Sun, Mar 13, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Vietnamese officials find nurse exposed to bird flu

AP , HANOI, VIETNAM

Vietnamese health officials said yesterday they suspect a second nurse who cared for a bird flu patient has contracted the disease that's killed 46 people across the region.

Dao Trong Bich, deputy director of the medical center in Thai Thuy District in northern Thai Binh province said the 41-year-old woman had cared for a 21-year-old man who tested positive for the H5N1 virus and remains in critical condition.

The nurse was admitted to Hanoi's Bach Mai Hospital Thursday with a high fever, coughing and a lung infection -- typical bird flu symptoms, a doctor there said on condition of anonymity. Test results to confirm if she has bird flu are expected next week, the doctor said.

The doctor refused to speculate on how the nurse may have contracted the suspected case of bird flu.

Earlier this week, Vietnam reported that a 26-year-old male nurse who cared for the same patient had contracted the virus and is in stable condition. Officials have said they don't believe the male nurse had contracted the disease from the patient but said they couldn't rule out that possibility.

Experts have warned that if the bird flu virus mutates into a form that allows for easy transmission between humans, it could spark a global pandemic that kills millions.

So far there has been no evidence it has acquired that ability, with most bird flu infections apparently stemming from contact with sick poultry. A case of limited human-to-human transmission, between a mother and daughter, was recorded in Thailand but the virus had not changed its form.

Bich said health authorities are closely monitoring the health of two doctors and two other nurses at the center who had contact with the 21-year-old man. None of them have shown any symptoms, he added.

The 21-year-old man is at the center of a cluster of bird flu cases that include his 14-year-old sister and 80-year-old grandfather, who has the virus without showing any symptoms.

Bird flu has killed 33 people in Vietnam, 13 of them in the latest outbreak that began December 2004.

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