One of two patients confirmed to have contracted the H5N1 bird flu virus died yesterday in a hospital in Guiyang, capital of Guizhou province.
Guizhou authorities said Shuai Pengyue, a 21-year-old woman from Guiyang, died of multiple organ failure. It was the first fatal case of bird flu on the mainland since January last year.
Another Guiyang resident, a 31-year-old man, remained in critical condition after developing symptoms on February 3, Xinhua reported. Neither had been in contact with birds and their cases were unrelated, the report said, citing the Ministry of Health. No one who had been in close contact with the two had fallen ill, the report added.
"These two cases were diagnosed rather late, after they showed symptoms, resulting in their organs being severely damaged and causing death in one," said Dr Ho Pak-leung, a University of Hong Kong microbiologist.
There were no signs of an outbreak, and Hong Kong did not import chickens from the area, Ho added. He said people travelling to the area should maintain the highest standards of hygiene.
A man died of bird flu in Guiyang in January last year. Hong Kong has not seen fatal cases of H5N1 in recent years but the virus has been detected in dead birds.
More than 365 people around the world have died of bird flu since an outbreak in 2003, the World Health Organisation said in its latest report. It said the mainland had seen one fatal case per year since 2010, and 25 in the period from 2003 to 2009.
The H5N1 virus typically spreads from birds to humans through contact but experts fear it could mutate into a form transmissible between humans.
The recent cases of bird flu on the mainland, where the sufferers were not exposed to poultry, have prompted concern among some global health officials that there could be a gap in surveillance for H5N1 in poultry, or problems with its poultry vaccination programme, the Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota said in a report.
- A three-year-old Cambodian girl died of bird flu, bringing the country's toll to six so far this year, the WHO said yesterday.