Bird Flu Alarm

2006-02-09-China investigates 11th human case of bird flu

Understanding Avian Influenza

2006-02-09-China investigates 11th human case of bird flu

BEIJING (AFP) - China was investigating the cause of its 11th confirmed human bird flu case while pressing on with efforts to stamp out the country's latest outbreak among poultry.

A 26-year-old woman, surnamed Lin from the eastern province of Fujian, tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain after being hospitalised with fever and pneumonia on January 10, the health ministry said in a statement.

"After medical treatment, the patient's condition is currently stable," the statement said, without explaining the delay in reporting the case.

Bird flu has killed seven people in China although 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.

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 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."

Meanwhile, authorities were continuing efforts to eradicate the latest outbreak of bird flu among poultry, in the northern province of Shanxi.

The agriculture ministry said on Wednesday about 15,000 chickens had died from the virus on a large farm in two days last week, and that 187,745 chickens in the area had since been culled to stop its spread.

China has now 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