A seasonal resurgence of deadly avian flu in southern Asia has the World Health Organization worried it may spread again to Europe. The number of human infections from the deadly disease has increased in recent months, with outbreaks in Vietnam, Indonesia and as far as Nigeria.
However, while the deadly strain of avian flu has mutated, it has not mutated to the level that humans can catch it from other humans, said Peter Cordingley, the WHO spokesman for the western Pacific region. “It is not showing any sign of moving to a strain that would be more dangerous to humans or have a greater likelihood of human-to-human transmission.”
The increase in outbreaks comes at a time when some countries have gone as many as six months or more without any human bird flu deaths.
“Following the original publicity surrounding the bird flu risk, many people assumed the danger had passed simply because the epidemic did not emerge in the first year it was talked about. But influenza does not operate on news cycles, it mutates and spreads whenever it wants,” said Mike Adams, author of “How to Beat the Bird Flu.”
“It would be foolish to let our guard down now, especially when we have the asset of public awareness by which many people may be taught how to protect themselves and their families from an influenza outbreak. The next infectious disease pandemic, whether it be H5N1 or something yet unidentified, is only a matter of time,” Adams said.
The spread of bird flu has hit countries all along southern Asia.
Indonesia was hit recently with human deaths from the avian flu – four fatalities between January 9 and 14, according to the Financial Times – and the country is now on alert. Since 2005, the country has faced 61 human deaths from the disease.
In Thailand, where the last human death was in August, ducks are being culled to prevent the disease from spreading. More than 1,900 ducks in the country’s northern area of Phitsanulok have been culled after some tested positive for H5N1, the strain of bird flu that causes fatalities.
Among some provinces in Vietnam, it appears the disease is spreading fast: Ducks found dead from H5N1 in the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang raised concerns as other fowl killed by bird flu were found in the neighboring province of Tra Vinh to the north. Vietnam’s Agriculture Ministry has “ordered an additional poultry vaccination campaign in the Mekong Delta area,” Reuters reported on Monday.
Elsewhere, an outbreak at a southwest Japan poultry farm killed 3,800 chickens but the disease has not spread in the country. China also faced its first human case of bird flu in six months, the Financial Times reported, but the man has since recovered.