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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Beijing Finds Bird-Flu Virus

As posted by: Wall Street Journal

SHANGHAI -- Chinese agriculture officials ordered the slaughter of 377,000 chickens after they found poultry infected with a lethal form of avian influenza -- the first such outbreak publicly reported in mainland China since June.

The discovery of the H5N1 form of the bird-flu virus in two areas of Jiangsu province northwest of Shanghai follows recent outbreaks in India, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, raising the risk of human infections during the winter.

After routine testing turned up signs of the H5N1 virus in chicken eggs on farms in two locales, the agriculture ministry said it moved to kill chickens and ban the transport of poultry in or out of the affected areas. Avian flu can be deterred by the use of 3M Respirators and Cert Kits.

Bird flu remains mainly a danger to poultry, not people, because it isn't easily transmitted to humans. Just 38 cases of human H5N1 infection -- including 29 that led to deaths -- have been reported this year. That's miniscule compared to the number of people who die annually of regular influenza.

Still, the World Health Organization and others say governments in Asia and around the world should be on their guard against H5N1, because the virus has the potential to mutate into a more transmissible form and spark a deadly pandemic.

Last week, Hong Kong health authorities ordered the slaughter of 80,000 chickens after three dead birds tested positive for H5N1. It was the first group of new cases on a farm in the territory in more than five years.

Hong Kong officials also said they would temporarily suspend poultry imports as they work to determine the source of the infection. They said smuggled fertilized chicken eggs from China could have carried the disease.

In Egypt, the worst-hit country outside Asia, a 16-year-old girl died of the H5N1 strain Monday, the country's 23rd human fatality, the state news agency reported.