Situation in Vietnam – April 17, 2010

The outbreak in Bac Kan continues.

From SGGP, April 16, 2010

The Department of Health has confirmed two more cases of bird flu in patients from the northern province of Bac Kan’s Cho Moi District, a health official reported April 15.

The two people were taken to hospital in the province in serious condition, said Dr. Nguyen Huy Nga of the Preventive Health and Environment Department.

The patients are from the same village where several other cases of avian influenza were reported earlier, causing concern that the area has become a hotspot for the illness and that human-to-human transmission could potentially occur.

Meanwhile, Dr. Tran Nhu Duong, deputy director of the Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, said the institute recently appointed two groups to conduct an epidemiological investigation of the village.

The groups found that the two latest cases became infected after  coming into contact with infected poultry, adding there was no evidence to suggest the patients had contracted the flu from other infected individuals.

A girl became ill with H5N1 in Bac Kan on April 2, 2010. The report of two additional cases of H5N1 on April 15, 2010, two weeks later, is consistent with human to human spread of H5N1. So, the statement that “there was no evidence to suggest the patients had contracted the flu from other infected individuals” is not true. There is at least circumstantial evidence for possible human to human spread of the virus based on the timing of the two clusters of cases. It is true that there is not conclusive evidence that the two clusters are due to human to human spread, but it is equally true that there is not conclusive evidence that bird to human spread has caused both clusters.

The best way to determine how the virus is being transmitted is obtain sequences from infected individuals and nearby animals. Such sequences could be obtained easily, cheaply and rapidly. The decision not to obtain these sequences and deposit them immediately in GenBank is deliberate and guided solely by politics.

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