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: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Day In a Page

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England