Published Date: 2007-02-25 23:50:00
Subject: PRO/MBDS> Avian influenza, human - MBDS region: Laos, susp, RFI
Archive Number: 20070225.0686
AVIAN INFLUENZA, HUMAN - MBDS REGION: LAOS, SUSPECTED, REQUEST FOR INFORMATION
A ProMED-mail post
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International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: 25 Feb 2007
From: PRO/MBDS <email@example.com>
Source: Vientiane Times
First human case of bird flu suspected
The transmission of avian influenza to a human host is now suspected
for the first time in Laos , but more scientific research is being
conducted to confirm it as fact, the government announced on Sunday
[25 Feb 2007]
Minister of Public Health, Dr Ponmek Dalalay, said at the emergency
press conference that the patient in question was a 15-year-old
student from Dongsavath village, Sisattanak district, Vientiane ,
where bird flu broke out 2 weeks ago.
"She went for treatment at Setthathirath hospital on 15 Feb .
She was sick, with a headache and pain in some parts of her body. She
also had a runny nose and cough. All of these things can indicate the
common cold," the minister said.
Dr Ponmek added that her parents sent her for treatment in a hospital
in Thailand 's Nong Khai province on 17 Feb . Later, samples
were sent to Bangkok for testing.
"This morning we received a letter showing initial research from Thai
side. That the flu is an H5 virus is clear, but it is not yet clear
whether it is H5N1 or not. We cannot yet say whether she was infected
with bird flu or not, as more detailed scientific research is
needed," the minister said.
"Today, we sent our doctors to collect a blood sample from the
patient, who is now in Thailand , to continue researching the matter.
We will also cooperate closely with the Thai side to observe the
progress of her health."
The Director of Vientiane's Health Department, Dr Inlavan
Keobounphan, said the girl did not play with chickens. "We are
surveying her family members, in particular those live with her in
close proximity," she said.
Health teams have surveyed and interviewed residents in more than
7800 households in 20 villages of Xaysettha and Sisattanak districts,
being areas identified as red and yellow zones respectively, after
the avian influenza outbreak was detected on 16 Feb .
Doctors have recorded 150 cases of people who have reported symptoms
of illnesses such as colds and flu in the surveyed areas, according
to Director of the National Avian Influenza Coordination office, Dr
"We continued researching 11 of the 150 cases in more detail, as we
suspected that these people might have been infected with bird flu.
We found that only 3 of them were possibly infected with the virus.
Finally, just one girl is currently suspected to be infected with
avian influenza," he said.
The government announced the strict implementation of a 5-fold
strategy to prevent bird flu and its transmission to humans, in
cooperation with other countries and international organisations.
"We will continue to be on alert for bird flu outbreaks and will
increase the dissemination of information to the public to make sure
people understand the issue," Dr Ponmek said.
Head of the Secretariat of the National Infectious Disease Prevention
and Control Committee, who is also Minister and Head of the
Government Secretariat, Mr Cheuang Sombounkhane, urged all people, in
particular people in Vientiane , not to panic about the issue.
"Our government is setting up strict controls for bird flu,
systematically and transparently, by cooperating other countries and
international organisations," he said. "We are confident in the
ability of our officials to fulfil our ultimate goal."
WHO Representative Dr Dong-il Ahn congratulated the Lao government on
the efforts made to take action very quickly and transparently.
Laos is surrounded by 4 countries that have suffered from avian
influenza, namely China , Cambodia , Vietnam and Thailand .
"We have to strengthen all our efforts for the prevention of the
human cases that may occur if we do not take it seriously," Dr
Dong-il Ahn said.
"We may have to change our methods to include actual surveillance of
the hospital system, conducting a hospital health survey. This system
has already been tested by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of
Agriculture and Forestry."
He added that the Lao government has actually been successful in
terms of improving their capacity and adopting new health
surveillance techniques. He said that, so far, around 174 human cases
have been recorded over the last 3 years, mainly in Indonesia and
other Asean countries.
"We will continue to provide technical and financial support to these
surveillance activities," he said.
"I don't feel this one case is very serious, but it is adding to the
momentum. We will have to change our tactics for the protection and
education of the public."
Bird flu first broke out in Laos in January, 2004, on 45 farms around
Vientiane , and in the provinces of Savannakhet and Champassak. The
outbreak was suppressed with the slaughter of 155 000 chickens. The
cost of the incident was almost 4 billion kip [USD 414 905].
In July 2006, bird flu broke out again in Dong Bang, Nasala and
Nontae villages, in Xaythany district in Vientiane , where
authorities slaughtered around 20 000 poultry.
[The above newswire is somewhat confusing with respect to the level
of suspicion of H5N1 infection in this case. One one hand, there is
mention that the lab in Bangkok has confirmed infection with and H5
virus. There is also mention that she resided in one of the villages
where avian influenza in poultry has been recently confirmed (see
prior PRO/MBDS posting Avian influenza - MBDS region: Laos, RFI
20070216.0588). In contrast, there is mention that her illness is
mild (although one does wonder why she was hospitalized in Thailand
if her symptoms were mild), the suggestion that there has been a lot
of mild upper respiratory illnesses in her community, and that she
did not have direct contact with ill poultry. Further information on
final results from knowledgeable sources would be very much appreciated.
A good map of Cambodia can be found at
- Mod MPP]