Chinese City Reports Second Bird Flu Fatality

Chinese state media report another patient has died after having contracted the H5N1 influenza virus, also known as . From Xinhua:

The second of two people confirmed by the Ministry of Health to have contracted avian influenza died in a hospital in Southwest China’s Guizhou Province on Friday, according to health authorities.
The patient, a 31-year-old man, died of multiple organ failure at Jinyang Hospital in Guizhou, the provincial capital, at 4:40 pm, sources with the provincial health department said.
The man developed symptoms on February 3 and was hospitalized on February 8.
Another patient, a 21-year-old woman, died of multiple organ failure on February 13. They both tested positive for the H5N1 virus on February 17.
This most recent fatality comes a year after a bird flu death in the same province. The New York Times reports the two more recent victims were in close contact with birds:

The flu, which is circulated in poultry and birds, has infected only 600 humans in the last decade, but has proven fatal in half the cases, so officials closely monitor its transmission. Scientists fear that the flu could mutate into a form that is highly contagious in humans.

The news agency added that 110 people who had been exposed to the victims had been released from quarantine.

Amid fears of the possible mutation of bird flu into a more contagious virus, according to Bloomberg, health authorities in the United States have outlined the conditions for funding research on the virus:

The Department of Health and Human Services will only fund studies that meet seven criteria, officials including HHS chief- of-staff Sally Howard and National Institutes of Health director Francis S. Collins wrote in the journal Science today. The criteria include a requirement to demonstrate that a virus that scientists plan to create in a lab could evolve naturally, and that safety and security risks can be managed.

The conditions are aimed at enabling research that would help the world prepare for a rapidly spreading form of H5N1. The virus has infected 620 people in 15 countries since 2003, killing 60 percent of them, according to the World Health Organization. Most victims have had direct contact with birds, and the virus has so far failed to acquire the ability to transmit easily between humans.

“HHS must, out of necessity, support some scientific research that involves a certain level of inherent risk but that is nevertheless essential for our health and well-being,” Howard and colleagues wrote.

Scientists worldwide issued a voluntary moratorium on H5N1 research in January 2012 after two NIH-funded studies showed how to make the virus easier to transmit among ferrets, the mammals whose response to flu is most like that of humans.

Read more about bird flu in China, via CDT.


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