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H5N1 Fatality in Iraq Confirmed

Recombinomics Commentary

January 30, 2006

An Iraqi girl who died on Jan. 17 in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya, had bird flu, Iraq's health minister said on Monday, despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) having initially ruled out the virus.

The WHO said it was asking for further tests to be carried out in a laboratory in Britain and was sending a mission to Iraq to assess the situation.

"The test of Tijan's blood emphasised that she had bird flu from the kind that kills humans," Iraqi Health Minister Abdul Muttalib Mohammed Ali told a news.

The above comments indicate the clinical presentation of the index case was correct and her uncle should also test positive for H5N1.  The time gap between disease onset dates would also indicate this is another case of human-to-human transmission similar to initial reported cases in Cambodia, Indonesia, China, and Turkey.

The two Iraqi cases are in northern Iraq near the Turkish border, and are not a surprise.  These cases however, suggest additional unreported cases exist in Turkey, Iraq, and neighboring countries.

Like Iraq, the neighboring countries have yet t report H5N1 infections in birds.  Finding HA S227N in the index case in Turkey increases the efficiency of transmission to humans, which is of concern because of the widespread nature of human cases initially reported in Turkey.

The continued expansion of H5N1 human cases is cause for concern, as is WHO’s discounting of the case in Iraq and their description of cases in Turkey.


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