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Sixth person infected with bird flu in China: govt

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Jan 25, 2009
China said Sunday a 29-year-old man had been infected with bird flu, the country's sixth case in just three weeks, sparking fears of an outbreak as the nation celebrated the Lunar New Year.

The patient, surnamed Zhou, fell ill on January 15 in the southwestern province of Guizhou, the country's Ministry of Health said in an online statement.

He tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus and was in a critical condition, the statement said.

Zhou is the sixth person to have become infected with bird flu in three weeks. Four of those patients have died from H5N1.

He had been exposed to live poultry before he fell ill, according to the ministry.

A 31-year-old woman succumbed to the disease on Friday in northwest China's Xinjiang region, and a teenage boy died on Tuesday in the central province of Hunan, although he initially fell ill in Guizhou, like Zhou.

On January 17, a 27-year-old woman died from H5N1 in the eastern province of Shandong.

The latest cases have prompted fears of a bird flu outbreak during the Lunar New Year holiday, which started Sunday and sees tens of millions of Chinese people on the move as they return home for the festivities.

The first fatality of 2009 occurred on January 5 when a 19-year-old woman died in Beijing, while a two-year-old girl in northern China who fell critically ill with the disease was on Friday said to be out of danger.

The number of human victims in 2009 has already exceeded the toll for last year, when three people died, all in January and February.

Local authorities in Guizhou have launched an emergency response, and those who have come into close contact with Zhou are under medical observation, though none has displayed unusual symptoms, the ministry said.

Cold weather encourages the spread of the virus and large swathes of China have been hit by sub-zero temperatures in recent days.

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