China declares 41 people healthy after connection with bird flu fatality

China has given a clean bill of health to 41 people who came in contact with a woman who died of bird flu, state media said. However, the residents of eastern Anhui province will receive follow-up checkups, the official Xinhua News Agency said Wednesday. It did not give any more details. The 35-year-old woman, a farmer from Xiuning County, developed pneumonia-like symptoms after coming in contact with sick and dead poultry and died Nov. 22. She was the country's second confirmed human fatality from bird flu.

On Nov. 10, a 24-year-old farmer who lived in Anhui's Zongyang County died of the same symptoms. One other human case has been confirmed in the central province of Hunan, but the 9-year-old boy has recovered. Telephones at county and provincial health bureaus were not answered Thursday. The Anhui Health Department earlier said the 41 under observation included relatives of the 35-year-old woman and the medical staff who treated her.

Outbreaks of bird flu in China's poultry are still occurring despite stepped-up prevention and surveillance measures. There have been 25 outbreaks in chickens, ducks and geese reported across the country since Oct. 19.

Health Minister Gao Qiang said Wednesday that China was not hiding information about bird flu but that officials in rural areas may not detect cases as quickly as they should.

"Bird flu is mostly occurring in rural areas, and sometimes in very remote mountainous areas where local health conditions are very poor ... local health staff are not very competent," Gao said at a news conference. "I am afraid those people will not be able to identify, diagnose and treat the epidemic early enough."

The latest was case was in Xinyuan, a county in the far northwestern region of Xinjiang, where 300 birds died on Nov. 24, Xinhua said. Authorities culled more than 118,000 poultry within a three-kilometer (two-mile) radius as a precaution, it said, reports the AP. I.L.

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