China’s 17th human case of bird flu critical

/ Source: The Associated Press

A 21-year-old man in central China was confirmed to be infected with the H5N1 bird flu virus on Tuesday and was in critical condition, the World Health Organization said.

The man worked as a security guard in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, said Aphaluck Bhatiasevi, a spokeswoman for the WHO’s Beijing office.

He became sick on April 1 and was suffering from a high fever, she said. He was diagnosed with pneumonia of unknown causes, she said.

“The likely source of exposure is still under investigation and people who had close contact with him are under medical observation,” Bhatiasevi said.

The man is China’s 17th confirmed human case of bird flu since November on the mainland, where 11 people have died from the disease.

The H5N1 virus has killed 109 people in nine countries, mostly in Asia, according to WHO, and has killed or prompted authorities to destroy 200 million birds.

Also Tuesday, a local Chinese official denied a Hong Kong newspaper report of a mass culling of chickens following a bird flu outbreak in the eastern province of Shandong.

The official, contacted by phone at the Rizhuang county government, said his office had received no word of any bird disease outbreak in the area.

“It’s impossible that something like this could have happened and we weren’t told,” the official said. Like many Chinese bureaucrats he would only identify himself by his surname, Zhang.

China has been criticized in the past for being slow to release details of disease epidemics, especially during its outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome. It became more aggressive after it was sharply criticized abroad, although local officials are still reluctant to divulge information.

Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper reported Tuesday that health workers killed about 8,000 chickens Sunday at a poultry farm in Rizhuang County’s Xingfuzhuang village.

It said the culling followed the deaths from disease of more than 400 chickens at the farm last week. The area is about 310 miles southeast of the capital, Beijing.

Calls to the Shandong provincial Agriculture Bureau rang unanswered.

Bhatiasevi said a request for more information about the newspaper report had been filed with the Health Ministry.