Saturday, March 04, 2006

Man dies of suspected bird flu in Guangzhou

Man dies of suspected bird flu in Guangzhou: report

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A man has died of suspected H5N1 avian influenza in southern China, just over the border from Hong Kong, a local newspaper said on Saturday.

The 32-year-old man frequently visited wet markets where chickens were often slaughtered, the South China Morning Post said.

He developed fever and pneumonia on February 22 and died on March 2, Hong Kong's Center for Health Protection (CHP) said in a statement late on Friday.

Hong Kong lies less than two hours away from Guangzhou by train and the flow of travelers between the two cities is heavy.

The risk of avian influenza appearing in the city was increasing, CHP head Leung Pak-yin was quoted as saying. "We expect there could be human cases in Hong Kong and we all need to be well prepared for that."

If Beijing confirms the case as avian influenza, Hong Kong public hospitals and clinics will be required to report any flu cases with unclear diagnoses to the CHP, the Post said.

Chinese authorities had attempted to muzzle news coverage, the daily said.

"The Guangdong propaganda and health departments jointly issued a notice to local media not to report on the case, saying there should be no coverage until it was confirmed," it said.

Although Hong Kong has been free of human avian influenza cases since early 2003, the city continues to screen the temperatures of people entering the city at immigration, the CHP said.

Experts familiar with the situation in China have always maintained that there have been outbreaks of H5N1 in birds in Guangdong province as early as the first half of 2005. Beijing has always denied this.

Despite outbreaks in several other areas of mainland China, this is the first time that Chinese officials have said that there could be a case in Guangdong province.