HK worry at China bird flu case

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/5086148.stm

HK worry at China bird flu case

China’s latest human bird flu case is worrying because it may show the virus is becoming as active in summer as in winter, a Hong Kong minister said.

China confirmed on Thursday that a 31 year-old man in the southern city of Shenzhen had the H5N1 virus.

Some experts believe the virus is more of a threat in cooler, winter months.

“We are concerned whether the virus has mutated so that the infection rate has become equally high all year around,” Health Minister York Chow said.

“Is it because the summer and winter seasons make no difference to it? Or is it that it is active in summer, but gets even stronger in winter?” Mr Chow said.

“We still have to monitor the situation, and we can’t say for sure now.”

Dick Thompson, a spokesman for the World Health Organisation in Geneva, told the BBC that initially some scientists thought that the virus could have a seasonal component.

But the WHO was looking for patterns, he said, and it was hard to say whether a single case was indicative of any change in the virus.

The Shenzhen man is the 19th person in China to be infected, Xinhua news agency said. Twelve people have died.

On Thursday, the WHO confirmed that a girl who died last month near the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, was the country’s 38th bird flu victim.

More than 120 people have died around the world since the H5N1 virus emerged in South East Asia in 2003.

The virus cannot yet pass easily from one person to another, but experts fear it could mutate at some point in the future, and in its new form trigger a flu pandemic, potentially putting millions of human lives at risk.