Thailand alert for H7N9 virus after deaths in China

PHOTO: Thailand alert for H7N9 virus after deaths in China

BANGKOK - Thailand's Public Health Department has set up nationwide surveillance for H7N9 bird-flu virus after three people in China were infected and two died.

The system includes a lab test for confirmation, Surveillance Rapid Response Teams (SRRTs) and a check at hospitals across the country for patients with symptoms similar to severe pneumonia and flu, Public Health Minister Pradit Sinthawana-rong said yesterday.

So far, no patients have been found and there have been no reports of H5N1 bird-flu cases for the past five years. The Bureau of Epidemiology will also work with local and foreign agencies on this alert.

China announced on Sunday that three people were infected with the H7N9 virus, and two of them died. One was an 87-year-old man who passed away on March 4 and the other was a man aged 27 who died on March 10. The third patient was a woman aged 35 in An Hui, who remains in a critical condition. The three initially suffered a fever, coughing, then severe pneumonia and respiratory problems.

Pradit said this is the first time that H7N9 had been transmitted from animals to humans and Chinese authorities have quarantined 88 others in close contact with the three who died, while trying to ascertain the cause of infection.

Health permanent secretary Narong Sahamethapat said the bird-flu alert was a collaboration between the Agriculture Ministry, Public Health Ministry and the Natural Resource and Environment Ministry. Surveillance Rapid Response Teams would cover all districts with help from village health volunteers, so they should detect cases promptly.

Disease Control Department chief Porntheo Siriwanarangsan urged people not touch nor kill sick fowls for consumption. He suggested people report suspicious deaths of fowl to livestock officials or community leaders.

As for H5N1, the World Health Organisation reported that Cambodia, China and Egypt confirmed 10 infections this year (seven of whom died). From 2003-2013 a total of 620 people were infected in 15 countries.