IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Bird flu spreads to far western China

China on Thursday said bird flu has spread to a far western region, while Indonesia reported its first outbreak of the virus in the tsunami-ravaged Aceh province.
/ Source: The Associated Press

China on Thursday announced the spread of bird flu to a far western region, while Indonesia reported its first outbreak of the virus in the tsunami-ravaged Aceh province where hundreds of chickens have died from the disease.

The Nov. 17 outbreak in Turpan, a city in China’s Xinjiang region, killed 11 birds and prompted the destruction of 5,180 more, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing the Agriculture Ministry.

News of the outbreak — China’s 21st in recent weeks — came a day after the country confirmed its second human death from bird flu.

A 35-year-old farmer identified only by her surname, Xu, died Tuesday after coming into contact with infected poultry and developing a fever and pneumonia-like symptoms, Xinhua said, citing the Health Ministry.

The woman, who lived in Xiuning County in the eastern province of Anhui, tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus, Xinhua said.

The area is about 60 miles northwest of Zongyang County, where the country’s first human bird flu death was reported — 24-year-old poultry farmer who died Nov. 10.

China has confirmed one other human bird flu case, a 9-year-old boy who recovered.

Bird flu has killed more than 100 million birds in Asia since 2003, and has jumped to humans, killing at least 67 people in the region, according to the World Health Organization. The WHO figures did not include the latest death in China.

Experts have warned the virus may mutate into a form that is easily passed between people and trigger a global pandemic.

Virus in tsunami-area
Indonesia’s Agriculture Ministry said chickens have been infected with H5N1 in at least three districts in Aceh, where tens of thousands of survivors of the Dec. 26 tsunami still live in crowded refugee camps.

Hundreds of chickens have died, said Sjamsul Bahri, the ministry’s director of animal health. He said bird flu has now been found in 23 of Indonesia’s 30 provinces. The virus has killed seven people in Indonesia.

In Vietnam, the country hardest-hit by the disease, a 15-year-old boy from the northern port city of Haiphong tested positive for H5N1. He was hospitalized and expected to recover, said Nguyen Van Binh, deputy director of the Ministry of Health’s Preventive Medicine Department.

The Tourism Administration of Vietnam ordered tour operators not to take foreigners near areas where bird flu outbreaks have been reported, said Vu The Binh, director of the central Tourism Department.

Most major hotels and restaurants in Vietnam have stopped serving poultry.

But Binh said bird flu has not yet affected the country’s tourism industry, with at least 3 million foreign arrivals this year.

China to test vaccine
Also Thursday, the state-run China Daily newspaper reported that China was “within days” of testing a bird flu vaccine on 100 people between the ages of 18 to 60.

If approved, the vaccine will first be given to high-risk groups, such as veterinary and laboratory workers and poultry farmers in infected areas, Lu Zhenyou, a spokesman for Sinovac Biotech, one of the developers, was quoted as saying.

There are currently no human vaccines against the virus, although the drug Tamiflu is one of the few believed effective in treating it.

China had tried to be aggressive and open in dealing with bird flu after coming under criticism for being reticent during the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

Drug concerns in Japan
Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper, meanwhile, reported that the country’s prefectures, or states, only had enough stockpiles of the anti-flu drug Tamiflu for 37,400 people — less than 1 percent of the Health Ministry’s recommendation.

Five of Japan’s 47 prefectures reported having no stockpiles, while a sixth did not release information, the newspaper said.

The ministry’s bird flu action plan calls for prefectures to be able to treat 10.5 million people.

Local officials cited cost as one reason for the small stockpiles, the Asahi said.

Bird flu hit Japan last year for the first time in decades. There has been one confirmed human case, although nobody has died.