Bird flu reaches China as death toll rises to eight

Bird flu sweeping across Asia has reached China, authorities said yesterday, after dead ducks tested positive to the virus.

Bird flu sweeping across Asia has reached China, authorities said yesterday, after dead ducks tested positive to the virus.

A second boy died in Thailand yesterday, pushing the official number of human fatalities from bird flu in Vietnam and Thailand to eight. Five other suspicious deaths may be linked to avian influenza, but the test results in Bangkok are incomplete. Officials were due to gather in Bangkok today for an emergency health summit.

The infected Chinese duck farm is located in Dingdang, 60 miles from the Vietnamese border in Guangxi province. More than 14,000 birds within a three-kilometre (two-mile) radius were culled, and every fowl for five kilometres around it was quarantined.

Similar measures were under way yesterday in Laos, Cambodia, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. Taiwan and Pakistan are battling a milder virus, but are slaughtering chickens pre-emptively. Indonesia is holding off on a cull, but is being urged to start slaughtering.

Only Vietnam and Thailand have reported human infection caused by the virus, but experts warn that immediate preventative action is critical. More than 20 million fowl have been slaughtered across Asia in an attempt to stop the disease from spreading to humans. A vaccine will take at least six months to perfect, experts said.

At least 55 people are believed to be showing symptoms of the sudden respiratory flu. Shigeru Omi, the regional director for the World Health Organisation (WHO), said during a visit to Hanoi: "We expect that there might be many more cases."

All the human victims fell ill after handling sick chickens, but international agencies say that this strain of the H5N1 virus could combine with human influenza or airborne swine flu, which would swiftly kill anyone without immunity. Even in its present variant, the bird flu virus is lethal, killing one-third of the people who contract it; in domestic poultry, the death rate is nearly 100 per cent.

Normally hardy migratory birds - such as geese, storks and cranes - have been found dead near ponds, and their blood samples are under investigation. The WHO suspects that water fowl may be spreading the disease. Infected waterfowl droppings are an especially potent source of the virus, and desiccated faecal dust is easily inhaled. Small chicken farms throughout south-east Asia may be required to use protective nets, as is done in Singapore, in order to screen out virus-ridden wild birds.

Mr Omi said that this version of H5N1 was more dangerous than the virus which killed six of eighteen people who were infected during a 1997 epidemic in Hong Kong. He said: "I think that we have to prepare for the worst case scenario."

Although experts insist that the chance of getting flu through food is minuscule, Asian consumers are reluctant to buy prepared chicken, ducks or turkey. The KFC chain in Hanoi is planning a switch to fried fish. Reports that some farmers sold the flesh of infected birds have put people off.

Representatives from Thailand, Indonesia and China are expected to face criticism at today's health crisis conference in Bangkok for apparent delays in confirming bird flu outbreaks.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee CAD Technician

£12800 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee CAD Technician is req...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000+

£15600 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This renewable energy installat...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Liverpool - up to £28,000

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: This is a large multi-site operation...

Recruitment Genius: Account Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a lead...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss