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Man dies from bird flu in southern China

Written by: Staff
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HONG KONG, Mar 5 (Reuters) A man died from bird flu in southern China last week, the ninth death from the H5N1 virus in China, the official Xinhua news agency said today, quoting the Health Ministry.

The man, identified as a 32-year-old with the surname Lao, was the 15th bird flu case in China. He died in Guangdong province, which borders Hong Kong.

''Previously, the country reported 14 cases, in which eight were fatal, two are under treatment and the other four have been discharged from hospital,'' Xinhua said.

Lao had symptoms of fever and pneumonia on February 22 and died on March 2, Xinhua said. The symptoms appeared after Lao made ''several visits to an agricultural market'' where he spent a long time near ''a live poultry slaughtering site'', Xinhua said.

''The victim has been confirmed to be infected with bird flu,'' Xinhua said, adding the confirmation was in accordance with Chinese and World Health Organisation (WHO) standards.

''Those having close contacts with Lao have been put under medical observation by provincial health authorities. So far, no abnormal symptoms have been reported,'' it said.

Bird flu has killed at least 94 people in East Asia and West Asia since late 2003.

Scientists fear the virus could mutate to spread from person to person, triggering a global pandemic.

China has reported more than 30 outbreaks of the H5N1 strain in birds across the country in the past year. None of these has been in Guangdong, but neighbouring Hong Kong has confirmed several cases, fuelling suspicions that authorities were not being truthful about the situation in Guangdong province.

As a result of China's confirmation of the H5N1 case, Hong Kong will suspend imports of all live poultry from Guangdong for three weeks starting from tomorrow, a Hong Kong government spokesman said. Day old chicks and pet birds would also be barred from import, he said.

Tests on Lao by the Guangdong Provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the national Centre for Disease Control tested positive for H5N1.

REUTERS CH KP2147

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