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Man dies of bird flu in China: report

A 24-year-old man in east China has died of bird flu, becoming the country's 17th fatality from the dreaded H5N1 virus.

world Updated: Dec 03, 2007 18:05 IST

A man in east China has died of bird flu, becoming the country's 17th fatality from the dreaded H5N1 virus, state media reported on Monday.

The 24-year-old was hospitalised on last Tuesday after being diagnosed with Pneumonia, Xinhua news agency reported, citing the Jiangsu provincial health department.

The man's condition deteriorated in hospital and he died on Sunday, according to the report.

Separate tests by the provincial and national disease control centres indicated the man was positive for the H5N1 strain of avian influenza, the agency said, adding the health ministry had confirmed he was infected with bird flu.

The man, surnamed Lu, had no contact with dead poultry, the Jiangsu health department said, according to Xinhua. Jiangsu also had no outbreaks of bird flu, the agency said, citing the provincial animal husbandry bureau.

"Currently we have not figured out how he contracted the bird flu," a female official with the Jiangsu provincial health department, who refused to provide her name, told AFP. She declined to offer further information.

A total of 69 people who had close contact with Lu had been put under medical observation but none had so far shown any symptoms, Xinhua said.

With the latest case, the virus has so far infected at least 26 people in China, 17 of whom died. The country's previous bird flu fatality was a teenage soldier who died in June.

While the disease is usually associated with contact with infected birds, China has a widespread poultry vaccination programme and only one confirmed human bird flu case has followed a matching outbreak in poultry.

After Lu's death, relevant government departments performed immediate inspections in marketplaces where live poultry was sold, finding no evidence of the virus, Xinhua said.

China conducted a huge campaign last year to contain the disease, aggressively slaughtering tens of thousands of poultry and stepping up public education efforts.

Vice Agriculture Minister Yin Chengjie however warned in September this year that much of the country remained ill-equipped to prevent the spread of bird flu.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed 206 people worldwide since 2003, according to the latest World Health Organisation figures.

Scientists fear that H5N1 will eventually mutate into a form that is much more easily transmissible between humans, triggering a global pandemic.

A UN and World Bank report last week warned that the world remained unprepared to cope with a human pandemic arising from bird flu.