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May 14, 2006
Avian Flu Wanes in Asian Nations It First Hit Hard
By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.
Even as it crops up in the far corners of Europe and Africa, the virulent bird flu that raised fears of a human pandemic has been largely snuffed out in the parts of Southeast Asia where it claimed its first and most numerous victims.
Health officials are pleased and excited. "In Thailand and Vietnam, we've had the most fabulous success stories," said Dr. David Nabarro, chief pandemic flu coordinator for the United Nations.
Vietnam, which has had almost half of the human cases of A(H5N1) flu in the world, has not seen a single case in humans or a single outbreak in poultry this year. Thailand, the second-hardest-hit nation until Indonesia recently passed it, has not had a human case in nearly a year or one in poultry in six months.
Encouraging signs have also come from China, though they are harder to interpret.
These are the second positive signals that officials have seen recently in their struggle to prevent avian flu from igniting a human pandemic. Confounding expectations, birds making the spring migration north from Africa have not carried the virus into Europe.