Teen Dies of Bird Flu in China

BEIJING (AP) - A 16-year-old boy infected with the H5N1 bird flu
virus has died in central China, the official Xinhua News Agency
said Tuesday, the country's third fatality from the disease this
month.
China, meanwhile, stepped up bird flu precautions on fears that
the virus can spread more quickly in cold weather and as an
estimated 188 million people travel between cities and rural
hometowns for the Lunar New Year holiday, which typically includes
feasts with poultry.
The latest victim was student whose surname was Wu, who had been
in critical condition before dying Tuesday morning in Huaihua, a
city in Hunan province, Xinhua said.
He fell ill Jan. 8 in his hometown in the neighboring province
of Guizhou and was transferred to a hospital in Huaihua on Jan. 16,
Xinhua said. He had had contact with dead poultry, the report said
without giving other details.
The two other bird flu deaths were a 27-year-old woman in
Shandong province in the country's east who died on Saturday and a
19-year-old woman who died in Beijing on Jan. 5.
Also Tuesday, a 2-year-old girl who was critically ill with the
H5N1 virus in Hunan was in stable condition and had returned to her
home in the north, China Central Television said. The report said
the girl had been to live poultry markets "many times" but did
not elaborate.
State and Hong Kong media have reported that the girl's mother
died this month after exihibiting symptoms similar to bird flu but
there has been no official confirmation of the cause of her death.
Health officials have declined to comment on the reports.
Human-to-human transmission of bird flu has happened about a
dozen times, in countries including China, Cambodia, Thailand,
Vietnam, and Turkey. In nearly every case, transmission has
occurred among relatives who have been in close contact, and the
virus has not spread into the wider community.
Until this month, no new human cases had been reported since
February 2007.
Shu Yuelong, a flu expert at China's National Center for Disease
Control and Prevention, said a spike in infections were likely
because the H5N1 virus is more active in cooler temperatures. The
Agriculture Ministry has ordered tighter monitoring of disease
outbreaks at all levels and proper vaccination of all poultry.
Lunar New Year feasts often include dishes made from freshly
slaughtered chicken and duck feature, meaning a potentially greater
risk of exposure to sick birds as people shop in markets for
poultry or when the birds are transported to be sold.
According to World Health Organization, bird flu has killed 249
people worldwide since 2003. The tally does not include Tuesday's
death in China, where 34 infections have been reported.


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