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New cases fuel bird flu fears


Active Member
Sep 10, 2004
Two new human cases of bird flu emerged Wednesday in Vietnam, both elderly relatives of others hit by the virus, a worrisome cluster of cases that's raising concern the H5N1 virus is becoming more adept at spreading from human to human.

One of the new cases involves an 81-year-old man with two infected grandchildren -- one of whom may also have infected a nurse who cared for him.

The fact both new cases showed no signs they were infected add to concerns the true number of human cases of avian influenza could be far higher than officially reported.

"It's certain there are cases we're missing, and probably a significant number," Dr. Peter Horby, a medical epidemiologist with the World Health Organization in Hanoi, told CanWest News in a recent interview.

Part of the problem is that doctors don't have a clear picture of the full spectrum of symptoms in patients with H5N1, said Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City.

A specimen has to be taken from a patient within a few days of the onset of symptoms and transported to one of the few labs in Vietnam capable of performing a highly sophisticated test.

"The process can break down at any point," Farrar said. "So I am sure some cases have been missed. "

The 81-year-old man, from Thai Binh district in northern Vietnam, drank raw duck blood, a traditional Vietnamese dish, during Lunar New Year celebrations last month, according to reports from the region.

The second case involves the 61-year-old widow of a man who died of bird flu Feb. 23.