On March 16, the Ministry of Health in Laos, officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, reported its second human death from infection with the H5N1 avian influenza virus.
The country?s first death, announced by the Ministry of Health March 8, was a 15-year-old girl from Vientiane province, the capital of Laos, in the Mekong Valley. Her infection was announced February 27 and she died March 7 after being hospitalized in neighboring Thailand.
The most recent death was a 42-year-old woman from Saka village in the Pong Hong district, also in Vientiane province. She developed a fever February 26, was hospitalized in Vientiane Provincial Hospital February 28, and then transferred to Setthathirat Hospital March 1. She died March 4.
Tests performed during an investigation to determine the source of exposure found a duck positive for bird flu in the woman’s household. Close family and hospital contacts are being monitored for possible infection.
Initial testing was conducted by the National Centre for Laboratory and Epidemiology in Laos. In line with WHO policy, samples were sent to a WHO collaborating laboratory in Tokyo for diagnostic verification and further analysis. The collaborating center confirmed H5N1 infection.
According to a March 16 statement, WHO continues to work closely with the Laos government to strengthen case reporting, improve diagnostic capacity and increase local awareness of the disease.