China reports fifth bird flu death this year

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s Ministry of Health said a young man had died of the H5N1 strain of bird flu Monday, the fifth reported death this month.

The 18-year-old was admitted to hospital on Jan 24 in Yulin, in the southwestern Guangxi, bordering Vietnam, after falling ill and entering a local clinic in the town of Beiliu three days earlier.

He had contact with dead poultry before falling ill, the Ministry said, adding that people who have been in contact with him have not shown any signs of the illness.

In December, the Ministry of Agriculture reported positive results during routine tests for bird flu among poultry in Jiangsu province, but has not reported an outbreak among poultry for months.

The H5N1 flu remains largely a virus among birds, but experts fear it could mutate into a form that is easily transmitted by humans and spark a pandemic that could kill millions worldwide.

Since the H5N1 virus resurfaced in Asia in 2003 it has infected 399 people worldwide and killed 252 of them, according to World Health Organization data Saturday.

The bird flu deaths in China in January have been scattered across the country in areas where there has been no known outbreak of bird flu among poultry, raising concerns among scientists that the virus may be present but masked by widespread vaccination.

Another victim, a 29-year old man in Guizhou province, is in stable condition, the Xinhua news agency said Monday, while a two-year old girl in a Shanxi hospital is now recovering.

Reporting by Lucy Hornby and Niu Shuping; Editing by David Fox