China has first avian flu case in months

Jan 10, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed today that a 37-year-old man from China's Anhui province is recovering from H5N1 avian influenza, the country's first case in nearly 5 months, while hospital officials in Indonesia said one of two avian flu patients there died today.

The Chinese man, from the town of Tunxi in eastern China, about 170 miles west of Shanghai, developed avian flu symptoms Dec 10 and was hospitalized Dec 17, the WHO reported. A statement from the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection said the man, a farmer, had fever and pneumonia and tested positive for H5N1 on Jan 8 at a China Centre for Disease Control laboratory.

He was discharged Jan 6 and is recovering well, according to the WHO. The agency counts his illness as China's 22nd human case of avian flu, 14 of which have been fatal.

The WHO said information submitted about the man's illness indicates he may have kept a number of birds in his back yard. There are no indications yet that the man was exposed to diseased birds, but the WHO said an investigation is underway.

Close contacts of the man were placed under medical observation, but they are well and were released Dec 29, the WHO report noted.

The man's illness raises questions about how the virus is circulating in China, the country's WHO representative, Henk Bekedam, told Reuters today. He said no poultry outbreaks were reported where the man lived. Improvements in poultry vaccination rates in China could make it more difficult for authorities to detect a circulating virus, he said.

China's last H5N1 case was reported Aug 14, when the WHO confirmed that a 62-year-old farmer from Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in the northwestern part of the country had died of the illness in July. When the WHO confirmed the case, it reported that an investigation had found no history of exposure to dead or diseased birds. The man had no history of travel the month before he got sick, and no poultry outbreaks were reported near his home.

In Indonesia, a 14-year-old boy who had tested positive for H5N1 avian flu died at Persahabatan Hospital today, the hospital's deputy director, Tjandra Yoga Aditama, told the Associated Press. The boy died 4 days after he was admitted to the hospital.

Yesterday he was confirmed by the WHO as Indonesia's 75the case-patient; his death raises the country's H5N1 death toll to 58. Indonesia leads the world's in H5N1 deaths and ranks second behind Vietnam in number of cases.

The boy was from Tangerang, on the western outskirts of Jakarta. A 37-year-old woman from the same area has also tested positive for avian flu and is being treated at the same hospital where the boy was. The WHO listed her yesterday as Indonesia's 76th case-patient.

In other developments, Vietnamese officials have confirmed that H5N1 avian flu has struck poultry in a fourth province, Kien Giang, in the southern Mekong Delta. In December, outbreaks were reported in neighboring Ca Mau, Bac Lieu, and Hau Giang provinces. They were the country's first outbreaks in a year.

"Our biggest problem in preventing the virus from spreading is the failure to enforce the government ban of hatching and restocking ducks," Dinh Cong Than, director of the Kien Giang provincial department of animal health, told Canadian Press (CP) today.

The government instituted the ban more than a year ago, but most farmers ignored it, and government figures show that 50 million to 70 million ducks have been restocked since then, CP reported. Ducks can carry the H5N1 virus without showing signs of illness.

"For farmers in the Mekong Delta, rice and ducks are their biggest sources of income. It's therefore very difficult to ban them from raising ducks," Than said.

See also:

Jan 10 WHO statement

Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection press release

Aug 14 WHO statement

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