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Tests to Confirm Possible 2003 Bird Flu Death
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To confirm if a man died of bird flu in 2003 China is conducting laboratory tests, the Ministry of Health said Monday.

A letter published by eight Chinese scientists in the June 22 issue of 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.

Contact had made with the eight scientists, said Mao Qun'an, spokesman of the ministry.

The man, who became ill with pneumonia and respiratory disease in November 2003, died four days after being hospitalized. As China was then experiencing an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) the case was suspected of being that illness. But tests for SARS proved negative.

However, the actual cause of his death was not clear, Mao said. Doctors and scientists conducted studies on specimens taken from the man over a period of two years and compared the virus isolated from the man's samples with influenza A (H5N1) viral strains from China and other countries.

Their findings suggest the man may have died of bird flu, Mao added.

"In accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) and China's diagnostic standards for human avian influenza, parallel laboratory tests are needed for further confirmation," he said.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention is conducting the tests and the ministry will keep the WHO updated, added Mao.

China reported its first human bird flu case in November, 2005. To date China has reported 19 cases which have resulted in the deaths of 12 people.

(Xinhua News Agency July 11, 2006)

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