Vietnam bird flu patient’s sister had same symptoms

By Nguyen Nhat Lam

HANOI (Reuters) - The sister of Vietnam’s first confirmed bird flu patient of the year died with similar symptoms last week and the director of the hospital where she was treated said she probably also had avian flu.

“We suspect that it was bird flu that caused her death,” said Truong Thi Mau, director of the Ba Thuoc district hospital.

“But we can’t be 100 percent sure because there was no sample for tests. At the time we thought her illness was something else,” Mau said by telephone from Ba Thuoc, about 150 km (95 miles) south of Hanoi in Thanh Hoa province.

Earlier this week, Vietnamese authorities said the 13-year-old girl’s younger sister was in hospital with an H5N1 virus infection.

Both girls had eaten duck and chicken raised on the family farm, Mau said.

The 13-year-old developed a high fever and severe cough on December 25 and died in the district hospital on January 2, Mau said.

After her 8-year-old sister was confirmed to be infected with H5N1, about 50 children with flu symptoms were brought in by nervous parents in the area but tests for avian influenza were negative on all of them, she said.

Five Vietnamese people died of bird flu in 2008 out of six reported H5N1 infections, all in the north of the country in the first quarter of the year, when cooler temperatures allow the virus to thrive.

The H5N1 strain has killed 247 people globally among the 391 confirmed cases since 2003, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Before the latest case in Vietnam, the WHO said Vietnam had had 106 human infections, the second highest after Indonesia among 15 countries with known human cases.

NO HUMAN-HUMAN TRANSMISSION

Health authorities in Beijing said this week that a 19-year-old woman died of H5N1 after coming into contact with poultry. It was China’s first case in almost a year.

Chinese state media on Thursday quoted Deng Xiaohong, spokeswoman for the Beijing Health Bureau, as saying the city’s bird flu alert would probably be lifted by January 12 if people who had contact with the dead woman did not fall sick themselves.

But Deng said further suspected human cases could not be ruled out, and authorities had designated two city hospitals to treat any bird flu patients.

“At present there is no biological basis for human-to-human transmission, so there is almost no possibility of human-to-human transmission in Beijing. I hope everyone in the city can rest easy,” Deng told state television.  Continued…

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