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China Confirms 2nd Bird Flu Death

China on Wednesday reported its second confirmed human death from bird flu, while tests showed a teacher who fell ill elsewhere in the country does not have the H5N1 bird flu virus.

China's Health Ministry said Wednesday that the latest fatality — a 35-year-old farmer identified only by her surname, Xu — died Tuesday after developing a fever and pneumonia-like symptoms following contact with sick and dead poultry.

The woman tested positive for the H5N1 virus, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The woman lived in Xiuning County in the eastern province of Anhui, Xinhua said. It gave no further details. China's first confirmed bird flu death was also a woman from Anhui.

The country's only other confirmed bird flu case was a 9-year-old boy in the central province of Hunan, who fell ill but recovered. His 12-year-old sister was recorded as a suspected case, and later died. However, her body was cremated before tests could confirm whether she had the virus.

In related developments:

  • Another woman in the northeastern province of Liaoning, where four outbreaks have been reported, is still under observation, Hall said. Her test results were expected within days.
  • China reported its 16th and 17th bird flu outbreaks in poultry in a central province and its far west despite a nationwide effort to vaccinate billions of farm birds. The report came a day after President Hu Jintao said he and visiting U.S. President George W. Bush had agreed to work together on global and regional flu prevention and treatment efforts.
  • The United States is unprepared for the next flu pandemic, lacking the manufacturing capacity to provide 300 million doses of a vaccine for three to five more years, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said. "What we all learned from (Hurricane) Katrina is that sometimes we have to think very clearly about the unthinkable," Leavitt said Sunday. "We're not as prepared as we need to be. ...We will not have enough for everyone."
  • An Australian drug company said Wednesday it could develop an effective vaccine against bird flu within two years. CSL Ltd., based in the southern city of Melbourne, is currently testing a prototype for a vaccine that could be used against the H5N1 strain of bird flu that has killed at least 67 people in Asia since 2003.
  • Hong Kong is preparing for a possible bird flu pandemic by giving health officials the power to stop people suspected of having bird flu from leaving the city, the government said Wednesday. The new health regulations, which take effect on Friday, will empower public officers to stop and detain suspected individuals who insist on leaving Chinese territory, the Health, Welfare and Food Bureau said in a statement.
  • Pakistan has analyzed samples from more than 16,000 fowl and 700 migratory birds and found no traces of bird flu, including the virulent H5N1 strain, the government said Wednesday. The country has also set up 12 labs around the country and invested $660,000 to improve surveillance and emergency preparedness in case of an outbreak, said Muhammad Afzal, an official at the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock.
  • A senior British health official has warned that supplies of winter flu vaccine are running low due to increased demand triggered by fears of a global influenza pandemic. Dr. David Salisbury, the Department of Health's head of immunization, wrote to family doctors warning that all of the national stock of 14 million doses of vaccine has been allocated.
  • So many people in Britain have been spooked by all the bird flu stories, they've run down supplies of regular flu vaccine, even though it doesn't protect against bird flu, which hasn't appeared in Britain anyway, reports CBS News correspondent Steve Holt (audio).
  • Tamiflu is the hot drug now as people prepare for a deadly flu outbreak that might sweep across the world. But Hong Kong herbalist Wong Chi-sun is putting his trust in a home remedy. He's selling a blend of some classic Chinese fever-fighting remedies: squiggly yellowish buds of honeysuckle flowers, brown seed shells from the weeping forsythia, crumpled black Dyers Woad leaves and dried chips of Isatis root.

    A World Health Organization official on Wednesday said blood tests on the Chinese schoolteacher who fell sick in the same area showed that he didn't have bird flu.

    "Based on an extensive range of blood tests, he's been excluded as a case of H5N1," said Dr. Julie Hall, an infectious diseases specialist for WHO's Beijing office.

    The government said the teacher, 36, became ill after handling raw chicken. He lived in rural Wangtan village in Hunan, which suffered one of China's first bird flu outbreaks in the recent series of cases.

    Hall said the children in Hunan were probably infected by handling sick chickens — which lived on the first floor of the family's rural home — and not because they ate infected meat, as had been reported by Chinese state media.

    The WHO announcement came after China reported three new bird flu outbreaks in poultry.

    Such outbreaks have been reported almost daily despite a nationwide effort to vaccinate billions of poultry.

    The latest were in the northwestern cities of Urumqi and Yinchuan, and in the southern province of Yunnan. A total of 2,768 birds died and nearly 175,000 were destroyed to contain the virus.

    Health experts had warned that human cases were inevitable if poultry outbreaks could not be stopped.

    Also Wednesday, Xinhua said China will test 100 people with a vaccine hoped to protect against H5N1. There is currently no human vaccine. The report gave no other details, but said the vaccine had already been tested on minks, chickens and rats.

    It is "safe and effective," Yin Weidong, general manager of Sinovac Biotech, one of the developers, was quoted as saying.

    Sinovac Biotech and China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention jointly developed the vaccine, which uses a modified version of the bird flu virus from WHO, Xinhua said.

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