Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


Bird Flu Moves To Human Transmission In Thailand

Thailand's Bird Flu Moves To Human Transmission


by Richard S. Ehrlich

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Thailand has declared bird flu as its ''enemy'' after the world's first ''probable'' human-to-human infection killed at least one Thai woman and perhaps infected her relatives.

International health officials dampened fears of a mutant virus evolving in Thailand. But they warned of a worst-case scenario if avian influenza's deadly H5N1 virus invades a person already ill with human influenza and the two viruses mix.

The viruses could then mutate into a never-seen-before, uncontrollable "submicroscopic parasite" capable of mass human death, similar to the 1918 Spanish influenza which killed tens of millions of people.

Health officials insist that mutation has not occurred, because Thailand's current cases involved only healthy people who contracted bird flu.

Shaken by the mounting risks, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told his government, "I have 31 days [for you] to stamp out bird flu, from October 1 to October 31.

"Bird flu is our common enemy and needs to be destroyed," the prime minister declared on Wednesday (Sept. 29).

In reality, his deadline appeared to be merely a rhetorical wake-up call and not a final solution.

"It has taken some countries seven to 10 years to end the disease," his deputy prime minister Chaturon Chaisang warned.

"For us, we are talking at least three to five years," Mr. Chaturon told a Bangkok radio station the same day.

"There are no fences along borders of countries in Asia to block migrating birds," Mr. Chaturon said.

Thailand's virus monitoring system suffers weak links including secretive officials, under-funded hospitals, defiant chicken owners, and a Buddhist tradition of cremating the dead often before detailed autopsies are performed.

Other Southeast Asian countries stricken by bird flu share the same problems, as does China, delaying containment of bird flu outbreaks there.

"Bird flu is a crisis of global importance," said He Changchui, assistant director-general of the UN's Food and Agricultural Office (FAO).

"There have been fears since the beginning of the crisis that human-to-human transmission could occur. FAO shares with WHO [World Health Organization] this concern," Mr. He said in a statement on Tuesday (Sept. 28).

"The virus continues to circulate in the region and will probably not be eradicated in the near future," Mr. He said.

The FAO official was referring to China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand, where more than 100 million chickens perished or were slaughtered this year because of bird flu, mostly during the winter.

At least 30 people died in Asia from the virus this year, including 10 people in Thailand and 20 in Vietnam.

"FAO is eager to see further evidence and information to help us to understand if, and what, may have changed in the biology or genetic makeup of the incriminated virus to give rise to this probable human-to-human transmission," Mr. He said.

In June, Thai officials congratulated themselves when the death toll stopped after eight fatalities from an initial winter outbreak.

Their cheerful boasts were overconfident and the disease infected more chickens and people in July.

Among the dead was a person who bred so-called "fighting cocks" who apparently contracted the disease from sick roosters raised to battle in bloody contests which attract rural audiences and gamblers.

Some owners of fighting cocks earlier vowed to hide their prized contenders from government culling teams because the roosters are valuable and many did not exhibit signs of illness.

An international alarm sounded earlier this week when United Nations medical officials realized bird flu virus may have been transmitted from a Thai daughter to her mother -- possibly the world's first case of human-to-human transmission.

The mother, Pranee Thongchan, visited her 11-year-old daughter, Sakuntala Prempasee, in northern Kamphaeng Phet province hospital.

Both people soon died.

The child apparently contracted bird flu from live infected chickens while staying in her aunt's village, doctors said.

When the daughter died in early September, unsuspecting Buddhist priests cremated her body without an autopsy.

Sakuntala's mother then died on Sept. 20 from a confirmed case of bird flu, leading officials to declare the world's first, "probable" human-to-human transmission.

Mrs. Pranee, 26, experienced "very close and face-to-face exposure" to her sick daughter in hospital, the Health Ministry said.

Before she died, the mother also met her elder sister, Pranom, who was later confirmed suffering from bird flu. Both women were in close physical contact with the feverish girl.

Doctors spent Thursday (Sept. 30) monitoring Pranom's illness and that of her sick, six-year-old son who apparently also caught the virus.

All four victims appeared to have contracted the same H5N1 bird flu virus, UN health officials said.

Thailand's lucrative poultry industry, which depends on massive international exports, was bracing for a downward spiral amid fears that Thais and foreigners would shun Thai chicken even if it is confirmed to be safe to eat.

"Avian influenza usually spreads when live birds carrying infection are bought and sold, and by contact of birds with bird droppings on dirty equipment, cages, feed, vehicles or shoes and clothing," the FAO said.

"Although the finding of probable human-to-human transmission is clearly of concern, there is currently no evidence of ongoing chains of transmission, or risk to persons outside of the affected province," a Health Ministry statement said.

******-ENDS-******

Richard S. Ehrlich, a freelance journalist who has reported news from Asia for the past 26 years, is co-author of the non-fiction book, "HELLO MY BIG BIG HONEY!" -- Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews. His web page is www.geocities.com/glossograph/


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>

ALSO:

Buildup:

Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>

ALSO:

Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>

ALSO:


Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news