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Bird Flu Infection Of Chinese Girl Prompts Fear Of Spread Across Asia

With increasing global fear regarding the spread of the deadly bird flu, official reports from China has reported that a 10-year-old Chinese girl is the latest victim to be infected with the disease//. The victim hails from the southern Guangxi region and has been suffering from fever and pneumonia since November 23.

A test done to analyze her infection status revealed that she had a H5N1 infection and has a positive history of exposure to poultry few weeks before her illness. Her present clinical condition is very critical. The other individuals who are said to have had close contact with her have been found to be healthy.

"Danger exists for other regions," said Emergency Minister Viktor Baloga during a debate on endorsing a state of emergency imposed by President Viktor Yushchenko in five villages in Crimea. Samples of bird tissues have also been sent to laboratories in Europe to confirm the viral strain, which has been detected in birds in neighbouring Romania and Russia.

Groups of medical teams have been sent by the central and regional governments to the affected region to participate in the control of the disease. Two women from China’s Anuhi province, who were involved in poultry farming, died last month. Another confirmed case of the deadly disease, involving a 9 year-old boy in the southern Hunan province was reported previously. He is said to be recovering from the illness.

The country, which has been witnessing more than 30 outbreaks of bird flu this year alone, has been rendered a helping hand by Beijing that has expressed its willingness to fight for the cause. More than 20 million birds have been culled and it is proposed to undertake a massive vaccination programme.

The World Health Organization has been alerted about the condition over which health officials have expressed the need for better equipment and clinical expertise in the rural areas of the Asian subcontinent to limit the s pread of the virus. Following the detection of a virulent strain of the bird flu virus in Ukraine recently, there is a fear that it could spread from the Crimean peninsula to other countries in Eastern Europe.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu has already claimed the lives of more than 60 people and infecting more than 100 others in parts of Asia. There is an increasing fear that the disease may be transmitted through human beings due to a mutation of the viral genetic material. It is believed that improved surveillance of birds is the only hope left to limit the spread of the virus.

In addition, the availability of poor laboratory services in many countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia and China has prompted for a strict monitoring. Individuals in these areas live in close contact with domestic and wild fowl, which increases the risk of transmission.

"The big, big challenge is to expand the surveillance network in the rural areas. We have to provide some training and equipment and build new facilities to improve the testing capacities", said Oshitani, official from the WHO.

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