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Bird flu death in China: Infection source unknown

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
A 39-year old bus driver dies from bird flu in China

A 39-year old bus driver died from bird flu complications in China, raising concerns among authorities that the virus could spread. The source of the man's infection remains unknown.

The man, whose surname was Chen, lived in Shenzhen, which is just across the border from Hong Kong.

According to reports from Guangdong's official newspaper, the Southern Daily, 120 people had been in contact with the man, but none have developed symptoms of bird flu.

Less than two weeks ago Hong Kong culled 17,000 chickens after one tested positive for H5N1. The poultry was being sold at a wholesale poultry market, but the man had not been in contact with poultry in the preceding month.

Officials are concerned about bird flu spreading because many in China will be traveling for the Lunar New Year; crowding buses and trains.

The virus is highly potent and kills 60 percent of those it infects.

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The man was admitted to the hospital with severe pneumonia; and then died of multi-organ failure. He did test positive for the virus.

Recent concerns are that the virus could mutate and spread globally, though it usually is found in birds and transmission to humans is generally considered "inefficient". The last reported case of bird flu in Hong Kong was 18 months ago.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), cases of the virus have been reported in humans since 1997, though the possibility of transmission from birds to humans is supposedly low.

Avian flu can be contracted from handling infected birds and from surfaces contaminated with excrement or other secretions.

There are several subtypes of Avian flu or bird flu, and H5N1 is the most pathogenic form. It is also known as the “HPAI H5N1 virus". Other subtypes that have infected people include H7N7 and H9N2, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Most cases in humans come from direct handling of infected birds.

Another recent case of H5N1 human infection was reported by the WHO on December 21 in Egypt. The man, 29, had contact with backyard poultry and also died from complications. The recent culling of chickens in Hong Kong raised the virus alert to “severe” in the area.

Image credit: Wikimedia commons
Author: woodley wonderworks