Friday, January 20, 2006

Iraq: Suspected Bird Flu Case Ruled Out by WHO

The first suspected case of H5N1 avian flu in Iraq has been determined not to be a case, the World Health Organization said yesterday. The suspected case was a teenager who died Tuesday after an illness of a couple of weeks. The girl lived in a Kurdish area of northern Iraq near the border with Turkey. (Source: Edmonton Sun)

“We requested information from our eastern Mediterranean office, based in Cairo, which was following this up, and they’ve told us that it was mistakenly identified as a suspect bird flu case and they’ve ruled it out.” spokeswoman Maria Cheng said from Geneva.
When the suspected bird flu case in Iraq was first reported by Reuters on Wednesday, it was mentioned that the samples from Northern Iraq had been sent to Jordan (a lab in Amman) for confirmation of the samples testing positive for H5N1. At the time we noted that there was no WHO H5N1 Reference Lab or National Influenza Centers based in Jordan to conduct these tests, however, there were 3 WHO Collaborating Centers in the country where the test might have been carried out at one of them. According to the report by the WHO today, confirming that there was no Bird Flu in Iraq, Maria Cheng mentions that the information that they receieved on the Iraqi test samples were requested from the WHO Eastern Mediterranean office, based in Cairo, which was following up the case.

This suggests that the tests were performed initially at a lab in Jordan and later sent to Cairo for futher confirmation, because as we found out, there exists a WHO National Influenza Center in Egypt run by Dr Mostafa Orkhan at the Egyptian Organisation for Biological Products and Vaccines. Additionally, when we queried the WHO Collaborating Centers Database, it was revealed that there is 1 lab in Cairo specific to testing H5N1 samples which is the U.S. Naval Research Unit No. 3 (NAMRU-3) housed at the Research Sciences Directorate near the Abbassia Fever Hospital. he NAMRU-3 lab has been titled as the "WHO Collaborating Centre for Surveillance of Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases" that is headed by Capt. T.W. Sharp and some of the tasks they are responsible for are providing countries of the Region with technical expertise for early laboratory diagnosis of outbreaks associated with emerging or re-emerging bacterial, parasitic & viral infections with epidemic potential, acting as referral center for laboratory diagnosis of communicable diseases and to assist in outbreak investigation, whenever requested by WHO.

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