12/30/2005, 00.00
ASIA
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WHO: China may have unidentified bird flu outbreaks

This view was expressed after the death of a 41-year-old woman was declared in an area free of bird flu outbreaks. There is a new suspect death in Indonesia. Meanwhile the situation has improved n Vietnam.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In China, there could be outbreaks of bird flu which remain unknown and undeclared by the authorities. This was the comment of the World Health Organisation after news of another human death in an area free of recent cases of infection.

China. The infection of a 41-year-old peasant named Zhou, who died on 21 December in Sanming city (south-east province of Fujian), has been confirmed. The cause of infection has not been clearly established, not least because no outbreaks of infection were reported in the region.

"If the animals in the area were sick and dying, and if they were dying in small numbers, it might have been very difficult to identify that as an outbreak," said Roy Wadia, Beijing spokesman for WHO.

At the start of 2003, two Hong Kong residents fell sick with the H5N1 virus after a trip to Fujian, and one of them died. Anyone who had close contact with the woman has been put under medical observation. This is the seventh case of human infection reported in China, the third death after another two in Anhui, but the other sick people had had close contact with poultry. The first tests carried out on 13 December turned out to be negative, but new analysis revealed the infection. China has only one laboratory which produces results that are recognized by WHO, in the northern city of Harbin. Since December 2003, there have been 142 official cases of infection in Asia, with 74 deaths.

Today Wadia said once again that Beijing had not supplied virus samples taken in recent cases of infection; these are necessary for WHO for testing. "We have received information," he said, "but it's not clear why they do not give us the requested samples."

Indonesia. There has been another death suspected to result from bird flu, a 48-year-old man in the city of Magelang, central Java, who was admitted to hospital with high fever and respiratory problems. Nurul Safariah, the Health Office executive in the city, said the results of tests were expected. Indonesia already has a tally of 11 recorded deaths from the virus.

Vietnam. The Department of Animal Health of the Agriculture Ministry said the epidemic was effectively over in 15 of Vietnam's provinces: for three weeks, there have been no new bird deaths. Another six provinces are still affected. The government has undertaken a campaign to teach farmers about prevention against the virus. This has been possible also thanks to financing of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency.

Ukraine. Yestersday, Viktor Yushchenko, Ukranian president declared over that the state of emergency due to bird flu in the Crimea peninsula. The infection struck a dozen or so villages at the start of December. Around 70,000 domestic poultry were culled and the local government will compensate owners with 1,460,000 hryvnya (around 290,000 US dollars). (PB)

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