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195 Bird Flu Cases in Quang Binh?

Recombinomics Commentary
March 20, 2005

>>  A commune in central Vietnam has been severely hit by the bird flu, with 195 patients showing symptoms and two children testing positive with the virus, reported a top provincial official. 
Two siblings from the province's Chau Hoa commune of Quang Binh province had tested positive for the H5N1 strain of bird flu, said Mai Xuan Thu, vice chairman of the provincial People's Committee on March 20.

The older sister, Hoang Lan Huong, 13, died from the bird flu on March 9, while the brother, Hoang Trong Duong, 5, is in serious condition at the Hue Central Hospital. <<

It is remarkable that while members of the commune began showing symptoms over a month ago, only results from the familial cluster have been disclosed. Even those results are in conflict with earlier reports indicating that no sample was collected from the older sister.  It is still unclear if there were symptoms in one or two siblings of the index case.

The other patients began showing symptoms around the time of the Tet Lunar New Year celebrations on February 9.  Bird flu transmission problems were anticipated because of H5N1 detection in asymptomatic ducks as well as the traditional consumption of poultry during the holiday, which also involves considerable movement of birds and people.

There has been a virtual media blackout in southern Vietnam, where most of the H5N1 infected poultry has been reported and culled.  The recent fatal case in Kien Giang was the first reported in the south since the abrupt halt of bird flu updates at the beginning of February.

The failure to monitor, or even test these cases remains scandalous, as does the use of a PCR assay that only detects 20% of the H5N1 infected patients.  Only 20% of patients with bird flu symptoms who have a history of contact with sick birds test positive with the PCR test used at the Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City.

The true extent of H5N1 transmission in Vietnam and around the world remains largely unknown.

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