Two more bird flu outbreaks in China - WHO investigating

Chinese authorities have confirmed two new bird flu outbreaks in poultry in the northwestern region of Xinjiang and in central Hunan province.

Over 20 million birds have already been culled in China this year in attempts to halt the spread of avian influenza.

China has reported 24 outbreaks since mid-October in nine regions and provinces from the far southwest to the frigid northeast.

It has now confirmed three cases of human infections and two of those have died.

The Ministry of Agriculture says that 288 birds which died last week in Shanshan country in Xinjiang and 402 poultry which died in Yongzhou two weeks ago were confirmed to have the H5N1 strain of highly pathogenic bird flu.

The two provinces had earlier outbreaks of bird flu.

It appears that local veterinary departments have culled over 65,000 poultry within three kilometers (two miles) of the affected area, while it is reported that a team from the World Health Organization is investigating two human bird flu cases in China's eastern province of Anhui.

The WHO team, along with officials from China's Health Ministry and its Center for Disease Control and Prevention, will spend three days in the Anhui counties of Xiuning and Zongyang, where two female poultry workers fell ill and died of bird flu earlier this month.

There has also been one other confirmed human case in China of a nine-year-old boy who survived the infection, while his dead sister is suspected of having had the virus.

The H5N1 virus has killed almost 70 people in Asia since late 2003, and although it remains hard for people to catch the virus, experts fear it could mutate into a form that could be passed from person to person, sparking a global pandemic in which millions could die.

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