China bird flu girl, 9, still critical
BEIJING, Feb 26 (Reuters) A 9-year-old Chinese girl diagnosed with bird flu was still listed in critical condition today as health authorities tried to prevent the disease from spreading.
China warned of the threat of a massive avian flu outbreak among birds in the country on Saturday as it reported two new human cases -- the girl in eastern Zhejiang province and a woman farmer in neighbouring Anhui province, Xinhua news agency said.
The woman farmer, who was diagnosed on February 11 with symptoms of fever and pneumonia, had come into contact with sick and dead poultry, Xinhua said.
The girl, from Anji County, had visited relatives who kept poultry, Xinhua said.
''During her visits, chickens raised at her relatives' homes got sick and some died,'' Xinhua said.
A local health official said the girl's condition had not changed.
''Her condition is just the same as we said earlier, she is in a critical condition,'' he said. ''We are doing our best to help her recover.'' Zhejiang health authorities had tested 600 people who had contact with her for symptoms, Xinhua said.
''The county did not find any other outbreak of bird flu and the laboratory tests did not find any source of bird flu either,'' it said.
The provinced had increased vaccinations or poultry and people and tightened supervision over the movement of poultry, it said. It had also set up a crisis management team to mobilise thousands in the case of emergency.
Agriculture Minister Du Qinglin said China culled 23 million fowl in 2005 as it sought to halt the spread of the disease. Of those, 163,000 were found to have the H5N1 strain of bird flu, Xinhua cited the minister as saying.
''In view of the current situation, the possibility of a massive bird flu outbreak could not be ruled out,'' Du said, repeating a similar warning issued earlier this week when he said a big outbreak could occur in the spring.
The latest human cases brought the total number of human cases of bird flu in China to 14, Xinhua said. Eight of those had died while four had recovered, it said.
China has reported more than 30 outbreaks of the H5N1 strain of bird flu in both poultry and wild birds in a dozen provinces in the past year.
Bird flu is highly contagious among poultry and can spread through an entire flock in hours. It remains difficult for humans to catch but has killed more than 90 people worldwide since late 2003.
So far most human victims of the virus have had direct or indirect contact with infected birds, but there are fears the virus will mutate into a strain easily passed among people, causing a pandemic in which millions could die.
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