GUANGZHOU: A woman in Guangdong province died of suspected bird flu Monday morning, the provincial health department said.
It is the third human death involving bird flu this year, following two cases confirmed last week, one in Hunan province and the other in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
The 44-year-old woman, surnamed Zhang, was a migrant worker from Sichuan province and worked in Haifeng county in the city of Shanwei.
She was suspected to have caught the deadly H5N1 virus through contact with dead poultry earlier this month.
Hans Troedsson, the World Health Organization (WHO) China Representative, said they had received preliminary information about the case from the Chinese Ministry of Health (MOH) over the weekend.
"The WHO is monitoring the situation with the ministry," he told China Daily.
On Feb 16, Zhang came down with a fever and cough. She was sent to a local health care center on the same day. Because the illness did not improve in the following few days, she was transferred to a larger hospital in Haifeng county last Friday.
The Shanwei municipal health bureau diagnosed Zhang's disease as pneumonia of undetermined origin on Friday, a bureau official said.
The Guangdong provincial center for disease control and prevention (CDC) tested the patient's blood sample during the weekend. The test turned out to be H5N1-positive and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)-negative.
The provincial health department defined it as a suspected case of highly pathogenic human avian influenza. The department reported the case to the MOH on Saturday for final confirmation.
The woman died at about 9am Monday.
There have been no reports yet of massive culling of poultry in Haifeng county. However, provincial health authorities have dispatched medical experts to the county to keep a close eye on people who had contact with Zhang, as well as those who had handled dead poultry.
Also Monday, the Ministry of Agriculture said 3,993 poultry have died of bird flu in Zheng'an county, Zunyi, Guizhou province since Feb 17. The total number of fowl culled is 238,000. An emergency plan has been launched and the situation is under effective control, the ministry said.
China has confirmed 30 human bird flu cases since 2003, 20 of which have been fatal, the MOH said. Worldwide, there have been 232 human deaths and 366 confirmed cases of infection since 2003, according to the WHO.
Experts fear the virus will mutate into a form that allows for human-to-human transmission and spark a pandemic.