01/10/2008, 00.00
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Bird flu case in Jiangsu sees son infect the father

The son is dead and the father is under medical care. China’s foreign ministry tries to be reassuring, saying there is no evidence the virus has mutated and made human-to-human transmission possible. With the world’s largest poultry industry China is the world’s greatest incubator for the disease.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A 24-year-old man died in December in Jiangsu from the avian flu and may have passed it on to his father, but there is no evidence the virus mutated into a kind of flu which can be easily transmitted from human to human.

“The initial judgment is that it was an infection from close contact,” said Chinese Health Ministry spokesman Mao Qun'an. But in the Jiangsu case, there were “no biological features for human-to-human transmission.”

What is known is that the father, who got sick just before his son died and is now in intensive care, did not come into contact with dead or diseased birds.

It is not known however how the young man who died got infected since he, too, is known not have come into contact with infected birds.

The H5N1 strain of the avian flu virus has so far been transmitted by diseased birds and this has limited the contagion. But there are fears it might mutate and that humans might infect one another. Should this happen the world might face a pandemic.

However, the suspected human-to-human infection is also but the latest in a number of suspected cases in which people are said to have infected other members of their family.

With the world’s biggest poultry population and millions of backyard birds, China is at the centre of the fight against bird flu. Millions of animals have been vaccinated.

The most recent cases have brought the number of confirmed human infections of bird flu in China to 27, with 17 deaths, but there are fears that figures might higher because not all cases have been reported.

Another outbreak, on December 29, occurred in the city of Turpan in the remote Xinjiang region. It killed almost 5,000 fowl and led to the culling of 35,000 more.

Since 2003 the H5N1 has killed about 200 people, almost all in Asia, and ravaged poultry flocks worldwide, this according to the World Health Organisation.

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