Bird Flu

China had bird flu in 2003

2006-08-08 08:35

Special Report

Bird flu scare in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is on bird flu alert again after a wild bird found in a busy shopping area tested positive for the H5 strain of the avian flu virus.

Beijing - China announced on Tuesday its first confirmed human case of bird flu - a 24-year-old man who later died - was in November 2003, two years earlier than previously reported, state media said.

The health ministry said it had confirmed the case through laboratory tests that were carried out with the World Health Organisation, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The ministry began the tests after eight Chinese scientists published a letter in the New England Journal of Medicine in June, claiming the man became ill on November 25, 2003, from bird flu and later died.

China had previously said its first human bird flu case was in November 2005.

20 cases

China now has 20 officially reported human cases. Twelve of those who contracted the disease since last year have died.

The Xinhua statement did not explicitly say the man who contracted bird flu in 2003 died of the disease. If that was the case, China's official death toll from bird flu would be 13.

Regional outbreak now changed

The newly reported case could change the timeframe for the outbreak of the disease regionally.

The first reported signs of bird flu in Asia came after the H5N1 virus caused poultry deaths in South Korea in late 2003.

The first reported death from bird flu was confirmed in Vietnam in January 2004. Since then over 220 people have caught the virus, resulting in around 130 fatalities.

China was widely criticised for initially covering up Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars), a deadly disease, in late 2002 and early 2003, which enabled the virus to spread more easily and kill hundreds globally.

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