Bird flu spreads to new species Friday, August 26, 2005
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Bird flu spreads to new species Friday, August 26, 2005 Updated at 6:18 AM EDT
Hanoi — Bird flu has killed three rare civets born in captivity at a national park in Vietnam, marking the first time the virus has been reported in
the species, officials said Friday.
The Owston civets died in late June at the Cuc Phuong National Park, about 120 kilometres south of Hanoi. Samples sent to a lab in Hong Kong came back
positive for the H5N1 virus, said Scott Roberton, technical adviser for the civet conservation program at the park.
He said other animals at the park have been tested -- including chickens, rats and other birds -- but none have tested positive for the virus.
“It's another good example of how dangerous this thing is,” Mr. Roberton said. “No animals are ill, no people are ill. We're still trying to
figure out where the source was.”
The civets were not fed any type of poultry, and 20 other civets of the same species in adjacent cages did not become sick, he said. The World Health
Organization and Vietnam health officials are expected to test staff and animal keepers to determine if anyone caring for the civets has been infected
with bird flu, he said.
Anton Rychener, head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health in Hanoi, confirmed the results.
Cat-like civets are captured in the wild and served as a delicacy at restaurants in Vietnam and China.
Scientists suspect that SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which killed nearly 800 people worldwide in 2003, was passed to humans from civet
cats and other mongoose-like animals sold in live food markets in southern China.
Peter Horby, an epidemiologist for the WHO in Hanoi, said the development would not make people more susceptible to bird flu because humans have less
contact with civets than poultry.
“The interesting thing is that it's a new species,” he said. “It continues to surprise.”
Bird flu had previously been found in other mammals, such as cats and tigers.
The virus has killed 61 people regionwide, with the bulk of those deaths in Vietnam. Health experts have repeatedly warned that the world is due for
an influenza pandemic that could kill millions and cripple economies. They fear the bird flu virus will mutate and become easily transmitted from
person to person. So far, most human cases have been traced back to contact with poultry.
Owston civets are globally threatened and found in southern China, Vietnam and Laos.
Since this happened a while ago, I'm concerned that Vietnam may be going the way of the PRC as far as being forthcomming with reports.