Some new details on the steps being taken to deal with any additional human cases of H5N1 infection in Pakistan. So far, however, we have not received any confirmation of any new cases in the past few days.
A hat tip to UK-Bird on the Wiki for posting this article which appeared in The Post.
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LAHORE: After the conformation of eight human cases of bird flu influenza, of which two real brothers reportedly died in NWFP, for the first time in the history of country, the Punjab government has put all public hospitals on high alert to cope with any emergency arising out of H5N1 strain of avian (birds) influenza.
According to World Health Organisation, the virus has killed more than two hundred people worldwide since it began ravaging Asian poultry stocks in late 2003.
The experts say that it is difficult for people to catch the disease as the flu does not infect humans but, they fear, the virus could mutate into a form that passes easily among people, potentially sparking an epidemic that could kill millions of people. That is why the government has started taking extra ordinary steps to stop it.
Special directions have been issued to principals, medical superintendents of teaching hospitals and executive health officers (Health) for keeping surveillance and adopt recommended measures for preventing any outbreak of avian influenza. Isolation units that were meant during the last year in various public hospitals to house the suspected bird flu victims have been reactivated while medicines and diagnostic kits have been provided to the hospitals in this regard.
Talking to The Post, WHO representative to Punjab, Dr Asmatullah Chaudhry said in the wake of threat posed by H5N1, special instructions had been issued to the EDOs to keep constant vigil on the situation.
"The viral transport medium required for the transport of suspected human samples along with related guidelines has been dispatched to the district health departments", he added.
Moreover, special arrangements for rapid response if any case is detected in the province have been ensured while special teams constituted to collect blood samples for laboratory tests of the affected persons and to send these through TCS courier service to National Institute of Health Laboratory, he said , adding that besides EDO (Health), Executive District Officers (Agriculture), District Officers Forests and District Officers Livestock had been asked to reactivate surveillance to identify and isolate the viruses causing bird flu.
They have been directed to monitor the situation in their respective districts and to report swiftly any suspected case of bird flu in Punjab.
More diagnostic tests would be conducted at the Veterinary Research Institute (VRI) Lahore and Poultry Research Institute (PRI) Rawalpindi in this regard, he notified.
Eastern Mediterranean Region of World Health Organization (EMRO-WHO) Advisor on Infectious Diseases Dr Akbar Chaudhry said that most human cases had so far been linked to contact made with sick birds while this was very early to determine if the virus could have been transmitted through human contact in the case of two brothers' death.
""I can not answer that yet, it is possible, if the man to man transmission of H5N1 will be confirmed in the cases of NWFP, it will be pandemic situation for the country," he worried. He said that mortality rate owing to H5NI strain is as high as 70 per cent among the humans.