[IWAR] WHO no human-to-human transmission of virus

From: Michael Wilson (MWILSON/0005514706at_private)
Date: Tue Dec 23 1997 - 19:34:56 PST

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             No evidence of human-to-human spread of 'bird flu,' WHO reports
          Copyright ) 1997 Nando.net
          Copyright ) 1997 Agence France-Presse
       HONG KONG (December 23, 1997 9:24 p.m. EST http://www.nando.net) - The
       World Health Organization said it had found no evidence of
       human-to-human spread of the deadly "bird flu," which is believed to
       have claimed four lives in Hong Kong and has sparked a ban on all
       chicken imports from China.
       The WHO in a statement from Geneva late Tuesday said the H5N1 influenza
       strain, dubbed "bird flu" because it previously only affected poultry,
       showed no sign of human-to-human transmission.
       The statement came hours after the virus was believed to have claimed a
       fourth victim in Hong Kong, following three confirmed deaths since May
       including a 13-year-old girl who died Sunday from "multiple organ
       function failure."
       The latest victim, a 60-year-old woman, was listed as having had a
       "suspected" case of H5N1, a government spokesman said.
       "The cause of death is pneumonia, it is not yet confirmed at this stage
       whether she suffered from Influenza A H5N1 infection," the spokesman
       There have been nine confirmed and three suspected cases of H5N1,
       including the 60-year-old woman.
       The WHO statement predicted that more cases of the virus would be
       detected in the territory as a result of "enhanced surveillance
       activities now in progress."
       Dr Daniel Lavanchy, a WHO specialist on influenza who visited Hong Kong,
       said: "The cluster of cases which has been observed within a family does
       appear to have a common source and we are working to identify that."
       "The cases so far isolated come from all parts of Hong Kong and there is
       still no definite sign of human-to-human transmission," the statement
       The WHO said there was no need to impose travel restrictions or
       quarantine measures on Hong Kong. Japan and Taiwan have warned people to
       be wary of the virus while travelling to Hong Kong.
       Research to produce a seed virus for a potential vaccine was under way,
       the WHO noted, but it said that because the virus "translates poorly" a
       vaccine was not immediately necessary.
       Hong Kong officials however were taking no chances and announced a
       temporary ban on all chickens imported from China, beginning Wednesday.
       Experts have found traces of the virus in chicken droppings in the
       The South China Morning Post in an editorial Wednesday welcomed the ban.
       "It is important for public morale to demonstrate that every possible
       precaution is being taken to track down the source of the virus and stop
       it from spreading," the paper said.
       Deputy Director of Health Dr Paul Saw, who heads a committee on the
       virus, announced the ban and said evidence so far suggested exposure to
       chicken or their feces was a possible source of infection.
       Saw confirmed the WHO findings that human-to-human transmission still
       needed to be determined, the government spokesman said.
       Leslie Sims, senior veterinary officer of the Agriculture and Fisheries
       Department, said the ban on chicken imports was a precautionary measure.
       "Each shipment of imported birds will be screened for evidence of Flu A
       infection, using a rapid blood test," Sims said. "Any shipments that
       test positive will not be allowed to be sold until further testing can
       be done to assess the birds."
       Inspections for H5N1 contamination would be carried out on all chicken
       farms in Hong Kong by the first week of January and could result in the
       extermination of the entire poultry stock.
       "They will only be allowed to go into business when they are found to be
       clean," said Saw, as chicken farmers claimed their business had dropped
       80 percent following the scare.

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