More deaths as birdflu spreads

The girl died on Monday after all treatments had failed, the country’s tenth human fatality from the virus.

Her death is the second in a week for China, after a 32-year-old man in the southern province of Guangdong died on Thursday.

The H5N1 strain of the virus has also spread among birds in Nigeria, Poland and Germany.

The Indonesian child, a four-year-old boy, died on Monday within minutes of arriving at a hospital in East Java.

Tests are being conducted to confirm whether he had the virus.

Meanwhile a health ministry official in Jakarta said local tests results revealed that four Indonesians who were thought to have died of bird flu this month were not actually infected.

The tests clear the deaths of a pregnant 25-year-old woman and three children.

Earlier, five more suspected bird flu patients were admitted at Sulianti Saroso Hospital, the capital’s main centre for treating bird flu patients.

Bird flu has killed at least 94 people worldwide since 2003, mostly in Asia, according to WHO figures.

Surveillance network needed

The head of the World Health Organisation has announced a bird flu surveillance network will be established for Africa, where experts fear a mass outbreak.

WHO Director General Lee Jong Wook, on a visit to the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius, said a future pan-African surveillance network would be set up to sound the alarm over the virus’s spread.

“No country is safe from the bird flu, which is a concern for the WHO, especially in the case of Africa,” he said.

If, as some experts fear, the virus could mutate into a form that can spread between people, “we fear it would lead to a global pandemic and a calamity for Africa, which is already affected by several other viruses,” Mr Lee said.

In Nigeria, the first African country to report the presence of bird flu, the virus spread southwards, infecting poultry in three more states, Information Minister Frank Nweke said.

The West African state has already put in place a large operation of quarantine and bird slaughter to contain H5N1. No human cases of bird flu have been detected so far, but the virus has been found in birds in neighbouring Niger.

“The culling of infected birds and decontamination of the affected areas in the three states has commenced,” Mr Nweke said.

New cases in Europe

The H5N1 virus has now been found in around 20 European countries.

A Polish lab confirmed that a third wild swan which was found dead in the northern city of Torun at the weekend was infected with H5N1.

In Germany, the H5N1 virus has been discovered among a further dozen wild birds, bringing to some 170 the number of avian infections found in the country, authorities said.

Berlin’s agricultural ministry also reported the detection of H5N1 in two more cats which died on the Baltic island of Ruegen — where a first cat was reported with the disease last week.

“This shows that the spread of the virus to a mammal is not a unique case,” German Agricultural Minister Horst Seehofer said.

“The bird flu is clearly getting closer to humans.”

Russian warning

A Russian virus expert warned that a human pandemic is highly likely and told the government in Moscow to get ready.

“No quarantine measure can prevent the pandemic. It can only slow it for a few days,” Dmitry Lvov, director of the Virology Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said in Moscow.

He suggested the government prepare 100,000 hospital beds and stock up on remantadinum and arbidol — medicines needed to fight the symptoms of the virus in the six months needed to develop a vaccine after the pandemic starts.

He said there is a 90 percent likelihood the current form of the H5N1 bird flu virus could mutate into a form easily transmissible between humans.

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