A 50% death rate has been noticed in bird flu cases, after samples were taken from Turkish and Indonesian patients. It was also noticed that symptoms ranged from mild to fatal. However, the studies that were conducted do not describe any new cases of bird flu. Rather, the study outlines cases that were documented in 2005 and 2006.
As of November 13, 2006, the World Health Organization had reports of 111 confirmed human cases of bird flu worldwide, including 75 deaths. These cases were in 9 countries, which included Azerbaijan, Cambodia, China, Djibouti, Egypt, Indonesia, Thailand, Iraq and Turkey. Bird Flu has not been reported in humans or birds in the United States of America.
One of the two studies focuses on eight patients in eastern Turkey who fell ill between December 31, 2005 and January 10, 2006. Laboratory tests confirmed the H5N1 bird flu virus. All the patients were aged from 5 to 15, and they had had direct contact with sick or dead poultry. Half of these patients died.
The other bird flu study was conducted in Indonesia. The patients ranged in age from 1 to 38. Half of the Indonesian patients died. It is interesting to note that in each of the three Indonesian locations, infected patients were related to each other, and most lived together.
Noting the “wide range” of patient outcomes, the researching team speculated that genes might have a role to play and can affect how vulnerable a person is to bird flu.
A journal editorial also notes that the H5N1 bird flu virus appears to spread more easily among chickens and consequently to humans, during the cooler months. The editorialists include Robert Webster, PhD, of the virology department at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.
They say that there is no question that there will be another bird flu pandemic someday. They just do not know when it will occur or whether it will be caused by the H5N1 avian influenza virus.