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Tacheng Xinjiang Pneumonia Cluster Signals Phase 6 Pandemic?

Recombinomics Commentary
June 15, 2005

>>  In yesterday's posting we erroneously identified the town where this
cluster of cases occurred as Tashan.  It should have been Tacheng.
ProMED-mail regrets any confusion this may have caused. <<

The above correction by ProMed makes yesterday's announcement on the pneumonia ward in Tacheng Xinjiang more intriguing.  The hospital is in Tacheng, the same site as the culling of domestic geese which were H5N1 positive.  The farm also lies on the migration route of bar headed geese which were discovered throughout the month of May in and around Qinghai Lake Nature Reserve.

Both geese die-offs were unusual because H5N1 is usually not fatal to ducks or geese.  The die-off in Qinghai was initially said to involve 180 bar headed geese.  The numbers rose to 519, then over 1000, then over 8000.  The report of over 8000 was made via Abundant News which also reported the deaths of 6 tourists and 121 residents of 18 communities.

The reports of human deaths and infections were denied, but were never specifically addressed. WHO has requested a site visit.

 The latest reports indicate that a pneumonia clinic has been set up in Tacheng Hospital.  Although it is said to be for bacterial pneumonia cases, it is unclear why such cases would require an isolation ward.  Moroever, the ward is rumored to be housing patients and health care workers, suggesting efficient human-to-human transmission.

Thus, there are now two independent reports on isolation wards being set up near H5N1 bird flu deaths of migratory birds and domestic geese.  These reports raise possibility that H5N1 is being efficiently transmitted human to human at two locations in western China, signaling the start of final phase 6 in the 2005 flu pandemic.

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