If you were wondering what happened to bird flu, you can ask the people in Vietnam, South Korea and Nigeria. The virus doesn’t care if you know where it is or not. It just keeps going about its business, making copies of itself, using whatever hosts are around whose genetic and protein copy machines it can hijack for its own use. With all the talk about “where’s bird flu?” it is useful to remind ourselves it’s still around. And flu season is just starting:
Bird flu reached every region of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, after government inspectors found infections in three states.
The H5N1 strain of avian influenza was detected by the National Veterinary Research Institute in samples collected from the southern state of Delta, the western state of Kwara which borders Benin, and the northeastern state of Borno, which borders Chad, Cameroon and Niger, the United Nations said yesterday in an e-mailed report.
H5N1 outbreaks have now been reported in 17 of Nigeria’s 36 states as well as the Federal Capital Territory, reaching every part of the country. No human infections have been recorded in Nigeria, on the western edge of a continent ravaged by poverty and HIV/AIDS. Egypt and Djibouti have reported human cases.
Reports from the Federal Departments of Livestock and Pest Control Services showed that outbreaks were reported in three small-scale poultry farms in Borno, the UN report said.
The outbreak in Delta state occurred on a farm in Ughelli North, the report said. Details of the outbreaks aren’t yet known, the UN said.
The disease was first reported on a farm in Kwara state’s Galladima village on Nov. 27, according to the report. More than 5,000 fowl died or were culled because of infection, the UN said. (Bloomberg)
A fourth case of bird flu has been discovered in South Korea after culling of poultry from earlier cases, a government official said on Thursday, raising concerns that quarantine measures had failed to control the outbreak.
South Korea confirmed in November its first case of the H5N1 strain in about three years.
The three initial cases were found in farms in the North Cholla province, around 170 km (100 miles) south of Seoul. The latest case emerged at a duck farm in Asan, South Chungcheong province, about 100 km further north.
“We confirmed that a case at a duck farm in Asan was highly pathogenic,” an official at the agriculture ministry said. (Reuters)
Vietnam’s first outbreak of bird flu since August has spread to four more areas in the Mekong Delta, where nearly 8,300 birds have been killed by the virus or slaughtered to hold it back, the Agriculture Ministry said.
Three outbreaks spotted between Dec. 11 and Dec. 20 in Ca Mau province killed over 2,500 chickens and ducks, while one in neighbouring Bac Lieu province killed dozens of ducks, the ministry’s Animal Health Department said in a report on Thursday.
The outbreaks of the H5N1 virus were the first in Vietnam since August. The initial eruptions killed around 6,000 newly hatched chickens and ducklings that were not vaccinated against bird flu.
Farmers have since thrown dead birds into water channels or let ducks roam on rice fields, helping spread the virus that first arrived in the Delta in late 2003 and has since killed 42 of the 93 people infected in Vietnam.
The Mekong Delta outbreaks caused health officials in nearby Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s largest city, to tighten inspection of poultry and step up monitoring of breeding farms, state media reported on Thursday. (Reuters Alertnet)
Then there is the “good” news from Indonesia, the world leader in confirmed deaths (57) and second in confirmed cases (74):
Human bird flu deaths in Indonesia have slowed markedly over the last three months, a drop local officials attributed Thursday to a more aggressive fight against the virus.
But the World Health Organization cautioned that the fall — a rare piece of good news in the country worst hit by the H5N1 virus — did not indicate a trend and refused to speculate on possible reasons for it.
Health Minister Siti Fadillah said the success was due to a more forceful vaccination and culling policy which led the government to recently declare 14 of its 33 provinces free of the virus in poultry stocks.
She also cited an ongoing public education campaign.
“The drop in cases is because of the success of the government … which is now unified and moving quickly,” she told The Associated Press on Thursday. “If the birds are free of the virus, so are humans.” (International Herald Tribune)
Right. And we’re The Andrews Sisters.