Published Date: 2005-10-28 23:50:00
Subject: PRO/AH> Avian influenza, human - East Asia (153): China, retest requested
Archive Number: 20051028.3145
AVIAN INFLUENZA, HUMAN - EAST ASIA (153): CHINA, RETEST REQUESTED
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Date: Fri 28 Oct 2005
Source: New York Times, Fri 28 Oct 2005 [edited]
The World Health Organization (WHO) asked China today to conduct further
tests to determine whether a 12-year-old girl died of avian influenza,
cautioning that provincial health officials may have acted prematurely in
declaring that her death was not linked to the deadly disease.
The new request by WHO comes a day after China's state media quoted health
officials in Hunan province as saying that the girl had tested negative for
avian influenza and had instead died of pneumonia. The girl's younger
brother, hospitalized with flu-like symptoms, was also reported to have
In addition, a Ministry of Health official in Beijing ruled out bird flu in
[relation to] the girl's death during a news conference this afternoon. But
Dr. Julie Hall, the coordinator of epidemic response in the WHO Office in
Beijing, said WHO was concerned that only limited testing had been
conducted on the 2 children. She said a full battery of tests at the
Ministry of Health's laboratory in Beijing should be done before ruling out
avian influenza as the cause of death.
"We would not consider that any of these cases have been thoroughly tested
yet, based on the extremely limited information we have seen," Dr. Hall
said. "We feel at this moment it is really too early to say if both of
these cases are negative."
This week, China has reported 3 outbreaks of avian influenza in bird flocks
in different regions of the country. As yet, there have been no reported
cases of people in China being infected with the disease. But the death of
the 12-year-old girl quickly attracted attention because she lived in a
village in Hunan province where the latest of the 3 outbreaks had occurred.
Reports in the Hong Kong and Chinese media suggested that the girl and her
brother had fallen ill after eating a sickened chicken.
Dr. Hall said WHO would request that the Ministry of Health conduct testing
and other measures. She noted that some of the pneumonia-like symptoms
attributed to the 2 children could be consistent with syndromes observed in
people stricken with avian influenza in other countries.
Worldwide, avian influenza has been spreading between flocks of migratory
birds to Europe, Asia and Africa. As yet, human exposure has been limited
to Southeast Asia, where 77 people have contracted the disease from birds
since December 2004. 30 of them have died. The fear is that avian influenza
will mutate in a manner that can spread from human to human, raising the
threat of a global pandemic.
The possibility that Hunan officials could be wrong about the death of the
girl underscores other concerns that China's health care system is
inadequate to deal with a major outbreak. Today, a Hong Kong newspaper
reported that many dead chickens and ducks were still on the ground in the
dead girl's Hunan village and had not yet been disposed of by health
workers. Local police had blocked reporters from the village and were
preventing the girl's family from talking to outsiders, the paper reported.
[See South China Morning Post, 28 Oct 2005,
<http://www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages/flash/>. - Mod. CP]
In Beijing, a Ministry of Health official said that the girl became ill on
11 Oct 2005 with a fever and coughing. She died a week later. The official
said x-rays indicated pneumonia. He said blood tests run by provincial and
national disease control centers concluded that the girl had tested
negative for the disease.
[Byline: Jim Yardley]