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Bird flu likely to re-emerge in the coming months

by 5m Editor
9 May 2005, at 12:00am

THAILAND - Although Thailand has been successful in preventing new cases of bird flu from emerging, other Southeast Asian countries need to be extra vigilant in the coming hot and humid months ahead.

Bird flu likely to re-emerge in the coming months - THAILAND - Although Thailand has been successful in preventing new cases of bird flu from emerging, other Southeast Asian countries need to be extra vigilant in the coming hot and humid months ahead.

Health experts have issued warnings that another outbreak of the H5N1 virus is likely this July after examining the patterns established last year.

Peter Cordingley, spokesman for the WHO's Western Pacific regional office said the virus could well resurface in July because that is the flu season in this region, and the virus flourishes in the hot weather. In July last year, the second outbreak of the virus was followed by a lull of almost three months.

Across the region, over 140 million chickens and ducks have perished due to the disease since last January. Thailand has been one of the worst hit countries in Southeast Asia. The economic toll runs into 4.3 billion baht (US$107.5 million), on top of the 2.2 billion baht (US$55 million) the Thai government paid to farmers who were affected. 12 people have died from the human form of the virus so far.

Vietnam and Cambodia have yet to see the same success as Thailand in eradication efforts. After a failed attempt to contain the spread of the H5N1 virus in over half of its provinces, Vietnam has decided to begin experimenting with a poultry vaccine. This is a departure from its no-vaccination stance it took at a bird flu meeting last July.

Though Indonesia has also used vaccines on poultry, health experts say it will be a challenge as the entire poultry population in a country needs to be vaccinated for this preventive measure to be a success.

In Cambodia, though the disease is not as widespread, the underdeveloped public health system makes it impossible to divert resources to countrywide disease surveillance systems.

The human death toll in Cambodia remains the most grim as all four people who were infected have died. Vietnam and Thailand have reported a rate of about 60 to 70 percent of infected humans dying. At present, a human vaccine for the deadly virus has not been found. The WHO warns that if the virus mutates, a global pandemic could ensue.

Source: eFeedLink - 9th May 2005

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