Reuters: Iran’s health minister on Tuesday denied that tests on two dead pneumonia patients had shown they had the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus and insisted the results were negative. GENEVA (Reuters) – Iran’s health minister on Tuesday denied that tests on two dead pneumonia patients had shown they had the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus and insisted the results were negative.
Health Minister Kamran Lankarani told Reuters on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva: “Fortunately, these two cases were negative for avian flu. There is no confirmed case til now.”
On Monday, an Iranian medical official in the country said tests on the bodies of a brother and sister who died after falling ill with pneumonia-like symptoms in the northwestern city of Kermanshah showed they had the deadly H5N1 strain.
Samples have been sent to international laboratories for further tests, and if the initial results are confirmed, these would be the first human bird flu deaths in Iran.
But in Cairo, the WHO’s regional adviser for emerging diseases, Hassan al-Bushra, said the agency had also been told that the results in Iran were negative for bird flu.
“The (Iranian) director general for center of disease control, ministry of health and medical education has verbally informed the WHO office in Iran that there have been no H5N1 positive human cases reported so far,” he said.
He said so far WHO’s regional office had not received any samples from Iran for testing.
The virus has killed people in neighboring Turkey, Iraq and Azerbaijan in recent months, while Afghanistan has had outbreaks in poultry. Iran found the virus in wild swans in February.
The Iranian siblings, a brother aged 41 and sister, 26, were among five family members who fell ill.
“They had all returned from a trip to the town of Marivan when they fell ill with symptoms of staphylococcal pneumonia,” an Iranian medical official told Reuters in Tehran, adding that the brother and sister had tested positive locally for H5N1.
Lankarani said Iran had tightened its surveillance since cases were detected in neighboring states.
“This was alarming and a signal to us, so we strengthened surveillance,” he said.