Bird Flu Alarm

2006-02-09-China places 35 people under observation amid bird flu outbreak

Understanding Avian Influenza

2006-02-09-China places 35 people under observation amid bird flu outbreak

BEIJING (AFP) - Health authorities in northern China have placed 35 people under observation after 15,000 fowl died of bird flu on the farm where they were working, state media said.

The Xinhua news agency, citing government sources in Shanxi province, said the 35 workers had been confined to their homes in Yangquan city and were receiving twice-daily medical check-ups.

Authorities have confirmed that the H5N1 strain of bird flu killed 15,000 head of poultry on their farm and said 187,745 more had been culled in the affected area to prevent the disease spreading.

On Wednesday, the health ministry announced China's 11th human case of bird flu. The 26-year-old woman, surnamed Lin, from the eastern province of Fujian, tested positive for H5N1 after being hospitalized with fever and pneumonia on January 10 but was in a stable condition, it said.

Bird flu has killed seven people in China.

The Fujian Daily reported Thursday that Lin was out of quarantine and expected to leave hospital soon.

Like most of the other human cases in China, no outbreak among animals was detected in Zhangpu county where Lin lived, emphasising the inability of authorities to effectively monitor the disease.

The Fujian provincial agricultural department has collected 319 poultry samples within a three-kilometre (1.8-mile) radius of Lin's home, but all have tested negative, the Fujian Daily said.

Julie Hall, a Beijing-based World Health Organisation (WHO) expert, said that although the WHO was still awaiting information about what caused the latest human infection, the case appeared to have followed a familiar pattern.

"What we've seen in quite a number of other cases in China is that the Ministry of Agriculture has not been able to identify viruses in the animals in that area," Hall said.

"But there certainly have been reports from the health authorities and patients themselves that animals in their areas have been dying and have been sick for some weeks prior to their onset of their illness."

Hall said she was not surprised by the latest case.

"We believe the virus is endemic in parts of China and certainly endemic in the wild birds. Many poultry flocks in China remain vulnerable to infections."

China has reported 34 H5N1 outbreaks among poultry since the beginning of last year, with most appearing since October.

"We would anticipate that there would be a continued number of these types of cases, unfortunately, throughout the winter," Hall said.

The WHO says of the 165 confirmed cases of bird flu in humans detected since 2003, 88 people have died. Most of the victims have been in Asia, although four have died this year in Turkey and two in northern Iraq.

The World Organisation for Animal Health confirmed on Wednesday H5N1 had been detected for the first time in Africa, wiping out 40,000 battery hens on a farm in northern Nigeria.

Understanding Avian Influenza