Human bird flu deaths remain a rarity

2006-02-24

The WHO has confirmed that thirteen countries have reported their first case of avian flu in birds this month. The countries where the H5N1 strain has been confirmed in bird are, in order of reporting, Iraq, Nigeria, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Iran, Austria, Germany, Egypt, India and France. A reoccurrence has been confirmed in Malaysia.Two human fatalities have been confirmed in Iraq.The body said that outbreaks in Europe are limited to wild birds. In Egypt, deaths have been reported in exotic zoo birds.Human fatalities are ‘almost all linked to close contact with diseased household flocks during slaughtering, defeathering, butchering and preparation of poultry for consumption.’ In a separate update on Nigeria, the WHO said that the situation continues to be ‘closely monitored’ but that no human cases have been detected to date, although it is currently looking at hospital records to see whether any cases may have occurred before the initial outbreak was reported.And in response to media reports, it has issued a statement on the possible mutation of the virus. While going into great depth about the mutation of the virus within birds, it concludes that ‘there is no evidence at present from any outbreak site that the virus has increased its ability to spread easily from one person to another’.