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Shenzhen on Alert over Suspected Case of H5N1
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A man suspected to have contracted bird flu in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province, remained in a critical condition last night.

Blood samples from the 31-year-old man, surnamed Jiang, were sent to the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday.

The results of the test are expected within two days, Mao Qun'an, spokesman for the Ministry of Health, said yesterday.

"Preliminary tests carried out by the local centre for disease control showed he was positive for the H5N1 strain of bird flu," said Huang Fei, deputy director of Guangdong Provincial Department of Health.

The man, a truck driver for a company in the city's Longgang District, developed a fever and pneumonia on June 3 and sought treatment at Shenzhen People's Hospital on Friday. He was moved to the Donghu Hospital for Infectious Diseases on Monday.

"The patient's condition is still critical. He could not speak so we are not able to get information from him on how he was infected," Teresa Choi, principal medical and health officer of the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, told reporters yesterday.

Choi led a six-member expert delegation for a meeting with their counterparts in Shenzhen yesterday afternoon to exchange views and share information concerning the bordering city's first human avian influenza case.

The local government stated in a press release on Tuesday night that the man's wife had bought a chicken two weeks ago at a nearby wet market and cooked it for the five-member family the same night. So far, no other family members have showed any symptoms of bird flu.

The man had also visited the wet market which sold chickens in the days before he fell ill, said Choi.

Roy Wadia, spokesman for the Beijing office of the World Health Organization (WHO), said the supervision and monitoring of the epidemic among poultry had to be strengthened.

He added public awareness needed to be raised on how to correctly handle and cook chicken.

The man would become China's 19th reported human case if he is confirmed as having the deadly H5N1 strain. Twelve of those cases have been fatal.

Although Hong Kong has been free from any human case of bird flu since early 2003, the suspected case in Shenzhen has put it on high alert. The special administrative region's hospital authority was due to launch a three-week enhanced surveillance program today.

The suspected case of bird flu comes nearly three months after Hong Kong resumed imports of live chickens from the mainland. It followed a three-week suspension after a man died of bird flu in Guangzhou in early March.

Guangdong Vice-Governor Lei Yulan said the provincial government had paid great attention to the case and would continue to reinforce the quarantine on birds both imported and exported.

In another development, China has developed a new testing technology that will allow veterinary workers to detect the H5 subtype strains of bird flu among birds within 12 minutes, the Ministry of Agriculture said yesterday.

(China Daily June 15, 2006)

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