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Curious Timing of WHO Bird Flu Warning for Sagada Philippines

Recombinomics Commentary
January 10, 2005

>>World Health Organization officials on Monday warned that residents of Sagada should brace for the bird flu.

Dr. Jean Marc Olive, WHO representative, said Sagada's practice of "ikik" or catching of migratory birds through nets should be stopped if residents do not want to contract bird flu or avian influenza.

Ikik, which is usually done on top of Mt. Ampacao overlooking the "poblacion" or town center, starts from September to early January.<<

The timing of the WHO warning is curious since it is already early January, which would mark the end of Ikik, not the beginning.  Although the sequences of H5 isolates from Russia were just released by GenBank, they were deposited almost a year ago and a recent FAO report on a 2003 Russian isolate suggests that the sequence has been known for some time also.

The recent H5N1 bird flu cases in the Mekong Delta are would raise additional concerns about migrating birds, but the timing of the WHO announcement is curious.

Sagada is only about five miles (as the migratory bird flies) from Bauko town where there are two reported cases of Meningococcemia.  However, the actual diagnosis on these two cases is unclear, with media reports suggesting they might have typhoid.  There have been over 50 cases reported in the Baguio City area since last year, but only five cases resulting in three deaths have been confirmed.  It is not clear why the meningo is not secondary to a viral infection like bird flu.  The 1918 flu pandemic cases were frequently misdiagnosed as cholera, Dengue Fever, and typhoid.

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