Chinese woman dies of bird flu25th February 2008
Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have confirmed the death of a woman in the province from avian influenza.
The woman, a 44 year-old migrant worker who was working in Haifeng county in the eastern part of the province, probably contracted the virus after eating infected poultry that she kept in her backyard, the provincial government said.
Her samples had tested positive for H5N1 carried out by the Guangdong Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. The Health Ministry in Beijing has yet to confirm the result.
Thomas Tsang, controller of the Centre for Health Protection in neighbouring Hong Kong, said the woman kept chickens that had got sick and died during the incubation period of her illness.
Tsang said the most likely route of transmission was from the sick poultry she kept and that she was mostly likely to have acquired avian influenza from this source.
While well-cooked meat is safe, experts have warned the public about handling H5N1-tainted animals or meat without protection.
The woman first sought treatment from a local clinic for fever, cough and pneumonia after falling ill, according to a statement released on the provincial health department's website.
She was admitted to the Haifeng county hospital, but her condition was too serious by that stage for treatment to work, the statement said.
The woman's death is the third confirmed from bird flu in China this year; one was reported in the central province of Hunan, while another occurred in the southwestern region of Guangxi.
A man in the eastern province of Jiangsu also died in December from the disease, which has ripped through poultry flocks in East Asia since 2003.
China has the world's biggest poultry population, with a large proportion of birds roaming around, belonging to individual smallholders.
The health authorities have struggled to contain a number of outbreaks, ordering mass culls and launching widespread inoculation and biosecurity campaigns in the countryside, which is home to 900 million people.
The Guangdong statement said there were no signs that anyone who had had contact with the woman had developed symptoms so far.
International experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that is easily transmissible between humans, sparking a global pandemic that could kill millions.
In Hong Kong, Tsang said the authorities would step up biosecurity controls on poultry and people coming into the former British colony, with mandatory testing of any person showing signs of pneumonia who has visited Guangdong in the past six months.
Of the 29 human cases confirmed to date in China, 19 have been fatal. According to WHO data, there have been 232 human deaths globally from the H5N1 strain and 366 confirmed cases of infection since 2003.
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