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Bird Flu Outbreak Confirmed In Pakistan

Armen Hareyan's picture

Bird Flu In Pakistan

World Health Organization confirms bird flu influenza in Pakistan as country's Health Ministry informed WHO of eight suspected human cases of H5N1 avian influenza infection in the Peshawar area of the country. These cases were detected following a series of culling operations in response to outbreaks of H5N1 in poultry. One of the cases has now recovered and a further two suspected cases have since died.

Samples taken from the suspected cases have tested positive for H5N1 in the national laboratory and are being forwarded to a WHO H5 Reference Laboratory for confirmation and further analysis. The MoH is taking steps to investigate and contain this event, including case isolation and contact tracing and monitoring, detailed epidemiological investigations, providing oseltamivir for case management and prophylaxis, reviewing hospital infection control measures and enhancing health care-based and community-based surveillance for acute respiratory infections.

WHO is providing technical support to the MoH in epidemiological investigations, reviewing the surveillance, prevention and control measures that have been implemented and carrying out viral sequencing of avian and human isolates.

Multiple poultry outbreaks of H5N1 influenza have been occurring in Pakistan since 2006. In 2007, there have also been outbreaks in wild birds. A majority of the outbreaks discovered have been in the 'poultry belt' of North-West Frontier Province, particularly in the Abbottabad and Mansehra area and cases of infection in wild birds have been identified in the Islamabad Capital Territory.

Avian Influenza A (H5N1) Q&A from CDC

What is the avian influenza A (H5N1) virus that has been reported in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Near East?
Influenza A (H5N1) virus - also called "H5N1 virus" - is an influenza A virus subtype that occurs mainly in birds, is highly contagious among birds, and can be deadly to them.

Outbreaks of avian influenza H5N1 occurred among poultry in eight countries in Asia (Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam) during late 2003 and early 2004. At that time, more than 100 million birds in the affected countries either died from the disease or were killed in order to try to control the outbreaks. By March 2004, the outbreak was reported to be under control.

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Beginning in June 2004, however, new outbreaks of influenza H5N1 among poultry and wild birds were reported in Asia. Since that time, the virus has spread geographically. Reports of H5N1 infection in wild birds in Europe began in mid-2005. In early 2006, influenza A H5N1 infection in wild birds and poultry were reported in Africa and the Near East.

Human cases of influenza A (H5N1) infection have been reported in Azerbaijan, Cambodia, China, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kuwait, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Nigeria, Thailand, Turkey, and Vietnam. For the most current information about avian influenza and cumulative case numbers, see the World Health Organization Avian Influenza website.

What are the risks to humans from the current H5N1 outbreak?
H5N1 virus does not usually infect people, but more than 200 human cases have been reported. Most of these cases have occurred from direct or close contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces; however, a few cases of human-to-human spread of H5N1 virus have occurred.

So far, spread of H5N1 virus from person to person has been rare, limited and unsustained. Nonetheless, because all influenza viruses have the ability to change, scientists are concerned that H5N1 virus one day could be able to infect humans and spread easily from one person to another. Because these viruses do not commonly infect humans, there is little or no immune protection against them in the human population.

If H5N1 virus were to gain the capacity to spread easily from person to person, an influenza pandemic (worldwide outbreak of disease) could begin. No one can predict when a pandemic might occur. However, experts from around the world are watching the H5N1 situation in Asia and Europe very closely and are preparing for the possibility that the virus may begin to spread more easily from person to person.

How is infection with H5N1 virus in humans treated?
Most H5N1 viruses that have caused human illness and death appear to be resistant to amantadine and rimantadine, two antiviral medications commonly used for treatment of patients with influenza. Two other antiviral medications, oseltamivir and zanamavir, would probably work to treat influenza caused by H5N1 virus, but additional studies are needed to demonstrate their current and ongoing effectiveness.

Is there a vaccine to protect people from some strains of the H5N1 virus?
Yes. On April 17, 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its approval of the first vaccine to prevent human infection with one strain of the avian influenza (bird flu) H5N1 virus. The vaccine, produced by sanofi pasteur, Inc., has been purchased by the federal government for the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile; it will be distributed by public-health officials if needed. This vaccine will not be made commercially available to the general public. Other H5N1 vaccines are being developed by other companies against different H5N1 strains.

What is the benefit of the FDA-approved H5N1 vaccine produced by sanofi pasteur Inc?
The H5N1 vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on April 17, 2007, was developed as a safeguard against the possible emergence of an H5N1 pandemic virus.