12/21/2004, 00.00
CHINA
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A new flue outbreak, deadlier than SARS

The World Health Organisation warns mix of avian and human flu might kill up to seven million people around the world. Guangdong authorities launch a SARS alarm.

Singapore (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A new deadly pandemic—a potent mix of avian influenza and a human flu virus—could break out starting in Asia.

The alarm bells were set off by the World Health Organisation's (WHO) whose co-ordinator for disease control, prevention and eradication, Francois-Xavier Meslin, warned: "We are getting closer [to the outbreak], but when it's going to happen, I don't know. If it happens, which is not yet proven, it's going to be worse than SARS" because it can be easily transmitted "to family or people you work with".

In 2002, SARS or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome killed 774 people out of the 8,000 infected, mostly in Asia.

The H5N1 bird-flu virus, which ravaged the region's poultry stocks, also spread to people killing 32 people in Thailand and Vietnam.

Although there was no evidence that it had acquired the human-flu characteristics it would need to be passed easily between people, once that happens, the result would be a pandemic that could cause as many as seven million deaths, the WHO has warned.

Meantime, the Health Department in China's Guangdong province announced that it expects new SARS and avian flu outbreaks in the Pearl River Delta by February of next year.

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