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First Human Bird Flu Case in 2007 Reported

A new human case of H5N1 bird flu, the first this year, was confirmed in China as health authorities step up efforts to develop a vaccine for the deadly virus.

The developer of the vaccine told China Daily yesterday it is waiting for State approval to start the second phase of clinical trials.

A 44-year-old woman from a remote village in East China's Fujian Province was diagnosed on February 18 as having the virus, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

The villager, surnamed Li, had developed a fever after she had eaten two chickens she had raised.

Tests by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the woman had contracted the H5N1 strain.

She only raised a few chickens, and disease control professionals have not traced the virus to other chickens in her village.

The source of infection, they suggested, might have come from migrating wild birds.

Li is reportedly in a serious condition at a local hospital. All who have had close contact with her are being closely monitored, although none have so far shown any symptoms of virus infection.

Zhang Changpin, vice-governor of the Fujian Province, has ordered the compulsory inoculation of all chickens, and has required local authorities to set up inoculation files and issue certificates for inoculated birds, Xinhua reported yesterday.

The Ministry of Health told Xinhua it had already notified the World Health Organization about the case.

Since 2003, the deadly virus has infected 22 people in China and killed 14.

The last case was a 37-year-old farmer in East China's Anhui Province, which was reported on January 10, although he had contracted the virus last year.

The virus remains essentially an animal disease, but experts fear it may mutate into a form that is easily transmitted to humans and trigger a pandemic.

The Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech, which is co-developing a H5N1 bird flu vaccine with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said it is ready for the second phase of clinical trials.

"Everything is ready for the second phase which will be carried out when the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) gives the nod," Chen Jiangting, director of the clinical trial research department of Sinovac told China Daily yesterday. "We filed the application last September."

She said the first phase of clinical trials on 120 volunteers showed the vaccine could provide 78 percent protection, and the figure meets the standard for seasonal flu vaccine set by the European Union.

"We are upbeat about the coming second phase of clinical trials," Chen said.

(China Daily March 2, 2007)

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