Thursday, October 20, 2005

More On Bird Flu: Looks like it's made the leap

Looks like the chickens are coming home to roost....
Bird flu kills Thai man; fear grows in Europe
Thu Oct 20, 2005 10:40 AM ET

By Panarat Thepgumpanat

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Bird flu has taken another human life, officials said on Thursday -- a 48-year-old Thai man who was the 67th person known to have been killed by a virus steadily creeping from Asia into Europe and toward Africa.

In Indonesia, possible clusters of bird flu among members of the same family raised concern the virus had already mutated into a strain that can pass from human to human, which could start a global pandemic that scientists say could kill millions.(emphasis added)

"With the increase of clusters the possibility has to be thoroughly examined that the virus might have changed and could possibly spread from human to human," Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari was quoted as saying by the state news agency.

A father and son are being treated at a Jakarta hospital for symptoms of the virus but the diagnosis has mot been confirmed.

All the human deaths from avian flu have so far been in Asia but the deadly H5N1 strain was detected this month in birds in Russia, Turkey and Romania, worsening fears in Europe and battering sales of eggs and poultry in several countries.

"There has been a drastic drop in sales, I would say 50 percent," said Vojka Asenoski behind the counter of a Belgrade grocery store. "People look at all those pictures on TV, it's no wonder, they behave as if everything is already infected."

France tried to reassure consumers that poultry was safe to eat as a food industry union said chicken consumption had plunged 20 percent because of bird flu fears. In Brussels, the European Union said more tests were needed to determine whether Greece had become the first EU country to be hit by the virus.