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Fatal Bird Flu in People Pets and Poultry in Vietnam

Recombinomics Commentary
January 10, 2005

>>In district 10, 3 pets [which species? - Mod.AS] were reportedly dead due to H5N1. The district veterinary service has captured 200 pets to take samples for tests. [This piece of information might be of epidemiological significance; official, 1st-hand confirmation is required. Sporadic AI cases in felines had been recorded in Thailand and Cambodia during 2004. Chinese investigators reported about the recording of AI in a tiger in 2002; there was one anecdotal report from Thailand on AI in a dog. See references. - Mod.AS].<<

As noted in the above comments by ProMed, the deaths of three pets by bird flu raise a number of questions.  Since veterinary service "captured" 200 pets, it seems that they are free roaming and could be pet birds, cats or dogs.  The high number of infected poultry might be leading to consumption by pet dogs or cats.  Feeding tigers and leopards uncooked chickens led to a high case fatality rate at two zoos in Thailand.  Last season there were reports of infected wild and domestic cats in Thailand, but not Vietnam.  There were many similarities in the H5N1 sequences from Vietnam and Thailand, but there were some polymorphisms specific to each country.

Sequences information would be useful because it seems likely that the new season has brought in new sequences. Recently sequences from H5 isolates in southern Russia were made public and many of the polymorphisms found in H6N1 isolates in southeast Asia were in the Russian isolates.  More recent isolates may be even more closely related, suggesting that migratory birds provide fresh sequences for recombination each season.

In the 1918 flu pandemic, patients presented with various symptoms and many cases were misdiagnosed as cholera or Dengue Fever.  Recently 3000 ducks died in Vietnam with leg paralysis and were said to have died of cholera, but no official report has been published.

The WHO also issued a warning on asymptomatic ducks because lab infections of ducks using H5N1 from fatal cases in Vietnam and Thailand last season produced high titers of virus, but no illness in the ducks.  Thus, more details about the H5N1 positive ducks in the Can Tho city area would be useful. Almost half were positive for H5N1, but is not clear what if any symptoms were noted.

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