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Boy Dies from Bird Flu After Swimming in Vietnam

Recombinomics Commentary
January 15, 2005

>> So far most bird flu victims have eaten or lived with sick chickens. But the Labour newspaper quoted officials as saying a 9-year-old boy who died from bird flu on Jan. 4 caught it by swimming in water used for the disposal of infected poultry.<<

The death of the boy in Vietnam after swimming is a serious concern.  It highlights the large number of infected poultry in Vietnam.  This concern is heightened by the fact that some of the bird flu infected ducks appear healthy, yet the virus is fatal to humans.  This H5N1 strain can grow to high levels in the intestines of ducks, who excrete feces with high levels of unusually stable virus.

The ability of the virus to cause a fatal infection via swimming raises concerns about the food supply because asymptomatic birds can enter the food supply and although cooking will kill the virus, H5N1 could contaminate uncooked foods during preparation.

The high demand for poultry in Tet Lunar New Year celebrations combined with reduced supply due to culling and deaths in other types of  poultry could increase the likelihood of infected birds from poorly monitored areas to enter the food supply as noted in the WHO warning on relief foods for tsunami victims.
The boy's death is included in the 4 confirmed fatal infections in the Mekong Delta.  Two additional confirmed cases are in critical conditions and an addition 9 suspect cases have been reported.
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