Thu, Jan 22, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Beijing seeks to assuage fears of bird flu epidemic

AFP , BEIJING

China sought yesterday to allay fears over the threat of a bird flu pandemic after three people died from the disease this month and a fourth person remained critically ill.

There was no evidence that the potential for an outbreak of the disease was on the rise, China’s health ministry said in a statement.

“The four cases separately came from different provinces. There is no epidemiological connection between them; they are sporadic cases,” the ministry said.

A 16-year-old boy died on Tuesday from the H5N1 strain of avian influenza in Hunan Province.

A 27-year-old woman in Shandong Province also succumbed to the disease on Saturday, while the first fatality occurred on Jan. 5 when a 19-year-old woman died in Beijing.

The total number of reported deaths in China since the virus re-emerged in 2003 now stands at 23.

A two-year-old girl, meanwhile, is still critically ill in Shanxi Province, the ministry said.

The toddler’s mother died this month of severe pneumonia, sparking concern that she may actually have had bird flu and passed it on to her daughter.

Scientists have long feared the virus could mutate to a form that could jump easily from human to human, potentially sparking a pandemic.

The health ministry said it was unable to do tests to confirm whether the mother had died of avian influenza, as no samples were collected when she passed away.

But it added it was unlikely the girl caught bird flu from her mother.

“We cannot be sure that the patient’s mother had bird flu, and investigations show the patient had been exposed to live poultry markets,” the statement said.

“Therefore, we believe the patient’s infection most likely came from a live poultry market or another unknown exposure,” it said.

The WHO says about 250 people have died from bird flu worldwide since 2003.China sought yesterday to allay fears over the threat of a bird flu pandemic after three people died from the disease this month and a fourth person remained critically ill.

There was no evidence that the potential for an outbreak of the disease was on the rise, China’s health ministry said in a statement.

“The four cases separately came from different provinces. There is no epidemiological connection between them; they are sporadic cases,” the ministry said.

A 16-year-old boy died on Tuesday from the H5N1 strain of avian influenza in Hunan Province.

A 27-year-old woman in Shandong Province also succumbed to the disease on Saturday, while the first fatality occurred on Jan. 5 when a 19-year-old woman died in Beijing.

The total number of reported deaths in China since the virus re-emerged in 2003 now stands at 23.

A two-year-old girl, meanwhile, is still critically ill in Shanxi Province, the ministry said.

The toddler’s mother died this month of severe pneumonia, sparking concern that she may actually have had bird flu and passed it on to her daughter.

Scientists have long feared the virus could mutate to a form that could jump easily from human to human, potentially sparking a pandemic.

The health ministry said it was unable to do tests to confirm whether the mother had died of avian influenza, as no samples were collected when she passed away.

But it added it was unlikely the girl caught bird flu from her mother.

“We cannot be sure that the patient’s mother had bird flu, and investigations show the patient had been exposed to live poultry markets,” the statement said.

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