China reports bird flu outbreak in far west

Fri Jan 4, 2008 7:38am EST

BEIJING Jan 4 (Reuters) - China has reported an outbreak in poultry of the H5N1 strain of bird flu in its far west Xinjiang region, Xinhua news agency said on Friday.

The first bird flu outbreak in the country since September came about a month after the virus killed a 24-year-old man in the eastern province of Jiangsu.

A total of 4,850 poultry have died of the disease in Turpan city in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region since Dec. 29, prompting authorities there to cull another 29,383 birds, Xinhua said.

The National Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory confirmed the virus as a subtype of the H5N1 strain on Thursday, it said, without specifying which kinds of poultry were infected.

"At present, the epidemic has been brought under effective control," Xinhua said.

With the world's biggest poultry population and hundreds of millions of farmers raising birds in their backyards, China is seen as crucial in the global fight against bird flu.

The Agriculture Ministry has warned of a "very high" possibility of bird flu outbreaks in the country over winter and spring, when the virus is at its most contagious.

A man surnamed Lu died of the H5N1 strain in Jiangsu -- where no poultry outbreak had been reported at the time -- on Dec. 2, raising Chinese human fatalities from the virus to 17 and infections to 27.

Lu's 52-year-old father was also infected and only recovered after three weeks of treatment.

The rare case of two family members struck by the disease has drawn urgent concern from health authorities, as humans almost always contract H5N1 from infected birds.

Chinese officials said they had found no evidence that the virus in the Jiangsu case has mutated into a new strain that jumps easily from person to person, a possibility which many experts fear could trigger a global pandemic killing millions. (Reporting by Guo Shipeng; Editing by Benjamin Kang Lim and Alex Richardson)



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