China reported a new human case of bird flu on Thursday March 1 , and the World Health Organisation disputed Indonesia’s claim that the two were close to resolving a dispute over sharing virus samples that could be used to develop a commercial vaccine.
Also Thursday March 1 , officials in Burma said the United Nations has pledged assistance in coping with an outbreak discovered on a poultry farm on the outskirts of its largest city, Yangon.
The human infection in China occurred in the coastal province of Fujian, where a 44-year-old farmer surnamed Li was diagnosed on February 18 after he developed a fever and began coughing, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
It was the mainland’s first human case of bird flu since January 10, when the government said a 37-year-old farmer in Anhui province in eastern China had contracted bird flu but had recovered.
Xinhua said tests by the provincial disease control and prevention centre showed that Li had been infected with the H5N1 virus strain, and that the Chinese Centres for Disease Control and Prevention had confirmed the result on February 27.
The report did not say whether the farmer worked with poultry, or whether infected birds were found, but said she had “made contact with dead fowl.”
The virus remains essentially an animal disease, but experts fear it may mutate into a form easily spreadable between humans, triggering a pandemic.
In Indonesia, Health minister Siti Fadilah Supari said a guarantee letter from WHO director general Margaret Chan was expected to arrive Thursday March 1 , after which “Indonesia will resume sending as soon as possible” samples of the bird flu virus to the UN health body.
However, WHO spokesman Dick Thompson told The Associated Press that no such deal had been cemented. He said that the letter was still under discussion.
It was hoped that such a deal would resolve a standoff between WHO and Indonesia, which triggered a storm of criticism last month by withholding virus samples because it worried that large drug companies would use its H5N1 strain to make vaccines too expensive for developing nations.
Several countries are developing vaccines to protect against H5N1, which has been responsible for at least 167 human deaths worldwide, more than one-third of them in Indonesia.
Meanwhile, Tang Zang Ping, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation representative in Burma, said the agency was assisting in isolation of poultry farms, disinfection and culling of birds after H5N1 was detected in a western suburb of Yangon.
Burma officials say the latest outbreak has affected chickens, ducks and pullets, killing 68 birds. Another 1,292 birds were deemed susceptible to the disease and destroyed.
In Vietnam, officials said the avian flu has resurfaced in the southern Mekong Delta province of Vinh Long, just days after an outbreak was reported in the northern part of the country.
About 50 unvaccinated ducks died at a farm in Tra On District on February 25, and test results released Thursday March 1 showed they were infected with the H5N1 strain of bird flu, said Nguyen Ba Thanh, director of the Mekong regional animal health centre.
The outbreak has forced authorities to slaughter 800 ducklings, Thanh said.
Vietnam went an entire year without any confirmed reports of bird flu until a recent spate of outbreaks struck Vinh Long and seven other southern provinces in January, killing or forcing the slaughter of about 40,000 birds.