PLA soldier has lethal bird flu

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 May, 2007, 12:00am

A 19-year-old People's Liberation Army soldier has been confirmed as having H5N1 bird flu strain, the Health Ministry has announced.

The soldier, identified only by his surname Cheng, is receiving treatment at an army hospital, the ministry said yesterday on its website, without indicating his condition.

It said Cheng had been in hospital since May 14, five days after his cough and fever started, but failed to provide details about where Cheng lived or how he might have been exposed.

Xinhua said a spokesman from the ministry also declined to say in which military area Cheng served or how he may have come in contact with the lethal virus.

A spokeswoman from the World Health Organisation urged Beijing to give such details about Cheng's case.

The ministry report said test results obtained by local health authorities on May 18 found the soldier had the H5N1 bird flu strain, and it was confirmed on Wednesday in a test performed by the national Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the PLA's CDC.

It said people who had close contact with Cheng had been under medical observation, with no one showing signs of the disease so far.

The ministry said leaders of the State Council and the Central Committee of the PLA were 'highly concerned' by the case and had ordered the army to co-operate with local health departments in monitoring more possible cases in the forces.

It said the ministry had conveyed the information to the WHO, to health authorities in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, and to some other countries.

The ministry reported its first human case of bird flu in 2005, as the virus was tearing through Vietnam and Thailand. Last August, it confirmed that the country's first human case of H5N1 bird flu virus had actually occurred in November 2003.

A 24-year-old PLA soldier who died in Beijing in 2003 was initially thought to be suffering from Sars. Further tests later found he had died of human avian influenza. The authorities also did not disclose the soldier's military region.

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