Asian bird flu is back in the headlines again this week, after a woman in Thailand died from the infection H5N1. Medical experts believe that the death was caused by human contact, a fact that could force a re-think over regulations to contain the spread of the disease on poultry farms.
An increasing number of human-to-human transmission of bird flu could mean that regulations to contain outbreaks of the disease in poultry farms will become even stricter. Industry experts says that introduction even stricter veterinary measures, including upping quarantine regulations and greater supervision of individuals working to clean out infected farms, could be the way forward.
The Ministry Public Health in Thailand confirmed that this was the second death from H5N1 since July, an indication that the disease is starting to resurface in humans again. The first human outbreak in the country came at the beginning of the year and claimed 8 victims, bringing the total number to ten.
The latest victim, a 26-year old woman is thought to have contracted the disease after visiting her daughter in hospital. The daughter died a week before her mother after suffering symptoms similar to bird flu, although no official diagnosis was made for her. Further to this, another family member, the mother's sister, also contracted H5N1, but is now said to be making a recovery.
According to the World Health Organisation, Thai officials have concluded that the mother could have acquired the infection either from an environmental source or while caring for her daughter - representing a probable case of human-to-human transmission.
While the investigation into the outbreak amongst family clusters is ongoing, the World Health Organisation has emphasised the fact that the evidence of human-to-human transmission of the disease is still very limited and that other than this one incident, no wider outbreak has occurred in the immediate community.
So far bird flu has had a devastating effect on the poultry industry in the Asia Pacific region, with tens of millions of birds having to be killed in an effort to contain the outbreak. And with fresh outbreaks occurring in countries such as Malaysia in recent weeks, it seems that the industry still has a long way to go before the disease is completely contained.
Only last week the World Health Organisation declared that the bird flu was a continuing 'crisis of global importance', stressing that the virus looked set to circulate further in Eastern Asia - an unusually stark warning for the body.