A man whose brothers contracted bird flu has tested positive for the deadly virus, state-controlled media reported yesterday, as the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was investigating the possibility that one of the siblings passed the disease to another. \nVietnamese officials, however, said there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission in the cases. Health officials fear that the bird-flu virus could mutate into a form that can easily spread among people, sparking a global pandemic that could kill millions. There is no evidence that has occurred, however. \nA 36-year-old man from northern Thai Binh province tested positive for the H5N1 strain of bird flu, the Pioneer newspaper quoted Vice Minister of Health Tran Chi Liem as saying. \nHis 47-year-old brother died on Jan. 10 from bird flu, while another brother, 42, was recovering in a hospital in Hanoi after also testing positive for the virus. \nSince Dec. 30, a total of nine people have died of bird flu in Vietnam. \nHealth officials have said the family had eaten raw duck blood pudding late last month, linking their infections to poultry. \n"From the H5N1 virus infected cases in Thai Binh recently, there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission," Liem said. \nHowever, the WHO has not ruled out the possibility, because the middle brother cared for the elder sibling before he died. \nBut that alone would not raise the threat of a flu pandemic, said Peter Cordingley, spokesman for WHO's Western Pacific Regional Office in Manila. The UN agency has not yet confirmed reports of the third brother's infection. \nSimilar isolated cases of possible human-to-human transmission occurred in Hong Kong in 1997 and in Vietnam and Thailand last year, he said. \n"WHO would not be unduly concerned about the public health implications of limited transmission of the virus from one person to another," he said. \n"What would worry us is evidence of the virus being able to pass effectively between humans, thus setting off a chain of transmission. We have not seen this with the present cases, nor with previous ones," he said. \nSo far most human cases have been linked to contact with sick poultry. \n"There is no indication that something is spreading quickly," said Hans Troedsson, the WHO representative in Vietnam. \n"It's not that it has passed the threshold and opened the flood gates," he said. \nAlso in Vietnam, a 22-year-old woman in critical condition was being tested for the disease in Ho Chi Minh City after her younger brother died of bird flu, said Phan Van Tu, chief virologist at the city's Pasteur Institute. \nBird-flu outbreaks among poultry have been reported nationwide in Vietnam so far this year, killing or forcing the cull of more than 500,000 birds. Vietnamese authorities have ordered quarantines, stricter border controls and a ban on poultry from neighboring countries in an effort to battle the disease, fearing a repeat of last year. \nLast year the virus surfaced in 10 Asian countries, killing or forcing the slaughter of more than 100 million birds. \nThe virus jumped to humans in Vietnam and Thailand, killing 29 and 12, respectively.
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500
‘LIKE A CASSANDRA’: Chinese residents of Prato went into self-imposed lockdown and warned their Italian neighbors about what was coming, but were ignored In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato. Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attacks by people who feared that they would spread the coronavirus through Italy. However, in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s single biggest Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early,