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WHO: Human Bird Flu Cases Rise

The U.N. health agency on Monday raised its tally of officially confirmed human cases of bird flu by three to 173. It said 93 of those were fatal, raising the number by one.

The new cases on the World Health Organization's list are two people in China reported in critical condition and a 27-year-old woman from Indonesia's West Java province who died last week.

WHO figures usually lag behind reports in individual countries, because it considers a person to have bird flu only after samples have been sent abroad and confirmed as H5N1 positive in a foreign laboratory.

Almost all human deaths from bird flu have been linked to contact with infected birds.

In Indonesia, investigations carried out by local authorities "found reports of chicken deaths in the woman's neighborhood four days prior to her onset of symptoms," WHO said in a statement.

In China, however, one of the patients came from the eastern province of Zhejiang, where there have been no reported animal outbreaks since 2004, the agency said.

In other recent developments:

  • A 21-year-old man who was suspected of suffering from bird flu has tested negative for the human form of the disease, doctors said Monday.

    The man, who lives in the southwest village of Cetate where the deadly H5N1 virus was detected in birds, was brought by ambulance Sunday to the Bals Hospital for Infectious Diseases in Bucharest after showing flu symptoms.

  • Russia's president on Monday ordered the Cabinet to set up a bird flu task force as the disease continued to spread in the country. A southern Russian village was put under quarantine after 10 chickens died on a private farm and veterinarians gave a preliminary diagnosis of the H5 strain of bird flu, the Emergency Situations Ministry said Monday.
  • Some 90,000 people examined in an area of western India hit by the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus have shown no sign of the disease, although several people remained under observation, the government said Monday.

    Health workers have been going door-to-door to screen people in dozens of villages in Maharashtra and Gujarat states where India's first outbreaks of bird flu were reported last week.

  • The European Union's first outbreak of lethal H5N1 bird flu in commercial poultry was confirmed Saturday in France, the EU's largest poultry producer. France's farming ministry said lab tests confirmed H5N1 in turkeys at a farm in the southeast Ain region, where thousands of the birds were found dead Thursday.

    But in China, it is believed the 9-year-old girl developed symptoms after a visit to relatives in the neighboring Chinese province of Anhui, where a 26-year-old female farmer also developed symptoms "following contact with diseased poultry."

    The health body has now confirmed 14 human cases of bird flu, eight deadly, in China since last year. There are 27 laboratory-confirmed cases and 20 deaths in Indonesia.

    WHO also said it was working with Chinese authorities to increase public awareness of the disease, and encourage people to report outbreaks and avoid contact with dead birds because "the H5N1 virus is now considered to be endemic in birds in large parts of China."

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