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Farmer in central China sick with bird flu

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[February 02, 2009]  BEIJING (AP) -- A 21-year-old woman in central China has been infected by the H5N1 strain of bird flu in the country's eighth reported case of the disease this year, the Health Ministry said, as Hong Kong reported three birds had died of bird flu.

HardwareThe woman, a farmer surnamed Shu in the central province of Hunan, fell ill Jan. 23 after handling poultry that died from virus, the ministry said on its Web site late Saturday without giving more details. She was hospitalized three days later and was in stable condition and recovering, it said.

People who had close contact with Shu were under medical observation but none have showed symptoms of illness so far, the ministry said.

China has reported seven other cases of H5N1 since January, five of which were fatal.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government said the carcasses of a goose and two ducks found at a local beach have tested positive for bird flu. But spokeswoman Suzanne Lee said it wasn't clear yet which strain the fowl had.

There are several subtypes of H5 bird flu, including the H5N2 strain, which is not known to be harmful to humans.

The more virulent H5N1 has killed 254 people worldwide since 2003, including 25 in China, according to the World Health Organization.

While the disease remains hard for humans to catch, scientists have warned if outbreaks among poultry are not controlled, the virus may mutate into a form more easily passed between people, possibly triggering a pandemic that could kill millions worldwide.

[Associated Press]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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