CHINA - HEALTH

Second death in Chinese bird flu outbreak

A woman died of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza in Eastern China on Saturday, local media reported. Another woman died earlier this month and a child is seriously ill with the disease - the first human cases in nearly a year.

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AFP - A woman has died of bird flu in east China's Shandong province, state media said Sunday, reporting the nation's second death from the disease this month.

The 27-year-old, surnamed Zhang, fell ill on January 5 and died Saturday evening, the Xinhua news agency said, citing the Shandong provincial health department.

The national disease prevention and control centre on Sunday confirmed that she was infected with the H5N1 strain of avian influenza, according to Xinhua.

It brings to 22 the number of people in China who have died from the virus since 2003.

Earlier this month, a 19-year-old woman died of bird flu in Beijing -- the country's first fatal case in nearly a year -- after handling ducks she had bought in a market.

The report of Zhang's death came a day after Chinese state media said that a two-year-old girl had fallen ill from bird flu. The toddler was reported to be in a critical condition in Sunday evening primetime TV news.

People who were in close contact with Zhang are now under close observation, but so far no one has fallen ill, the China News Service said.

China has reported the case to the World Health Organisation (WHO), as well as health authorities in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, according to the China News Service.

Bird flu outbreaks tend to happen in the winter months, when low temperatures create more favourable conditions for the virus to spread.

Prior to this month's cases, and in addition to the fatalities, 10 Chinese were known to have contracted bird flu but survived.

According to the WHO, about 250 people have died from bird flu worldwide since 2003.

Scientists fear the virus could mutate to jump easily from human to human, potentially sparking a global pandemic.

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