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March 13, 2007

CIDRAP on the current H5N1 situation

Via CIDRAP: Egypt, Indonesia report human H5N1 cases. Here's the part most worth considering:

In Indonesia, officials reported today that a 20-year-old woman from East Java was in critical condition in a hospital, according to a Reuters report. Joko Suyono, a data analyst at the national avian flu center in Jakarta, said the woman had cleaned an area where a neighbor had dumped dead chickens, the story said.

By the WHO's count, Indonesia has had 81 human cases of H5N1 illness, with 63 deaths. The WHO has not yet recognized the young woman's case or four previous cases reported by Indonesian officials since Jan 29, when the agency confirmed a fatal H5N1 infection in a 6-year-old girl from Central Java province.

Those four cases involved a 15-year-old girl and a 30-year-old man, reported Feb 6, plus a 22-year-old woman and a 9-year-old boy, reported Feb 12. Both of the latter patients died of the illness.

For some reason, WHO seems very slow this year to confirm new cases. I don't know if it's because of a backlog of tests, or political difficulties on the ground, or simple housekeeping problems like technicians on holiday.

But WHO Indonesia hasn't posted an update on avian influenza since January 30. WHO Egypt has a March 12 update about the four-year-old boy, but it adds nothing to what we knew when his case was reported last week.

WHO comes in for a lot of unfair criticism. It's the only agency we can all rely on, and it faces enormous political and logistical problems. I always give them the benefit of the doubt, but they really need to improve their communication with the global public.

Posted by dymaxion at March 13, 2007 10:01 PM

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