Sunday, August 13, 2006

Second Human Bird Flu Death Confirmed In Thailand

Authorities in Thailand have confirmed that a 27-year-old man who died in Uthai Thani province on August 3 did so as a result of bird flu infection. This is the second person to die of bird flu in the country within the last two weeks. The other patient was a 17-year-old man who died on July 26. Sixteen people have died of bird flu infection in Thailand so far. The country had been free of human infections for seven months. The latest victim had had extensive contact with dead poultry, said authorities.

The poultry industry is massive in Thailand - it is the fourth largest exported of poultry in the world. Thai authorities say they have stepped up the search for people with H5N1 infection. So far, no other cases have been identified. Surveillance for infection in poultry and other farmed birds has also increased. Health officials are concerned that during the current rainy season more humans may come down with bird flu while at the same time being infected with the normal human flu virus.

For H5N1 to mutate it ideally needs to come into contact with the normal human flu virus. It can do this by infecting someone who has the normal flu. The H5N1 could then exchange genetic information with the normal human flu virus and acquire its ability to become easily human transmissible (it could mutate into a form that passes more easily from human-to-human). Recent research in the USA has indicated that perhaps a mutated bird flu virus might not be as deadly and easily human transmissible as first feared. However, the study only looked at a few of 50 possible variables. Ferrets were used in this study. Ferrets and humans catch flu in a similar way.
Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today

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