[IWAR] HEALTH Hong Kong flu strain

From: Michael Wilson (MWILSON/0005514706at_private)
Date: Mon Dec 08 1997 - 09:55:02 PST

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                          Hong Kong seeks source of 'bird flu'
          Copyright ) 1997 Nando.net
          Copyright ) 1997 Agence France-Presse
       HONG KONG (December 8, 1997 08:06 a.m. EST http://www.nando.net) -
       Health officials here Monday stepped up the hunt for the source of a
       deadly flu strain that has caused a global alert. The strain was
       previously found only in birds.
       The "bird flu" has claimed four victims here, killing two, including a
       54-year-old man who died Friday.
       At least seven people who had contact with the victims were experiencing
       flu-like symptoms, but it was not clear if they had also contracted the
       H5N1 strain, never before been found in humans, officials said.
       With international experts now enlisted in the frantic bid to contain
       the outbreak, investigators fanned out across the territory Monday,
       checking poultry farms for traces of the disease amid speculation
       chickens could have passed it to humans.
       All hospitals and clinics in Hong Kong have been ordered to test
       patients for the flu.
       Hong Kong officials have been joined by experts from the U.S. Centers
       for Disease Control and Prevention and other international specialists.
       Hospital chiefs have placed the fourth victim, a seriously ill
       13-year-old girl, in isolation and are testing her family and patients
       who may have had contact with here for the virus.
       Several family members are said to be displaying flu symptoms but tests
       for H5N1 were not complete.
       Microbiologist Ken Shortridge, a noted expert in the field and member of
       a special team investigating the outbreak, said it appeared the virus
       may have been transmitted directly from poultry to the victims.
       Scientists were working on the theory that those infected had been
       exposed to H5N1 while handling chickens and that the disease could be
       sourced to neighboring southern China, which he described as an
       "influenza epicenter" because of the number of people, poultry and pigs
       constantly living in close proximity.
       "There appears to be a transmission from the birds. There is some kind
       of link between birds and the outbreak, the infection. Contaminated
       fecal material would be the most important aspect."
       "That's the way you get it from ducks and from chickens," Shortridge
       said, adding that there was no risk of contracting "bird flu" from
       eating poultry.
       By Kieron Flynn, Agence France-Presse

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