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EPIDEMICS
China bird flu deaths reach 72 this year: government
by Staff Writers
Shanghai (AFP) March 10, 2014


Another Cambodian boy dies of bird flu: hospital
Phnom Penh (AFP) March 10, 2014 - An 11-year-old Cambodian boy has died of bird flu, a hospital official said Monday, the impoverished kingdom's third confirmed fatality -- all children -- from the illness this year.

The boy, who was from northern Kampong Chhnang province, died on Friday morning six hours after he was admitted to hospital, according to Denis Laurent, deputy director of Kantha Bopha Hospital in the capital.

"We tried to do our best... but it was too late and we could not do anything to save him," he told AFP.

Another doctor said the boy had eaten infected poultry.

In an unrelated case, a second boy -- aged eight-years-old -- is in a stable condition in hospital in Phnom Penh after testing positive for the H5N1 deadly flu.

The disease typically spreads from birds to humans through direct contact. But experts fear it could mutate into a form easily transmissible between humans, with the potential to trigger a pandemic.

Authorities have struggled to control bird flu outbreaks in Cambodia, which recorded 14 deaths from the illness last year, the deadliest outbreak of the virus in the country since 2003.

Cambodian children are at particular risk as they often live in close proximity to poultry.

At the start of the month, a three-year-old boy from the outskirts of Phnom Penh died of H5N1.

His death came weeks after that of another eight-year-old boy, from eastern Kratie province. His two-year-old sister died the same day but authorities said tests could not be carried out to confirm she had the virus.

H5N1 has killed hundreds of people worldwide since a major outbreak in 2003, according to the WHO. Vietnam has also recorded two deaths in 2014.

A total of 72 people died from the H7N9 bird flu strain in China in the first two months of this year, government figures showed, far more than in the whole of 2013.

China reported 41 deaths and 99 cases of H7N9 avian influenza in February alone, the National Health and Family Planning Commission said in monthly figures for infectious disease, bringing the total cases this year to 226.

The Asian country recorded 46 deaths and 144 cases for 2013 in an outbreak which started early in the year and returned in the autumn.

Chinese officials and the World Health Organization (WHO) say there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission but there have been "family clusters" -- involving relatives in close contact apparently infecting each other -- since the new strain appeared in people last year.

The virus ignited fears that it could possibly mutate to become easily transmissible between people, which might threaten to trigger a global pandemic.

Experts have pointed to a seasonal rise in cases so far this year, thought to be linked to cold weather.

"It's largely a seasonal weather change thing and nothing else," the WHO representative in China, Bernhard Schwartlander, told reporters late last month.

"The virus just likes to be in the cold -- it survives more easily. Also in the wintertime the (human) respiratory system is a little bit more fragile," he said.

China has responded to the current outbreak by clamping down on live poultry markets and stepping up monitoring of people with symptoms associated with the virus.

Last week Hong Kong confirmed its sixth case of H7N9 bird flu, and the special administrative region of China has banned live poultry imports from the mainland in an effort to control the disease.

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