Bird Flu :: World Health Organization, experts meet to discuss avian flu treatments

As the number of human cases of avian influenza confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO) rises to 281, with new cases reported in Egypt and Laos, WHO and international experts are meeting in Turkey to discuss how best to treat people who become infected with the highly pathogenic H5N1 form of the bird flu virus.

Since 2003, some 300 million birds have died directly from infection or have been destroyed to keep the virus from spreading, and 169 people have died, most from close contact with sick birds.

The March 19-21 meeting in Antalya, on the Mediterranean coast of southern Turkey, is the second meeting of 100 experts and experienced medical practitioners from hospitals that have treated H5N1 patients. The first meeting was in May 2005 in Hanoi, Vietnam.

?We know more now than we did two years ago,? a WHO spokesman told USINFO March 20. ?A lot of work has gone on between 2005 and now, and there have been twice as many cases. All that combined will mean we have a lot more data to draw from.?

The meeting?s objectives are to summarize H5N1 symptoms and laboratory and pathological findings, encapsulate current knowledge about managing H5N1 infections and identify gaps in H5N1 knowledge and treatment that need research.

During the meeting, participants will summarize the current understanding of features of H5N1 infection like its incubation period, clinical course and duration of viral shedding, and of the pathology and clinical manifestations of H5N1 virus infection in people. Participants also hope to improve understanding of responses to current treatments, including anti-viral drugs.

Following the meeting, a paper describing the results and updating the WHO recommendations for treating H5N1 patients will be published in a medical journal.