitted to Persahabatan hospital in Jakarta. The woman had contracted the disease from a domestic eagle who had died shortly before.  

Yesterday Minister for finance Mari Pangestu said that Indonesia is looking to work with Egypt to produce a human bird flu vaccine. She added “Egypt has more advanced pharmaceutical experience and has produced a variety of vaccines”.

The chief veterinary officer at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) observed that in both countries there are a lot of outbreaks of human cases due to contact with infected poultry, particularly in domestic poultry farms. He added “This means a possible occurrence of the virus which could lead to a pandemic”. (PB)


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See also
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