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Below is a roundup of the key developments on the spread of the bird flu virus (H5N1) and the threat it poses to human health. Each title is a link to the full article.

Click here to see the latest World Health Organization (WHO) figures of confirmed human cases.


31 March – 7 April 2008


Egyptian teenager dies from bird flu
A 19-year-old boy from Beheira, Egypt, has died from bird flu. He is the country's twenty-first H5N1 fatality since 2006. The WHO has yet to confirm the death (source: Agence France Presse).

Vietnam begins clinical trials of bird flu vaccine
Vietnam has begun clinical trials for a bird flu vaccine. Eleven volunteer researchers at the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology in Hanoi are testing a vaccine that is based on a H5N1 strain from Vietnamese patients in 2004. A separate eight-month trial for a local-use vaccine will begin this month at the Military Medical Academy in Ha Tay province near Hanoi, having received approval from the Ministry of Health (source: Reuters).

Indonesian children die of bird flu
A 15-year-old boy and 11-year-old-girl have died of bird flu, bringing Indonesia's death toll to 107 — the highest in the world. The boy, from Subang in West Java, is believed to have come into contact with dead poultry but the cause of death for the girl, from Bekasi, east of Jakarta, has yet to be ascertained. The WHO has confirmed both deaths (source: Reuters).


24–30 March 2008


Portable chip detects flu 'in two hours'
Scientists have developed a thumbnail-sized chip that can accurately detect a range of influenza viruses, including bird flu, "within two hours". The chip, developed by STMicroelectronics and Singapore's Veredus Laboratories, samples small amounts of human serum, blood and respiratory samples (source: EarthTimes).

Bird flu stockpile for Thailand
The United States has established an equipment stockpile in Thailand to help the country to react more rapidly to bird flu outbreaks. The Regional Distribution Centre in the eastern province of Chachoengsao is funded by the US Agency for International Development and houses protective suits, decontamination kits, laboratory specimen kits and other equipment worth US$548,300 (source: Agence France Presse).

Indonesia refuses to fully share bird flu samples
Indonesia says it will only share avian influenza samples with the WHO on a "case-by-case" basis, despite sending fifteen samples last month. The government says it will not fully share samples until the new virus-sharing mechanism — currently being set up by the WHO — is put in place (source: Reuters).


17–23 March 2008


Study fingers China as source of bird flu outbreaks
A study has revealed that poultry trading in southern China might have been responsible for the majority of H5N1 spread during 2002–2003. Researchers say strains discovered in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam during this period are similar to a strain found in poultry markets in Yunnan Province (source: Reuters).

Eleven-year-old Vietnamese boy dies from bird flu
An 11-year-boy from Liem Tiet in Ha Nam province, south of Hanoi, has died from the H5N1 virus, Vietnam's fifth victim this year. The WHO have confirmed the death (source: Reuters).


10–16 March 2008


Japanese flu vaccine shows promise
Japanese researchers have developed a substance that could increase the effectiveness of flu vaccines, including avian influenza. According to Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases, animal tests on the peptide have proved promising against multiple strains of influenza (source: Reuters).


3–9 March 2008


Egypt suffers twentieth bird flu fatality
A 25-year-old Egyptian woman from Fayoum province, southwest of Cairo, has died of H5N1 bird flu, the WHO have confirmed. It brings the country's death toll to 20 (source: Reuters).

WHO: No sign of mutation in Indonesian samples
Analysis of Indonesian H5N1 samples show there is no sign mutation into a human transmissible form, the WHO announced. The findings come after 15 samples of the virus were provided by Indonesia for analysis last month, following a brief hiatus last year (source: Agence France Presse).

East Africa 'must be prepared for bird flu'
The African Union's Rural Economy and Agriculture Unit has warned East African governments to ensure that they are prepared for a avian influenza outbreak. Speaking at a three-day training workshop in Ethiopia, Ahmadu Babgana, director of the unit, highlighted the danger posed to the continent (source: Africa Union). [43kB]

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