China says 19-year-old dies from bird flu

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The Independent Online

A Chinese woman has died from bird flu in a Beijing hospital, the government reported today, but the World Health Organisation said the case did not appear to signal a new public health threat.

China's Ministry of Health said Huang Yanqing, 19, died yesterday and tests confirmed she had the H5N1 bird flu virus. The official Xinhua News Agency said Huang became ill after buying and cleaning nine ducks in December at a market in Hebei province, which borders Beijing.

It was the first reported death in China from the illness in nearly a year.

Her father, Huang Jinxian, told reporters that the family tried to treat Yanqing at home first with store bought medicine. "It was useless, so we sent her to Guanzhuang hospital" in the eastern suburbs of Beijing, he said.

The WHO said Huang's case was similar to others reported worldwide, in that it did not appear to involve human-to-human transmission.

"This single case, which appears to have occurred during the slaughtering and preparation of poultry, does not change our risk assessment," the organization's Beijing office said in a statement.

Officials worry the virus could mutate into a much-feared form that could spread easily among people. But, for now, it remains hard for people to catch, with most human cases linked to contact with infected birds.

According to the latest WHO tally, bird flu has killed 248 people worldwide since 2003, including 21 in China.

In northern Vietnam, meanwhile, an 8-year-old girl has tested positive for the disease — the first human case reported there in almost a year, health officials said today.

The girl from Thanh Hoa province was admitted to a hospital on Dec. 27 with a high fever and other symptoms after eating a sick goose raised by the family, said Nguyen Ngoc Thanh, acting director of the provincial health department. The girl is recovering.

The H5N1 bird flu virus continues to devastate poultry stocks around the world. China, which raises more poultry than any other country, has vowed to aggressively fight the virus.

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