China reports two new cases of bird flu, one dead

By Ian Ransom

BEIJING (Reuters) - A woman in eastern China has died and a 2-year-old girl is critically ill in the north after becoming infected with bird flu, the Chinese Health Ministry said on Sunday.

After not reporting a single human infection in almost a year, China has now confirmed three cases of the H5N1 virus in less than two weeks.

A 27-year-old woman from Jinan, capital of Shandong province, died on Saturday after falling ill on January 5, the Health Ministry said on its website (http://www.moh.gov.cn). It gave her surname as Zhang.

The two-year-old girl, surnamed Peng, was found ill on January 7 in central Hunan province and later diagnosed with bird flu at a hospital in her home province of Shanxi on Saturday, the Ministry said in a separate notice.

Health authorities said earlier this month a woman infected with bird flu had died in Beijing after buying ducks at a market in Hebei province, which surrounds the Chinese capital, sparking emergency checks of local poultry markets.

Experts said the case was not unexpected as the virus is more active during the cooler months between October and March, but pointed to holes in surveillance of the virus in poultry.

China’s Agriculture Ministry said last week it had found no bird flu cases among poultry in Beijing or other areas surrounding the city during checks after the woman’s death.

The H5N1 virus remains largely a disease among birds but experts fear it could change into a form that is easily transmitted among humans, and spark an influenza pandemic that could kill millions of people worldwide.

With the world’s biggest poultry population and hundreds of millions of backyard birds, China is seen as critical in the fight to contain bird flu.

GIRL CRITICAL

The national disease prevention and control center on Sunday confirmed Zhang, the 27-year-old woman, had been infected with bird flu, the Health Ministry said, but did not say how.

“All who came in close contact with her are under strict medical observation, but up until now there have been no abnormal symptoms,” the Ministry said.

No details were provided as to how the two-year-old girl had become infected. There have not been any reports of outbreaks of the virus among birds in Hunan since May 2007.

“Currently, the girl’s condition is critical. Shanxi health departments are currently fighting to save her with the guidance of a team of health experts,” the Health Ministry said.

It added that the World Health Organization (WHO) and health authorities in Hong Kong, Macau and some other countries had been notified.  Continued…

Source

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