Tue, Dec 21, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Kyoto bird flu reports downplayed

HEALTH The Center for Disease Control is waiting for its Japanese counterpart to hold a press conference tomorrow, but it said the five cases are not a new outbreak

By Wang Hsiao-wen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Amid growing concern about five suspected cases of bird flu in Kyoto, Japan, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) said yesterday that Japanese health officials have ruled out the possibility of a new outbreak of the disease or human-to-human infection.

The center said that the health authorities in Kyoto will hold a press conference tomorrow to discuss their findings.

"From what we know, this is not a new outbreak." said CDC Deputy Director Shih Wen-yi (施文儀).

According to Shih, the five H5N1 positive cases were the findings of an academic research project which involved 50 or 60 test subjects and was aimed at keeping track of the outbreak in February.

"Also, they [Japanese officials] have confirmed that all five infected persons contracted the virus from flocks rather than humans. There is no need to panic over the research findings," Shih said.

Shih said that four of the five are poultry farmers. The other is a health worker. Only one has newly developed antibodies against the H5N1 strain.

"Of course there is some doubt as to whether the farmers took anti-viral drugs and wore protective clothing as they culled infected flocks. But I believe the health agency in Japan will explain the details on Wednesday and refer their report to the World Health Organization," Shih said.

The CDC's remarks came amid growing fears -- and media reports -- that the avian flu could kill millions of people globally if it mutates and develops the ability to pass from human to human. At present, the virus can only be contracted by direct contact with infected ani-mals. However, it has shown an alarming ability to evolve at rapid speed. The World Health Organization has warned that this ability means that the virus could pose a serious global threat at some point.

More than 30 people died from avian influenza in Asia this year, after the disease swept through the bird population.

Taiwan also reported an H5N2 outbreak this spring.

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