Pandemic Fear Grows After
New Bird Flu Death

By John Aglionby
South-East Asia Correspondent
The Guardian - UK
A 69-year-old Vietnamese man has become the 14th person known to have died from bird flu this year. Yesterday's announcement came days after world health officials warned that the world is overdue a flu pandemic and urged western countries to do more to eradicate bird flu, as it is regarded as the most likely cause of any global outbreak.
The latest death occurred in Vietnam's northern Thai Binh province last Wednesday. Pham Van Diu, the director of the provincial Preventive Medicine Centre, said the man was admitted on February 19 suffering from a high fever and breathing difficulties.
He later tested positive for H5N1, the virus commonly known as avian influenza, or bird flu.
Mr Diu said many of the man's relatives reported eating chicken - a rarity in Vietnam now that bird flu is endemic - during the lunar new year festivities earlier in the month, but that no one else fell sick.
On Friday a 21-year-old man from the same province tested positive for bird flu. He is currently in a critical condition in hospital in Hanoi. His sister, who showed similar symptoms, has tested negative.
Thirteen Vietnamese and one Cambodian have died from bird flu since December 30 last year, and 46 people have died since the end of November 2003, mostly in Vietnam and Thailand. The fatality rate is about 70%.
In Vietnam alone about 1.5m poultry have been culled this year to try to contain the latest outbreak.
Experts say it is endemic in poultry in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia, and will not be eradicated until there is a fundamental shift in agricultural production methods away from open grazing.
Containment measures are currently focusing on preventing transmission from fowl to humans, and from human to human.
Health experts have warned that the longer the virus remains in the environment the greater the chance it will mutate into a highly infectious form that can be passed among humans. Should that happen, it would spark a global pandemic that could kill millions.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005,14207,1426719,00.html



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