With laboratory confirmations of new bird flu cases in China and Indonesia, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that on November 17, 130 humans had been stricken with the H5N1 // avian influenza virus that has resulted in the death or destruction of more than 150 million birds.
More than half the people infected – 67 – have died from the disease.
WHO affirms the announcement from Beijing officials November 16 that its Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has detected the first appearance of the disease in Chinese people. Four other nations – Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam -- previously have reported human cases of bird flu since the widespread outbreaks began in poultry almost two years ago.
Although Chinese officials reported three human cases, WHO has affirmed only two because of a lack of laboratory confirmation in the death of a 12-year-old girl that Chinese experts attributed to avian influenza. A 9-year-old Chinese boy recovered from his infection; a 24-year-old woman, a poultry worker, died.
The WHO also has confirmed reports of two more human deaths from the Ministry of Health in Indonesia. Like many of the victims of H5N1 so far, they were young – a 16-year-old girl and a 20-year-old woman. Both victims from Jakarta died within days of the onset of symptoms.
The international health community warns that H5N1 infection has the possibility to develop into a full-fledged pandemic. This influenza strain rarely has appeared in humans before, so people have no immunity to it.
So far, contact with infected birds has been identified as the source of disease for the sick people in all but a few cases. The virus does not appear to be contagious among humans, but if it becomes so, medical authorities believe disease could spread quickly worldwide, causing millions of deaths and widespread economic and social disruption.
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