Bird flu claims 19th victim

A 27-year-old man whose family kept chickens in Vietnam died today, becoming Asia’s 19th bird flu fatality, while Malaysian authorities quarantined a pet-store owner on fears he may also have caught the virus striking the region’s poultry.

A 27-year-old man whose family kept chickens in Vietnam died today, becoming Asia’s 19th bird flu fatality, while Malaysian authorities quarantined a pet-store owner on fears he may also have caught the virus striking the region’s poultry.

Malaysia so far has kept free of the disease, which has prompted restrictions worldwide on poultry imports from affected countries and government-ordered culls of millions of infected chickens.

Ten Asian governments – Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Pakistan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam – have battled bird flu in recent weeks and officials in the US confirmed an outbreak in the state of Delaware on Friday.

But Pakistan, Taiwan and the US are reporting milder versions of bird flu than the H5N1 strain that has jumped to humans in Vietnam, where it has killed 14 people, and Thailand, where it has killed five.

The Vietnamese man was from the southern Binh Phuoc province and died today at Ho Chi Minh City’s Hospital of Tropical Diseases, officials said.

Three of his family’s chickens recently died and were then eaten by family members.

The man fell ill three days after the carcasses were prepared for eating, said To Duc Sinh, director of the Preventive Medicine Centre in Binh Phuoc province.

Most of the bird flu deaths in the current outbreak have been directly traced to contact with sick birds or their carcasses, and health officials have said they do not believe the illness can be contracted from eating chicken meat and eggs once they are properly cooked.

Also today, Vietnamese health officials reported a new infection, a 23-year-old man from the Koho ethnic minority group in central Lam Dong province.

The man lived near a poultry market.

Vietnam has 19 confirmed cases of people becoming infected with bird flu – 14 of them have died, two remain in hospital and two have recovered.

The Malaysian pet-store owner was isolated in a hospital and was being checked for bird flu, that country’s Health Ministry said. If confirmed, it would be Malaysia’s first case.

“The man is being warded for observation and to determine whether he is a victim of the deadly virus,” ministry director of communicable diseases Ramlee Rahmat was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times newspaper. “It is just a precautionary measure.”

China said over the weekend that it has newly confirmed cases of bird flu in poultry in six provinces in an upgrade of cases previously listed as suspected outbreaks.

The report on state television added that China has “not yet discovered any cases of humans catching the disease”.

It also said new suspected cases were found in Guangdong and in the Guangxi region – both of which already have confirmed cases.

Quarantine and control measures were immediately put into effect, the report said.

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