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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bird Flu breaks Out in Tibet and claims another life in China

The Ministry of Agriculture in China has confirmed there is an outbreak of H5N1 bird flu in Tibet, the second this year. This follows confirmation that a a 22 year old man from central China died of the virus last month.

Chinese authorities said the Tibetan outbreak started on 6th February, in a small community on the outskirts of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, which lies in the Himalayas. The outbreak killed over 100 domestic birds, and since then nearly 8,000 more have had to be culled.

Samples tested in the laboratory over the weekend have proved positive for the deadly H5N1 form of bird flu, according to a report in the Canadian Press, which also says that the authorities have brought in emergency measures in the area.

The earlier bird flu outbreak was reported last month on a poultry farm in the southwest part of the province. That killed 1,000 birds and the farm was put under quarantine regulations.

The 22 year old man who died of bird flu on the 24th of January was confirmed as having had the H5N1 virus, said China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing.

The man, whose name was Li, came from Jianghua County, Yongzhou City, in the central province of Hunan, and was taken into hospital on 22nd of January. His symptoms, fever and headache, started on 16th January. Although he was treated, his symptoms got worse and he died, according to reports from state media.

The province is currently experiencing extreme traffic problems because of low temperatures and severe bad weather with ice, rain and heavy snow, which have also caused blackouts. When this happens it is not unusual for disease and illness rates to go up, but the authorities say they have remained steady so far.

Also, no person who came into close contact with Li has developed symptoms, and they continue to be kept under close medical observation, said the Chinese authorities.

Last month China reported a case of a father and son who had caught bird flu, but officials said that although this was China's first case of bird flu in the same family, there was no evidence that the virus had passed from human to human. The son died early December 2007.

According to Xinghua news agency, the new case has now been reported to the World Health Organization (WHO), and also authorities in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, as well as other foreign governments.

World experts in bird flu suggest it is only a matter of time before the deadly H5N1 virus mutates into a form that passes from human to human as opposed to bird to human. When it does so, they predict a world pandemic will kill millions of people.

According to the WHO, as of 15th February, China has reported 27 confirmed cases of bird flu since 2003, including 17 deaths. Mr. Li's death brings the death toll in China to 18.

Meanwhile in Viet Nam, the Ministry of Health confirmed last week, that a 40 year old man from Gia Loc district, Hai Duong province, died of H5N1 bird flu on 13th February after being taken into hospital 5 days earlier. He developed symptoms on the 2nd of February and it has been confirmed that he had come into contact with sick and dead domestic birds before falling ill.

Local control measures are in place and so far anyone who came into contact with the man is in good health, said the authorities in Viet Nam.

Viet Nam has reported 103 confirmed cases of H5N1 since 2003, of which 49 to date have been fatal, said the WHO.

Worldwide, the number of human cases of H5N1 since reporting began in 2003 totals 361, including 227 deaths, a fatality rate of 63 per cent.

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