12 More Iraqis Suspected
Of Having H5N1 Bird Flu

By Twana Osman and Stephanie Nebehay
(Reutrers) -- Officials in northern Iraq said on Tuesday that they were treating 12 patients suspected of having [contracted avian influenza] as a World Health Organisation (WHO) team prepared to travel to the area to give urgent assistance.
Iraq's Health Minister said on Monday that the country may have its first human bird flu victim after preliminary test results showed that a 14-year-old Iraqi girl who died 2 weeks ago had the H5N1 virus. WHO said it was urgently seeking further tests at a British laboratory to confirm the diagnosis and was dispatching a team of experts to help local health officials in Iraq's largely autonomous northern region of Kurdistan. The British laboratory will also assess samples from the girl's uncle, who had cared for her when she was ill, and who himself died last week of a respiratory infection.
"We have 12 patients in Sulaimaniya who have lung infections that we suspect may be [caused by the H5N1 bird flu virus," Kurdistan's Deputy Prime Minister, Imad Ahmed, told Reuters, referring to one of the region's largest cities. The most serious was a 54-year-old woman who came from the same village as the dead girl and is believed to be a distant relative of the victim. The village is close to Iraq's border with Turkey, where 4 children died from avian influenza in recent weeks. The head of a Kurdistan committee set up to fight bird flu said all birds [poultry?] in areas around Sulaimaniya were being culled. "They number in the region of 500,000," Tahsin Namiq said.
The WHO team, composed of 4 experts in epidemiology and infection control, will leave on Wednesday [1 Feb 2006] for Jordan and should reach northern Iraq by the end of the week, WHO spokesman Dick Thompson told Reuters. "The purpose of the mission is to assess the situation on the ground. Experts from the (U.N.) Food and Agriculture Organisation may also be joining the team," he added.
So far there have been no confirmed cases among poultry in Iraq, but local officials say the country's porous frontiers, a raging insurgency, and general chaos in the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion will make it hard to control any epidemic. The virulent virus has killed at least 85 people since late 2003, mainly in 5 Asian countries where the virus emerged. Initially, the WHO had discounted the virus as the cause of the death of the Iraqi girl, but a WHO official said on Monday that preliminary results from a U.S. Navy laboratory in Cairo [detected] the H5N1 virus. "We don't have positive confirmation of H5N1 in the girl yet. The laboratory samples should have reached the UK this morning," Thompson said.
The girl had a history of exposure to diseased birds, WHO said on its website. The WHO said Iraq was the 7th country to report human H5N1 infection in the current outbreak. The 1st human case occurred in Viet Nam in December 2003.
Turkey - Bird Flu Cases Overestimated?
(Reuters) -- The number of people infected with H5N1 avian influenza [in the current] outbreak in Turkey may be only 12 rather than the 21 reported by local authorities, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday. Tests on samples from Turkish patients, analysed over the past few weeks at a WHO collaborating laboratory in London, confirm only 12 cases of the deadly H5N1 virus, with the other results negative so far.
The information indicating a smaller case load in Turkey would also mean that the 4 bird flu deaths -- now confirmed by laboratories in both Ankara and London -- would translate into a 33 percent mortality rate. This would be closer to death rates from the disease seen in Asia. In all, the virus has killed at least 85 people among 160 known cases since late 2003, according to the WHO. "[Work is continuing] on on the other 9 samples, but the preliminary results from the collaborating centre in London suggest that those are not H5N1", WHO spokesman Iain Simpson told journalists. Laboratory work to [determine] the [genome sequences of the viruses] found in Turkey was continuing, Simpson said. This was important for monitoring any changes in the deadly virus and how it is transmitted.
Victims usually contract avian influenza through direct exposure to diseased or dead poultry. Turkey has culled around 1.3 million birds in an effort to contain the virus.
ProMed Mail
It has been suggested that the disease situation in Iraq is exceptional in that suspected human cases have been reported in the absence of prior reports of disease in poultry. However, the evidence for this is contradictory. A previous article on the Iraq situation states both that: "There have been no confirmed cases of [bird flu] in Iraq," and then later that: "The girl had a history of exposure to diseased birds".
Elsewhere (in a Canadian Press article by Helen Brancewell, it is reported that: "The avian influenza-infected girl died after developing severe pneumonia in the Kurdistan village of Raniya, about 100 kilometres south of the Turkish border and just 24 kilometres west of the border with Iran. She had an aortic aneurysm and a history of cardiac problems. The girl's mother rejected the bird flu diagnosis, but acknowledged that a number of her chickens had mysteriously died before her daughter's death.
Further information is awaited. - Mod.CP

Patricia A. Doyle, DVM, PhD- Bus Admin, Tropical Agricultural Economics
Please visit my "Emerging Diseases" message board at:
Also my new website:
Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa
Go with God and in Good Health




This Site Served by TheHostPros