WHO: Bird Flu Still May Have Killed Woman

The Cambodian woman who died Feb 5 in Vietnam of a respiratory disease tested negative for avian influenza, but concern over the quality of blood samples means she will remain classified as a suspected case, a World Health Organization official said Monday.

The Pasteur Institute in Ho Chi Minh City has completed all the tests it will perform on the wo-

m­an’s samples, said Sean To­bin, an ep­id­emiologist with WHO in Phnom Penh.

A delay of several days before the woman’s blood samples were sent to the laboratory means a possibility remains that a virus was pres­ent but deteriorated before testing.

“We are not completely confident in the quality of the samples, so we will probably continue to call it suspect,” Tobin said.

Sok Touch, director of the Communicable Disease Depart­ment at the Ministry of Health, said that he had not received an official report on the case from Vietnamese officials.

Meanwhile, the tourism industry has taken only a small hit in the wake of the Asian bird flu epidemic. While a few companies have reported cancellations and restaurants catering to tourists have altered their menus to eliminate poultry and eggs, many in the industry said their customers seem undaunted by the outbreak.

A survey of 15 large tour companies last week found cancellation rates between zero and 10 per­cent, compared to the 40 percent to 50 percent at the height of the severe acute respiratory syndrome scare last year, said Nuth Nin Doeurn, secretary of state at the Ministry of Tourism.

“The tourists are coming,” he said, adding that airlines and tour companies have not lowered prices or offered special incentives as a result of the outbreak.

“People don’t seem afraid,” said Raing Sey Chhan, a ticketing agent at International Trade Travel and Transport Co. “Bird flu, it’s not serious, be­cause it’s just a problem with the birds.”

Meanwhile, Australia donated $50,000 on Monday to help Cam­bo­dian Ministry of Health investigation teams.

“Clearly, there is a need for en­hanced diagnostic and detection ab­ilities,” said John Griffin, charge d’affairs at the Australian Embassy.



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