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.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
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

    Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative / Forklift Driver

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Through a combination of excell...

    Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Manager

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are looking for a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Plan Champion

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a Service Plan Champi...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Plan Champion

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a Service Plan Champi...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific