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Bird Flu definition changed.


The World Health Organization said it would change its definition of what constituted a bird flu infection.

WHO says there have been 55 confirmed cases of bird flu; recently, researchers examined two young children - a brother and sister - who lived with their parents in Vietnam. They were admitted suffering from gastro-enteritis and acute encephalitis. Neither displayed respiratory problems, which are considered typical in cases of avian flu. But analysis revealed the four-year-old boy had traces of the virus indicating that the virus can attack all parts of the body, not just the lungs.

It is suspected his nine-year-old sister, who died two weeks earlier in February last year, was also suffering from the virus. Dr Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust's Vietnam unit, said: "This latest work underlines the possibility that avian influenza can present itself in different ways. The main focus has been on patients with respiratory illnesses but clearly that's not the only thing we should be looking for. "Therefore the number of cases of H5N1 may have been underestimated."

Meanwhile, analysis of the spanish flu that killed millions in 1918 suggests the flu virus descended directly from a bird virus and moved into human hosts after slowly accumulating the necessary mutations.

He said: "It means the range of illnesses we have been looking for when considering a diagnosis of avian flu will now be expanded.

"We will have to change the way we conduct our investigations, the management of hospital patients and even the way we deal with their bodily secretions."

With reports of Avian Flu in Nigeria, Italy, Greece and Slovenia Italian health authorities imposed strict controls on the movement of poultry at the weekend after the lethal H5N1 bird flu virus was detected in five dead wild swans in southern Italy.

You can download a Google Earth Map of Bird Flu outbreaks to date below.

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