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China reports fifth human victim of bird flu

A woman farmer from China’s northeastern Liaoning province has been diagnosed with bird flu, the fifth person in the country known to have been infected with the deadly virus.
/ Source: Reuters

A woman farmer from China’s northeastern Liaoning province has been diagnosed with bird flu, the fifth person in the country known to have been infected with the deadly virus.

The 31-year-old woman, who has now recovered from her illness, lived in Heishan county where there had been an outbreak of bird flu among poultry and she had been in contact with dead birds, the official Xinhua agency reported.

She went down with a fever and symptoms of pneumonia in late October and was treated at a local hospital. Initial tests for the H5N1 virus were negative, and she went home on November 29.

She was negative for H5N1 in a test by the China Disease Prevention and Control Center, but on December 5, a further test showed she had been infected with bird flu, the report said.

Two women poultry workers died from the disease -- which mostly affects birds -- in eastern Anhui province last month, while a 9-year-old boy survived in southern Hunan province. His dead sister is a suspected case.

China, which has had over 30 outbreaks among birds this year, also reported on Tuesday that a 10-year-old girl was sick with the virus in southern Guangxi region.

Scientists fear the H5N1 strain, now endemic in poultry in parts of Asia, could mutate into a form that can pass easily between people, leading to a human influenza pandemic in which millions could die.

The Chinese government has promised resources and openness in fighting bird flu after being widely criticized for an initial cover-up of the SARS virus in 2003. But Health Minister Gao Qiang has said rural doctors might be ill-equipped and ill-trained to detect cases.

People who were in close contact with the woman from Liaoning were put under close observation, Xinhua said, but none displayed any unusual symptoms.

The World Health Organization, Hong Kong and the governments of some other countries have been notified of the case.