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Bird Flu Found in Man in China; Global Cases Near 200
posted by admin on 20/04/06

April 20 (Bloomberg) -- Bird flu was detected in a man in eastern China, taking the global tally of human cases to almost 200 since 2003, the World Health Organization said. 

The Ministry of Health in China confirmed that a 21-year-old male migrant worker employed in Wuhan City in Hubei province tested positive for the H5N1 strain of avian influenza, the WHO said in a statement on its Web site yesterday. He developed symptoms on April 1 and is in critical condition in the hospital, the WHO said. 

``The man's source of exposure is under investigation,'' the United Nations agency said. 
``No poultry outbreaks have been reported in Hubei Province since November 2005. His close contacts have been placed under medical observation.'' 

China, which raises more than 15 billion poultry each year, is under pressure to control the virus in birds to limit the risk of human infection and reduce opportunities for the virus to mutate into a pandemic form that may kill millions of people. 

The H5N1 virus has killed at least 110 of 196 people infected since late 2003. The tally includes 52 cases and 34 deaths reported since the start of the year. 

More people are becoming infected after at least 33 countries reported initial outbreaks in animals since February. A human case was reported every second day on average in the first three months of this year. The fatality rate rose to one every three days, compared with one a week in the first quarter of 2005. 

Pakistan Infections 

Pakistan's Institute of Medical Sciences is treating two people in critical condition suspected of being infected with the H5N1 virus, the Nation newspaper reported on its Web site today. 

A 25-year-old and a 4-year-old from the village of Sihala were admitted to the hospital in Islamabad yesterday, the newspaper reported. Earlier yesterday, three suspected patients from Sihala village were discharged after being treated at the hospital for two days, the report said. Pakistan confirmed an initial outbreak of H5N1 in birds on Feb. 27. 

A team of WHO officials is assisting local authorities in Sudan after the country's first confirmed outbreak, Agence France-Presse reported yesterday. A poultry farmer who had been hospitalized with suspected avian flu symptoms tested positive for the virus, AFP said, citing an April 18 announcement by Health Minister Tabita Butros Shokaya. Earlier the same day, H5N1 was found in dead poultry in the central states of Khartoum and Gezira, the report said. 

In almost all human H5N1 cases, infection was caused by close contact with sick or dead birds, such as children playing with them, or adults butchering them or taking off the feathers, the Geneva-based WHO said last month. 

$10 Billion Cost 

In Asia, almost 200 million domestic fowl have died or been culled to contain the disease's spread, costing countries more than $10 billion, the World Bank said in January. 

In Indonesia, which has reported the highest number of human infections this year, a 24-year-old man who died last week was confirmed to have been infected with the virus, Hariadi Wibisono, director of vector-borne disease control at the country's health ministry, said yesterday. 

The total number of H5N1 fatalities is a fraction of deaths caused each year by seasonal flu, which usually numbers between 250,000 and 500,000 worldwide, Maria Cheng, a World Health Organization spokeswoman in Geneva, said last week. Most deaths from seasonal flu in developed countries occur in people over 65, she said. 

Pandemic Strain 

A pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges and starts spreading as easily as seasonal flu, through coughing and sneezing, according to the WHO. 

Humans have no natural immunity to the H5N1 virus, making it likely that people who contract any pandemic flu strain based on H5N1 will become more seriously ill than when infected by seasonal flu, the WHO said. A flu pandemic in 1918 killed about 50 million people worldwide. 

European countries need to coordinate and collaborate more in the event of a flu pandemic, according to a study in the medical journal Lancet. 

Some countries' plans for coping with a flu outbreak lack instructions on how medical supplies would be distributed in a timely way, wrote researchers led by Richard Coker, a lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicines. European nations also anticipate varying rates of death, with estimates ranging from 14 to 1,685 for every 100,000 people.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Jason Gale in Melbourne at j.gale@bloomberg.net
Last Updated: April 19, 2006 21:16 EDT


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