01/11/2006, 00.00
China
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Two people in China sickened by bird flu have died

The total number of people killed by the disease on the mainland to five, on country's eighth human case. New outbreak in the southwestern province of Guizhou: 16,000 quails had died.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Two additional people sickened by bird flu in China have died, bringing the total number of people killed by the disease on the mainland to five, the World Health Organisation said on Wednesday.

The announcement came as China's Agriculture Ministry reported that 16,000 quails had died in an outbreak in the southwestern province of Guizhou - the country's 28th reported outbreak of bird flu in birds since October 19.

In the human cases, Chinese authorities said a 10-year-old girl from Guangxi province in the south and a 35-year-old man from Jiangxi province in the east died last month from complications from the disease, said Roy Wadia, a spokesman for the WHO in Beijing. "We've seen that happening in other cases as well, so it's not surprising," Mr Wadia said.

The girl, a student surnamed Tang, had been sick with a fever and pneumonia since November 23 and underwent emergency treatment, state media has reported. The man, a self-employed vendor, developed the same symptoms on December 4, state media said. Identified only by his surname, Guo, he had been recovering in the hospital.

On Tuesday, China reported that a six-year-old boy in the central province of Hunan - the country's eighth human case - had contracted bird flu late last month and was in critical condition. The boy, surnamed Ouyang, had contracted the H5N1 virus and began showing symptoms on December 24.

Bird flu has swept vast parts of Asia, decimating poultry populations and killing at least 74 people in the region since 2003. The virus has also spread into parts of Europe, with Turkey reporting at least 15 confirmed human cases, according to health ministry officials.

Most of the human infections have been linked to direct contact with sick poultry. But experts have warned that the virus could mutate into a form that would be easily transmitted between people, sparking a global flu pandemic that could kill millions.

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