China Reports 5th Bird Flu Death this Year

BEIJING (AP) -- An 18-year-old man died from bird flu Monday in southern China, the fifth human death from the virus in the country this year, state media reported.

The man, surnamed Liang, died in the Guangxi region after falling ill on Jan. 19, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention tests found Liang was carrying the H5N1 strain of bird flu.

The Health Ministry said after the earlier deaths this month that there is no evidence of a large-scale outbreak of bird flu. It said the illnesses were isolated, unrelated and did not show significant mutations of the H5N1 virus.

They also occurred during the cold months, which experts say is the high season for infections, it said.

Still, China launched a daily bird flu reporting system for poultry and human cases last week, underscoring its concerns about potential epidemics.

Provincial health and agriculture departments must report to the Health Ministry, Agriculture Ministry and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce every day on whether there have been infections in their areas.

The Agriculture Ministry has also ordered increased monitoring and management of live poultry markets, especially for this week's Lunar New Year holiday, when people will have more contact with chickens and ducks while preparing celebratory meals.

Last week, a woman in China's far west died from bird flu. A woman in eastern China, a teenage boy in southwest China and a woman in Beijing also have died from the disease this month.

Xinhua said the Health Ministry has reported the latest death to the World Health Organization.

According to the organization, bird flu has killed more than 250 people worldwide since 2003, including at least 22 in China.

While the disease remains hard for humans to catch, scientists have warned if outbreaks among poultry are not controlled, the virus may mutate into a form more easily passed between people, possibly triggering a pandemic that could kill millions worldwide.

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