China reports sixth human case of bird flu

A 35-year-old man in eastern China became infected with the deadly H5N1 virus after an outbreak was reported in ducks in his village, making him the country's sixth human case of bird flu, state media said Friday. The self-employed vendor in Suichuan County in the eastern province of Jiangxi fell ill on Dec. 4 with a fever and symptoms of pneumonia, the China Daily said, citing a Health Ministry statement.

The man, identified only by his surname, Guo, was recovering in the hospital, the newspaper said. Two farmers, both women, in the eastern province of Anhui died of the disease last month. A 9-year-old boy in China's central Hunan province and a 31-year-old farmer from northeast Liaoning province have recovered. A 10-year-old girl in Guangxi province in the south has undergone emergency treatment. Some 1,640 ducks in Guo's village died of bird flu and 319,600 birds in the surrounding area were destroyed to stop the outbreak, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Xinhua did not give any details on when the outbreak occurred or if Guo had contact with infected birds. It said 91 people who had been in close contact with Guo had been hospitalized for medical observation. So far, no abnormal symptoms have been found, it said.

Coops and tools around the culled birds have been disinfected, Xinhua said, along with roads and houses near the village. Checkpoints have also been set up to monitor people and vehicles entering and leaving the area, it said.

The newly reported cases were a setback for official efforts to contain the disease after the government said Wednesday that China had no new cases for the past 15 days.

The country's top veterinary official warned that China should brace itself for new outbreaks in the winter and spring. Jia Youling said the Lunar New Year holiday in January will raise the risk of the disease spreading because millions of people will travel and there will be an upsurge in poultry shipments to supply family banquets. The virulent H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed at least 71 people in Asia since 2003. Most cases have been linked to contact with infected birds.

Experts say repeated outbreaks in poultry are increasing the risk that the virus could mutate into a form that can jump easily between people, possibly sparking a global pandemic that could kill millions, reports the AP. I.L.

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