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China reassures over bird flu, says no outbreak

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Jan 8, 2009
China said Thursday there was no outbreak of the deadly bird flu disease in Beijing and neighbouring areas after a woman died of the virus in the capital.

The death Monday of 19-year-old Huang Yanqing was China's first in nearly a year, highlighting the increased risk of the H5N1 virus during winter.

The Agriculture Ministry said in an online statement that, after monitoring and investigations, officials in the area "did not find any outbreak of bird flu".

Beijing, the coastal city of Tianjin and surrounding Hebei province -- where Huang reportedly bought nine ducks suspected of being the source of her infection -- were checked for bird flu after the incident.

Huang, who lived in Beijing, apparently contracted the disease on December 24 after cleaning the ducks' internal organs.

The Beijing Municipal Health Bureau also issued a statement Thursday saying it would lift the city's emergency response if no new cases emerged.

"If the last person to have had contact with the patient has no abnormal symptoms within seven days, and the city has no new cases, Beijing will end its emergency response," said Deng Xiaohong, deputy head of the bureau.

Authorities in the capital have stepped up monitoring of live poultry trade after Huang's death, with experts inspecting slaughterhouses and poultry farms.

The official Xinhua news agency has said 116 people -- 14 of Huang's relatives and 102 medical workers -- had come in contact with her and that one, a nurse, had contracted a fever but recovered.

H5N1 bird flu has now killed 248 people since it reappeared in Asia in 2003, according to the World Health Organisation. Twenty-one of the deaths have been in China.

Scientists fear the virus could eventually mutate into a form more easily transmissible between humans, triggering a global pandemic.

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Zimbabwe cholera epidemic death toll stands at 1,778: WHO
Geneva (AFP) Jan 7, 2009
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