Two more people hospitalized with bird flu in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan's health officials said Thursday that two more people had been hospitalized with bird flu in the ex-Soviet Caspian Sea nation, where the disease has claimed five lives so far.

Health Minister Oqtay Shiraliyev said that four of the five victims, who died earlier this month, were residents of one village, and three were members of one family. He said at a news conference that the victims apparently had contracted the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu when they were plucking feathers from dead swans.

Shiraliyev's deputy, Abbas Velibekov, said two sisters from the same family, a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old, were hospitalized with bird flu symptoms. Their blood samples were sent to a London laboratory for a confirmation of the diagnosis, he said.

The outbreak in Azerbaijan was first detected last month in wild birds along the Caspian Sea coast. It has spread to the northeast and the southwest, near the border with Iran.

Azerbaijan shares a short border with Turkey, where four children died recently of the disease.

The World Health Organization said at least 105 people died from H5N1 since 2003. Almost all of the human deaths have been linked to contact with infected poultry, but experts fear H5N1 could mutate into a form that spreads easily among people, sparking a human flu pandemic, reports AP.

According CBS News, an experimental bird flu vaccine seems to work. But it's nowhere near ready for prime time.

That's the word from U.S.-sponsored clinical trials of an H5N1 bird flu vaccine made by Sanofi Pasteur. The study shows that two shots of the vaccine given four weeks apart -- at the highest dose tested -- give what should be protective immunity to 50% of healthy adults.

High doses. Limited effectiveness. This means the current vaccine isn't likely to stem a deadly pandemic if the bird flu starts spreading among people.


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