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Bird flu, dengue in Southeast Asia

Updated On: Aug 03, 2007

Avian (bird) flu is a real threat to human security in Southeast Asia.  

And the spread of avian flu to other regions has continued unabated, the latest victim being India.

Southeast Asia region hosts the largest number of bird flu outbreaks and fatalities. Indonesia confirmed 81st bird flu death early last month. So far Indonesia is the worst hit country by H5N1 strain virus.Vietnam was initially quite successful in reducing the number of cases last year, but until the first semester of this year, bird flu has killed 45 of the 99 confirmed cases since 2003 which includes 3 deaths this year. Myanmar detected new bird flu outbreak on two poultry farms in the south of Yangon. However, Myanmar so far has not reported any human cases of bird flu.

AFP reported as of last week, the World Health Organization had recorded 319 cases of bird flu in humans worldwide, 192 of which were fatal. Although not yet scientifically proven, there is fear that the virus could mutate thus become transmissible between humans.

Bangladesh will receive US$16 million loan from the International Development Association to combat bird flu, as reported by The Straits Times. Bird flu has spread to this least-developed country, but there have been no reported cases of human infection. Bangladesh's neighbour, India, just confirmed a new bird flu outbreak in July. It also has had no human infection so far. Outbreaks of bird flu also happened inPakistanthis year, Sri Lanka reported no infections.

In other parts of the world, the reported bird flu outbreaks in GermanyCzech Republic, and the US made China recently announced ban against poultry imports from those three countries. Japan has banned the poultry imports from those countries previously.

Amidst the increasing number of avian influenza outbreaks, Australia will give aid of more than US$7 million to Southeast Asiato help fight bird flu and child sex tourism. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer announced this package at an annual security meeting (the ASEAN Regional Forum) with his ASEAN counterparts in Manila. The program will include awareness raising on bird flu in CambodiaLaos,Myanmar and Vietnam. This move is seen as very timely. At the same time, Downer regarded Australian-ASEAN ties are very important.

Of a more "classic" yet more calamitous disease in Southeast Asia, WHO warned that the region could face its worst dengue outbreak in a decade. According to Straits Times, the last major outbreak to hitSouth-east Asiawas in 1998, when about 350,000 cases were reported region-wide, including nearly 1,500 deaths. Indonesiaand Thailand were not included in that tally.

More than 200,000 people in the region have already been infected this year. This includes 5,089 cases in Singapore, four of which were fatal. From statistics compiled by Straits Times, Cambodia claims 25,000 dengue cases which killed nearly 300 children under 15 this year. Indonesiareported more than 100,000 infections including 1,100 deaths. This number could be doubled by year's end, almost doubled than last year. Malaysia has seen a 50 percent jump in cases this year over the same period last year, and in Vietnam, a 40 percent increase in dengue cases.  

Dengue is a major health and security issue as it is entrenched problem in many tropical and sub-tropical countries, and at the same time, with global warming, has potential to spread to more countries even those in the temperate zone. A fearful fact of this disease is that it can spread in poor countries, usually in areas with low-sanitation, as well as in modern and wealthy country like Singapore. So far it is not curable and not preventable through vaccination because of the different strains. Although global concern has risen, it still needs more international attention on how to deal with this problem.

Sources

Australian aid for bird flu, child sex tourism (Straits Times, 1 Aug, 2007)

S-E Asiafaces 'worst dengue outbreak in a decade' (Straits Times, 1 Aug, 2007)

WHO warns dengue fever outbreak in Asia(Straits Times, 31 July, 2007)

35 died of dengue in Vietnam(Straits Times, 30 July, 2007)

Best dengue medicine (Jakarta Post, 28 July 2007)

Myanmar reports new bird flu outbreak (Straits Times, 29 July, 2007)

Bangladesh to get $24 million loan to combat bird flu (Straits Times, 28 July, 2007)

Chickens culled in Indian state hit by bird flu (Straits Times, 28 July, 2007)

S. Lanka halts India poultry imports due to bird flu (Straits Times, 28 July, 2007) India confirms bird flu outbreak is H5N1 strain (Straits Times, 26 July, 2007)

Chinabans German, Czech, some US poultry on bird flu fears (Straits Times, 26 July, 2007)