First case of new influenza A (H1N1) identified in Lao PDR

Vientiane, 16 June 2009

Lao PDR's first case of new influenza A (H1N1) was confirmed on Tuesday, 16 June 2009 by the National Center for Laboratory and Epidemiology (NCLE).

The infected person does not require hospitalisation and is currently isolated at home. He is recovering well with a mild illness that did not require treatment with Tamiflu medication. While the identity of the person cannot be made public, it can be shared that the person recently travelled from a country with confirmed cases of Influenza A (H1N1). All close contacts of this person are being contacted and monitored for symptoms of infection in order to minimize the spread of infection in the community.

A sample was collected from the patient on the afternoon of 15 June, and was sent to NCLE for testing. The positive result was confirmed on 16 June using Real-Time RT-PCR testing with materials specifically designed to detect the new A (H1N1) influenza, provided by USCDC. An emergency meeting was convened hours later by the Health Minister and key health officials.

Since the new A (H1N1) influenza strain was reported from Mexico in April, NCLE has been actively looking for new cases of the infection in the country. The Government says Laos' preparations for dealing with a pandemic are well underway, including clinical management and disease control training of health professionals at national, provincial and district levels, community outreach and control measures at border crossings.

The Health Minister, Dr Ponmek Dalaloy says that the public also has an important role to play in controlling the spread of infections like influenza: "Stay at home if you're sick, cover your cough, blow your nose or spit into disposable tissues and dispose of them in waste baskets, wash your hands frequently with soap and limit your contact with people whom you think might be sick." In addition, it is advisable for household members of people who have fever and respiratory symptoms to monitor their own health for flu symptoms, and limit their contact with others in the community.

Although this is the first case reported in the Lao PDR, Dr. Dong Il Ahn, the representative of the World Health Organization in the Lao PDR anticipates there will be further cases in the country. He advised, "All members of the community who develop any signs of influenza such as fever with a cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches and aching joints should contact a health professional immediately for advice."

While the vast majority of persons with Influenza A (H1N1) recover without requiring Tamiflu medication, WHO is ensuring sufficient supplies exist for Lao PDR in the event that they are deemed medically necessary. The Organization is handing over 9,240 treatment courses to Lao PDR health authorities today.

As of 16 June 2009, there were 35,928 confirmed cases of new influenza A (H1N1) in 76 countries with 163 deaths.

The WHO pandemic alert level for new influenza A (H1N1) was raised to Phase 6 last week. This is the highest alert level and indicates that a global pandemic is underway. WHO's pandemic alert levels are based on geographical spread and not on severity of the disease, which is currently rated as 'moderate'.

Members of the public with questions or wishing to report influenza-like illnesses can call the NEIDCO Hotline on 166.

For more information about influenza A (H1N1), please visit the WHO Website at www.who.int or contact your health care provider.

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Media inquiries should be directed to:

Lao PDR: Dr. Bounlay Phommasack, Tel: 856 21 264 324, 264 325; fax: 264 326 at NEIDCO office; email: neidco@laopdr.com; or

WHO Lao office: Ms Catherine Cochrane: [+856] 20 514 1105 or cochranec@wpro.who.int