Bird-flu victim 'had no direct contact with poultry'

Alarm in China after bus driver dies, and, in nearby Hong Kong, 19,000 chickens have been slaughtered

A Chinese bus driver who tested positive for the H5N1 bird flu virus died yesterday, a week after being admitted to hospital with a fever. He was the country's first reported case of the disease in humans in 18 months, and the circumstances in which he contracted the disease are worryingly uncertain.

During the month prior to becoming ill, Mr Chen, aged 39, apparently had no direct contact with poultry and had not travelled out of his home city of Shenzhen. This is a metropolis of 10 million people, separated only by the Shenzhen River from Hong Kong, where thousands of birds were slaughtered after two were confirmed to have the virus last week.

H5N1 rarely infects humans and usually only those who come into close contact with poultry. Among those infected, up to 60 per cent die, and scientists are perpetually watching the virus for any signs that it is becoming more easily transmissible from human to human. While it transmits less easily between humans, there have been clusters of infections in people in Indonesia and Thailand.

Since 2003, there have been 336 human deaths from 573 confirmed bird flu cases around the world. Of these, 40 cases were in China, 26 of which were fatal. So far, the 120 people identified as having close contact with Mr Chen have not developed any abnormal symptoms.

Mr Chen's death comes a week after two dead birds tested positive for the virus in Hong Kong. More than 19,000 birds at a Hong Kong market were later slaughtered, and imports and sales of live poultry banned for three weeks. Tests confirmed an oriental magpie robin found dead on 17 December was also infected.

China's last reported human case of H5N1 was in June 2010, when a pregnant 22-year-old woman from Hubei Province died after being exposed to sick and dead poultry.

The virus is normally found in birds, but it can jump to people who do not have immunity to it. Researchers worry that it could mutate into a form that would spread around the world and kill millions. In recent years, the virus has become active in various parts of the world, mainly in east Asia, during the cooler months.

The authorities in China are particularly concerned about the spread of infectious diseases as millions will travel in crowded buses and trains across the country to go home for the Lunar New Year on 23 January. The virus also kills migratory birds, but species that manage to survive can carry and disperse the virus to new, uninfected locations.

On Friday, the World Health Organisation warned that dangerous scientific information could fall into the wrong hands after US government-funded researchers engineered a form of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus more easily transmissible between humans. Earlier last week, the US National Institutes of Health asked scientists at Erasmus University Medical Centre in the Netherlands and the University of Wisconsin-Madison to refrain from publishing full details of their work on how to make the H5N1 virus more easily transmissible between humans. This prompted concern in the scientific community that researchers with a legitimate need to know about these dangerous mutations, particularly in Asia, would be prevented from accessing the data.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
News
news

Watch this commuter make a mad 320-metre, 75-step dash to work
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK edition of wedding show forced to recast after wave of drop-outs
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Top conservatoire offers ‘groundbreaking’ arts degree

Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    March On Cancer™ - Local Marketing and Promotions Volunteer

    This is an unpaid voluntary role.: Cancer Research UK: We need motivational vo...

    Teaching Assistants

    £50 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing ...

    Supply Teachers needed in Stowmarket

    £1034496 - £1516224 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: The Job:Randstad ...

    Primary Teacher EYFS, KS1 and KS2

    £85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education are urgentl...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week