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H5N1 Spread into People and Poultry in North Korea?

Recombinomics Commentary

January 25, 2006

Avian influenza also struck chickens and other birds at three different places in Pyongyang in December, said Lee Young-Hwa, who heads RENK, a Japanese group monitoring human rights in the communist state.

The woman infected with the virus was admitted to the Red Cross hospital in the North Korean capital said Lee, an ethnic Korean economics professor at Osaka's Kansai University.

The above comments suggest H5N1 infections of poultry and people have been detected in North Korea.  Such infections would not be a surprise, since H5N1 infections have been reported in poultry and humans in Liaoning province in China, adjacent to North Korea.

China filed a number of OIE reports in October / November detailing a number of H5N1 outbreaks in Liaoning province.  The number of outbreaks over a extended time period suggested the H5N1 transmission was heard to control.  The OIE reports indicated both domestic and wild birds were affected and 3 different vaccines were used to help control the spread.

China also reported one human cases in Liaoning province.  However. Boxun reports indicated the human toll was much higher.  Cullers brought in from outside regions were said to have been poorly protected and as many as 77 were reported to have died.

The large human toll was supported by reports of millions of doses of amantadine and rimantadine shipments to the area.

The reports on the North Vietnam outbreaks suggest the outbreaks in Liaoning province spread to the east, leading to multiple outbreaks in North Korea, including at least one human case.

The reported outbreaks in North Korea do not come directly from the government.  Although North Korea has reported an early H7 outbreak, there have been no OIE reports on H5N1 in wild birds or poultry, nor has there been a WHO report on a human case.

In the reported outbreaks in humans and poultry are accurate, then there has been a lack of transparency by North Korea.  Unfortunately, this lack of transparency appears to be widespread.  Although Turkey has reported an explosion of H5N1 in birds throughout the country, no neighboring country has reported H5N1, although each country has initiated a major culling program.  Although there has been significant culling, no country in the Middle East or Africa has filed an OIE report on H5N1 outbreaks in birds.

Similarly, the case in northern Iraq was quickly discounted by WHO, although physicians on the scene indicated the clinical presentation of the fatal case match the presentation of fatal cases in Turkey.

The latest report on H5N1 outbreaks in North Korea further highlights the spread of H5N1 into new regions, which are going unreported as H5N1 silently spreads and extends its reach


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