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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Causes for optimism about bird flu

The pandemic may just run its course in birds without jumping to humans. Two big stories this week, below the jump.

First, Migrating Birds Didn't Carry Flu:

Defying the dire predictions of health officials, the flocks of migratory birds that flew south to Africa last fall, then back over Europe in recent weeks did not carry the deadly bird flu virus or spread it during their annual journey, scientists have concluded.

International health officials had feared that the disease was likely to spread to Africa during the southward migration and return to Europe with a vengeance during the reverse migration this spring. That has not happened — a significant finding for Europe, because it is far easier to monitor a virus that exists domestically on farms but not in the wild.

Second, Avian Flu Wanes in Asian Nations It First Hit Hard:

Even as it crops up in the far corners of Europe and Africa, the virulent bird flu that raised fears of a human pandemic has been largely snuffed out in the parts of Southeast Asia where it claimed its first and most numerous victims.

Health officials are pleased and excited. "In Thailand and Vietnam, we've had the most fabulous success stories," said Dr. David Nabarro, chief pandemic flu coordinator for the United Nations.

Vietnam, which has had almost half of the human cases of A(H5N1) flu in the world, has not seen a single case in humans or a single outbreak in poultry this year. Thailand, the second-hardest-hit nation until Indonesia recently passed it, has not had a human case in nearly a year or one in poultry in six months.

Encouraging signs have also come from China, though they are harder to interpret.


JAKARTA, Indonesia, May 13 (Reuters) — Local tests have confirmed that three Indonesians who died in the past week had avian flu, a Health Ministry official said Saturday.

Authorities have sent blood and swab samples of the three people — all from one family — to a World Health Organization-affiliated laboratory in Hong Kong. Local tests are not considered definitive.

A toddler and a 25-year-old man from the same North Sumatra family also tested positive for bird flu, but they are still alive, said Nyoman Kandun, a director general at the Health Ministry.

UPDATE: To clarify, multiple infections within a single family is troublesome because it implies the disease could be passing from person to person.

Tags: Avian flu


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