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China Confirms Bird Flu Death in 2003
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It was confirmed by the Chinese Ministry of Health on Tuesday that the country's first human case of H5N1 bird flu occurred in November 2003.

A letter written by eight Chinese scientists and published on June 22 in the New England Journal of Medicine said the bird flu virus was isolated in a 24-year-old man who died in Beijing in 2003.

The man, surnamed Shi, became ill with pneumonia and respiratory problems in November 2003 and died four days after being hospitalized. Since China was at that time still reeling from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the case was suspected of being that, but lab tests were negative. 

The ministry confirmed it was in fact a human case of bird flu by parallel laboratory tests which were carried out in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO).

Before the case was revealed, China's first officially reported human infection of bird flu on the mainland was on November 16, 2005. Nineteen human cases have been confirmed since then including 12 deaths.

"Although this human infection confirmed on the mainland was two years earlier than previous dates it gives no indication that China had an outbreak of bird flu in 2003," said Mao Qun'an, spokesman for the Ministry of Health.

"People need not panic," he told Xinhua News Agency in an interview. "The surveillance capability of bird flu in the country is significantly strengthened nowadays in comparison with two years ago."

Mao said the ministry treated the case as a result of an individual scientific research and had no plan to probe more cases in that period.

Globally, 233 people had been confirmed to have contracted bird flu and 135 of them had died by August 7, according to figures from the WHO.

(Xinhua News Agency August 8, 2006)

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