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China tests poultry worker for bird flu
Updated: 2005-11-13 10:20

China tested an ill poultry worker for bird flu on Saturday, and Vietnam reported two new outbreaks of the virus.

The Chinese woman was hospitalized with a 102 degree fever in Liaoning province in the northeast, which has suffered four bird flu outbreaks in poultry, news reports said. She was among 121 people who fell ill in Liaoning's Heishan County with fevers and flu-like symptoms this week, the Xinhua News Agency and local newspapers said. Health workers determined the other 120 patients do not have bird flu.

On Friday, China announced two new outbreaks of bird flu — one in Liaoning and one in the central province of Hubei.

China has not yet had a case of bird flu in humans from the deadly H5N1 strain, which has devastated poultry flocks across Asia since 2003 and jumped to humans, killing at least 64 people. Two-thirds of the human deaths have been in Vietnam.

Most of the people infected have had contact with sick birds. But experts fear the deadly virus could mutate into one that is easily passed from human to human, raising fears of a global pandemic.

Two more provinces in Vietnam reported bird flu outbreaks, bringing to nine the total number of affected provinces, officials said Saturday.

In the northern province of Hung Yen, about 150 poultry died and more than 300 have been destroyed, the National Animal Health Department said on its Web site. Hung Yen province borders the capital Hanoi.

In Ninh Binh province, poultry began dying in two villages earlier this week and tests Friday confirmed the birds had the H5N1 strain, said Doan Thi Cuc, a provincial animal health officer.

Authorities have ordered the destruction of all birds in the two infected areas, about 10,000 in total, she said. In the past month, more than 130,000 poultry have been culled throughout the country as Vietnam battles to stop the spread of the virus.

Experts now say human illness from bird flu in China is virtually inevitable with repeated outbreaks in poultry.

Liaoning province has suffered repeated outbreaks despite sweeping efforts that include the destruction of more than 6 million chickens, ducks and other poultry in recent weeks. Officials say fake vaccines are being sold there, raising the possibility that millions of inoculated birds might be susceptible to the virus.

In Indonesia, Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono said such mass culling was too costly and disruptive for his government and might be unnecessary.

Bird flu is endemic in flocks across Indonesia and has killed at least five people this year. But the country has resisted calls to destroy birds, saying its strategy of distributing vaccines and spraying disinfectant at farms was making progress.

In Japan, the Health Ministry has warned that Tamiflu — one of the few antiviral drugs believed to be effective against bird flu — can induce strange behavior, following the deaths of two teenagers who took the medicine.

A 17-year-old high school student from jumped in front of a truck in February 2004 shortly after taking the medicine, the Mainichi newspaper and Kyodo News agency reported. Another student is believed to have fallen from the ninth floor of his apartment building this February.

The drug's Japanese distributor, Chugai Pharmaceutical, issued a report to the Health Ministry after the first incident saying a link between taking the drug and the odd behavior that led to the death cannot be ruled out, the Mainichi said.

Tamiflu carries a label in Japan warning of such side effects as "abnormal behavior" and "hallucinations."

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