Bird flu claims second victim in China


A man in southwest China who contracted the bird flu virus died on Sunday, health authorities said, the second human death from the virulent disease in the country in just under a month.
The news comes after neighbouring Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia also reported deaths from avian influenza, and after chickens tested positive for the H5N1 virus in Hong Kong, prompting a mass cull of birds. The latest Chinese victim fell ill on January 6 and was admitted to hospital in Guiyang — capital of Guizhou province — where his condition rapidly deteriorated, the provincial health department said in a statement.
Tests on the patient before he died confirmed he had contracted the H5N1 virus, it added. “So far, 71 people who had close contact with the victim have not developed abnormal symptoms,” the health department said. He is the second man to die from bird flu in China in less than a month, after a bus driver in the southern province of Guangdong passed away from the disease on December 31. The latest death brings to 28 the number of people in China who have died from the disease — which is fatal in humans in about 60 percent of cases — since 2003, out of 42 reported human cases. The Hong Kong Department of Health said in a statement Sunday it had been notified of the case by the mainland’s health authorities, which said the patient was 39 years old.
Authorities from Hong Kong and the mainland have been working closely together since three chickens in the Chinese territory tested positive for the H5N1 virus in mid December. Most human infections are the result of direct contact with infected birds, and the virus does not pass easily among humans.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says it has never identified a “sustained human-to-human spread” of the virus since it re-emerged in 2003. But according to the Hong Kong health department, the Guizhou province victim, who has not been named, had not reported any obvious exposure to poultry before the onset of symptoms.
The Guangdong victim, whose surname was Chen, had not had any direct contact with poultry either in the month before he was taken ill, nor had he left the bustling southern metropolis of Shenzhen where he lived.