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2005 Flu Pandemic Start Signal
May 19, 2005
>> During 15 - 25 April, 2005, a WHO team of expert consultants was invited by the authorities in Viet Nam to assess the current H5N1 situation, especially in Northern Viet Nam. Based on the epidemiological information presented, this team concluded that the epidemiology of H5N1 could be changing in that part of the country and that the risk for pandemic influenza could have risen. Therefore a second urgent Expert Consultation was held involving a group of epidemiologists, virologists, public health and animal health experts with international experience, and country representatives from Cambodia, Thailand, and Viet Nam. <<
The above sequence of events appears to confirm the start of the 2005 bird flu pandemic. The dates above coincide with media reports indicating that the Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology in Hanoi had collected 1000 serum samples from people and animals in northern Vietnam. These samples would seem to have included samples from the outbreaks in Quang Binh in the central highlands, as well as the northern Vietnam clusters in Thai Binh, Haiphong, and Quang Ninh. Media reports of these outbreaks strongly suggested that these samples would be positive.
The samples were sent to the CDC in Atlanta for analysis, and the holding of a second urgent Expert Consultation strongly implies that the number of positives in the 1000 samples was significant. These epidemiological data were then supported by H5N1 sequence data which further signaled significant genetic changes, leading to the disclosure of the information in the report on the May 6-7 Manila meeting.
The data are certainly consistent with the start of the 2005 pandemic.