China Loses The Fourth Victim To Avian Flu In 2009

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In an alarming development Avian flu has claimed a fourth death in China in 2009.

The Associated Press reports that a 31-year-old woman from a far western region in China died Friday from the H5N1 strain of bird flu, the same strain that has caused the deaths of 251 people since the World Health Organization (WHO) started keeping statistics in 2003.

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The other three deaths appear not to be related, the wire service reports, coming in three different geographic regions. In all, 22 people in China have died from this strain of flu since 2003, the A.P. reports. As in all other human cases reported by WHO, this incident of bird flu appeared to be contracted by contact with poultry or fowl and not transmitted from human to human.

Scientists have been carefully monitoring avian flu outbreaks, in which millions of birds have been put to death, to see whether the H5N1 virus has mutated. The fear is that a mutation causing human-to-human infection could lead to a worldwide influenza pandemic.

Chinese officials are increasing their monitoring of bird flu outbreaks, the A.P. reports, because the Lunar New Year holiday will be celebrated next week, and there will be more contact with chickens and ducks as holiday meals are prepared.

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