Annals of Thoracic Medicine Official publication of the Saudi Thoracic Society, affiliated to King Saud University
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Year : 2008  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 154-157

Avian influenza: The tip of the iceberg

Department of Pediatrics, King Saud bin Abdulaziz University, King Abdulaziz Medical City, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Correspondence Address:
Hanan Balkhy
P.O. Box 22490, Riyadh 11426, Mail code 1515
Saudi Arabia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1817-1737.43085

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For some years now, we have been living with the fear of an impending pandemic of avian influenza (AI). Despite the recognition, in 1996, of the global threat posed by the highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza virus found in farmed geese in Guangdong Province, China, planning for the anticipated epidemic remains woefully inadequate; this is especially true in developing countries such as Saudi Arabia. These deficiencies became obvious in 1997, with the outbreak of AI in the live animal markets in Hong Kong that led to the transmission of infection to 18 humans with close contact with diseased birds; there were six reported deaths. [1] In 2003, with the reemergence of H5N1 (considered the most likely AI virus) in the Republic of Korea and its subsequent spread to Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong and China. Many countries started aggressively making preparations to meet the threat. [2] The pressure for real action from governments has increased. Most developed countries have requested increased funding for the search for a more effective vaccine, for stockpiling possibly helpful antiviral drugs, and for intensifying domestic and global surveillance. [3] Most countries, however, continue to be inadequately prepared for such an epidemic, especially with regard to animal surveillance in the farm market and surveillance among migratory birds. Even now, most countries do not have the ability to detect disease among humans in the early stages of an outbreak nor do most hospitals comply with effective infection control measures that could curtail the spread of the virus in the early stages of an epidemic. In Saudi Arabia we are rapidly implementing many of these measures. [4]

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