A bus driver in southern China who contracted the bird flu virus died yesterday, health authorities said, in that nation’s first reported human case of the deadly disease in 18 months.
The man, surnamed Chen, died in Shenzhen — a boomtown that borders Hong Kong where thousands of chickens have already been culled after three birds tested positive for the H5N1 avian influenza virus in the middle of last month.
He developed a fever on Dec. 21 and was taken to hospital four days later, and diagnosed with severe pneumonia, the health department in Shenzhen said.
The 39-year-old then tested positive for the H5N1 virus, the department said, adding he had apparently not left the city in the month before he fell ill.
The H5N1 virus does not pass easily among humans and the WHO says it has never identified a “sustained human-to-human spread” of the virus since it re-emerged in 2003.
The health department in Guangdong Province, where Shenzhen is located, announced yesterday that the bus driver died after his lung, heart and liver functions deteriorated.
An official at the Shenzhen agriculture and fisheries bureau, surnamed Jiang, said the man apparently had no contact with birds.
In Taiwan, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday said it notified the Council of Agriculture and the Coast Guard Administration to be on alert.
The CDC said it plans to conduct fever examinations for travelers at airports and seaports, as well as question travelers about their contact with birds.
It also called on Taiwanese businesspeople in Guangdong Province, as well as travelers heading to the area, to be mindful of personal sanitation.
It added that constant hand washing and avoiding picking up or coming into contact with birds would lower the chance of catching the H5N1 virus.
Additional reporting by Jake Chung, staff writer