The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday issued a chronology of key events in both the human and poultry outbreaks, one month after the announcement of laboratory results confirming the first three human cases of H5N1 infection on Jan. 12.
The WHO also stressed, on its website, the need to maintain vigilance for suspected cases and to report suspected disease, in humans and animals, promptly and transparently.
The disease in poultry is still spreading in several areas, and progress in controlling the avian outbreak does not mean that the risk to human health has been eliminated, it said.
The WHO noted that several countries with outbreaks in poultry have weak health infrastructures, with limited capacity to detect cases, particularly in rural areas where the majority of domestic birds are raised, and with limited capacity to diagnose a difficult disease such as H5N1.
Moreover, as the clinical data released Thursday indicate, the full clinical spectrum of H5N1 cases is still unknown. Milder cases of illness could be occurring, yet go unnoticed by health care staff, it said.
For all these reasons, the WHO warned the current small number of laboratory-confirmed cases cannot be taken as an accurate indication of the magnitude of the present or potential threat to human health.
(Xinhua News Agency February 13, 2004)