expert called in
By Santhush Fernando and Mahangu Weerasinghe
Despite earlier claims that the flu epidemic virus
in the south and Sabaragamuwa had been identified as Influenza B,
health authorities are again expressing uncertainty about what it
Sunday Times learns that the Medical Research Institute has made
arrangements to send samples to the University of Hong Kong for
testing. Dr. Malik Peiris, the virologist responsible for the discovery
of the SARS coronavirus will play a vital role in these tests.
to the Epidemiological Unit of the Ministry of Health and other
sources, the disease has so far caused nine deaths islandwide. About
80 suspected cases have been reported so far, and the people in
the south and Sabaragamuwa are gripped by fear and panic, with many
business and public institutions in affected areas bringing their
work to a halt. Thirty patients are currently being treated in the
Embilipitiya Hospital with another 21 being treated at the IDH.
poultry farm in the Embilipitiya area was closed on Thursday as
fears rose over the presence of bird flu in the area. But the Epidemiological
Unit denies any connection between the closing of the farm and the
spread of the mystery flu. "Tests were done and the Matara
District Veterinary Officer has cleared the farm of having Avian
Influenza," said Dr. Sinha Wickramasekara of the Epidemiological
Unit. "It was found that the bird deaths were caused by the
Avian Lukosis virus which poses no threat to humans," he said.