China reports 11th death from bird flu as virus sweeps across the world

The World Health Organization (WHO) and China's Health Ministry have confirmed that a 29-year-old Shanghai woman has died of bird flu.

The woman is the 11th person to die from the virulent H5N1 strain of bird flu in China.

According to official sources it is not known where she was from, or how long she had lived in Shanghai, and how she contracted the disease.

It is the first known case in Shanghai, which has opened 160 monitoring stations at health clinics and deployed an information campaign.

Since late 2003, bird flu has devastated poultry stocks; virtually all human infections so far are thought to have been caused by direct contact with sick poultry.

Outbreaks have been reported in Africa, Europe and the Middle East, and last week Jordan became the latest country in the Middle East to confirm cases of H5N1.

To date no humans there have been infected and the outbreak is reportedly under control.

There are fears that it is only a matter of time before the lethal virus reaches the United States.

According to the WHO since the virus re-emerged in Asia in 2003, outbreaks have been confirmed in more than 45 countries and territories, and just this year more than 30 countries have reported outbreaks mostly in wild birds.

Since 2003 the virus has killed 105 people in eight countries and territories and there have been confirmed human cases in Azerbaijan, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Iraq, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.

The virus is known to have infected 186 people and many who have died have been children and young adults.

Sixty four of those deaths have occurred in Vietnam and Indonesia.

There is however nothing new about the H5N1 virus, it was responsible for an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Scotland in 1959.

Neither is it the only bird flu virus, there are in fact numerous strains.

An outbreak in 2003 of the H7N7 strain of the bird flu virus in the Netherlands resulted in the destruction of more than 30 million birds, a quarter of the country's poultry stock.

About 2.7 million birds were destroyed in Belgium, and around 400,000 in Germany.

In the Netherlands, 89 people were infected with the H7N7 virus and one died.

The jump from birds to humans of the H5N1 virus, occurred in Hong Kong in 1997, infecting 18 people and killing six of them.

Government orders for the immediate culling of the territory's entire poultry flock, ended that outbreak.

Bird flu symptoms in humans range from typical flu symptoms, such as fever, cough, sore throat and muscle aches, to eye infections, pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, viral pneumonia, and other severe and life-threatening complications.

Scientists have always feared the virus could mutate to spread between humans, triggering a global pandemic.

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