Avian Flu4th March 2006
Since 2003 Bird flu (avian flu) has spread from VietNam all the way across the globe to Nigeria (West Africa) and Italy (well into the European Union). Over 150 million birds have died. The number of human deaths is also going up, almost 100 people have so far died as a result of bird flu infection.
Here is a country-by-country breakdown of confirmed cases of avian flu in humans, as reported by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO):
The list also shows countries that have confirmed cases in birds but not so far in humans.
The WHO identifies early 2003 as the starting point for the latest of three waves of the disease, the first of which began in Hong Kong in 1997.
As of 9th March, WHO had clinical confirmation of 175 cases of bird flu in humans during the current wave, of whom 96 have been fatal.
The largest number of fatal cases have occurred in Vietnam, with 42 deaths.
Eighteen people have died of bird flu in Indonesia, 14 in Thailand, eight in China and four each in Cambodia and Turkey.
As of 9th March, Iraq counted two human deaths due to bird flu and India confirmed one case of human death.
Vietnam: First human case: Dec. 2004
Total human cases: 93, of which 42 fatal
Indonesia: First human case: July 2005
Total human cases: 25 cases, of which 18 fatal
Thailand: First human case: Sept. 2004
Total human cases: 22 cases, of which 14 fatal
China: First human case: Feb. 2003
Total human cases: 12 cases, of which eight fatal
Cambodia: First human case: Feb. 2005
Total human cases: four, all fatal
Turkey: First human case: Jan. 2006
Total human cases: 12, of which four fatal
Iraq: First human case: Jan. 2006
Total human cases: one, fatal
Other countries that have confirmed cases of the H5N1 avian flu virus in either wild or domestic birds, but no human cases to date (Source WHO):
South Korea: Dec. 2003, declared disease free Sept 2004
Japan: Jan. 2004, declared disease free July 2004
Laos: Jan. 2004, in poultry
Malaysia: Aug. 2004, declared disease free Jan. 2005
Russia: July 2005, in Siberian poultry
Kazakhstan: Aug. 2005, in poultry and migratory birds
Mongolia: Aug. 2005, migratory birds
Belgium: Oct. 2004, in two imported eagles
Taiwan: Oct. 2005, in a consignment of smuggled birds
Romania: Oct. 2005, in poultry
Britain: Oct. 2005, in an imported parrot
Croatia: Oct. 2005, in wild birds
Kuwait: Nov. 2005, in a migratory flamingo
Ukraine: Dec. 2005, in poultry
Nigeria: Feb. 8, 2006, in chickens; first outbreak in Africa
Azerbaijan: Feb. 9, in migratory birds
Bulgaria, Greece and Italy: Feb. 11, in swans
Slovenia: Feb. 12, in a swan
Austria, Germany and Iran: Feb. 14, in swans
Egypt: Feb. 16, in domestic poultry
France: Feb. 18, in wild duck
About half of all humans who have been infected with the H5N1 bird flu virus strain, the most lethal one, have died. Most of these deaths have taken place in south east Asia. It is likely to have a much lower death rate in developed countries, where health care services are better and swifter. Some antiviral drugs (e.g. Tamiflu), if administered to the patient within three days of symptoms appearing, can be effective in achieving a complete recovery. It is crucial that infected patients are treated swiftly.
Since the new year, there have been some human deaths in Turkey, raising concerns that perhaps the virus is starting to transmit among humans more easily. Authorities there, after extensive investigation, found that all deaths were among patients who had been in constant contact with infected birds (meaning they got it from birds, not other humans) though the possibility of human to human transmission has not been ruled out.
The more humans the virus infects, the greater the chances are that it will mutate and become a human transmissible one (infect from human-to-human). If the H5N1 virus strain infects a human who has the normal flu it then has the opportunity to exchange genetic information with the human flu virus. It could pick up, from the human flu virus, the ability to spread among humans. Hopefully, when it does exchange genetic information, it may lose some of its present virulence (potency) - something experts think it very likely.
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