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China Crewmen Die Of
'Virus' - Peru Keeps Ship At Sea   

From Patricia Doyle, PhD
PERU -- 2 people died on board a vessel with suspected flu virus. Ship stranded on the high seas near the port of Callao, Peru.
Peruvian health authorities declared an epidemic alert and quarantined at sea the crew of a fishing vessel in which 2 Chinese people died, apparently due to a type of influenza virus, the newspaper "La Republica" reported this Saturday [19 Apr 2008].
The alert forced the Peruvian Navy to isolate the 22 crew members of the ship on the high seas and 30 Peruvians, among sailors and health staff, who entered the ship when the death of the cook and a fisherman was reported, 9 Apr 2008.
According to "La Republica", "a strange mutant virus was the cause of the agonizing death of 2 Chinese crew of the fishing vessel 'Chan An 168', who died on 9 Apr 2008, off the coast of the port of Callao."
The vessel was isolated 12 km off the main Peruvian port and is guarded by the Navy, while Peruvian sailors and medical personnel are being observed to see if they have been infected.
Communicated by ProMED-mail
There is no mention of any lab tests confirming the diagnosis of any type of influenza virus etiology, let alone "a strange mutant virus". I suspect the fact that these were apparently sudden deaths of Chinese led to a perhaps understandable over-reaction by Peruvian health authorities, fearing bird flu. It must have taken the fishing vessel a number of days to reach the Peruvian coast from China, and the incubation period of human influenza is 2-5 days. Assuming the same holds for bird flu, the fatal illness was probably not contracted in China. Perhaps the cook prepared a meal from stored chicken that had been infected with bird flu before freezing, although I'd always thought that fishermen lived on fish. A violent attack of food poisoning could have been the cause. We would like to hear about the lab results. - Mod.JW
Patricia A. Doyle DVM, PhD 
Bus Admin, Tropical Agricultural Economics 
Univ of West Indies 
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