BEIJING – A senior Chinese official says H5N1 antibodies have been detected in a nine-year-old boy in Hunan province, the first admission of a human bird flu infection in China, the South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday.
China's Health Ministry could not immediately confirm the report.
The semi-official China News Service, quoting Qi Xiaoqiu, director of the Ministry of Health's department of disease control, said the government was waiting for the results of a joint investigation with the World Health Organisation before confirming whether the boy was the first human case of avian influenza in the country.
But the China News Service did not say which strain of bird flu the boy had tested positive for.
“During the early stage, antibodies were not found, but now the boy is positive to antibody tests,” the news service quoted Qi as saying. The comments also were reported by Hong Kong's South China Morning Post newspaper.
“We are waiting for the advice of the WHO. The WHO has a set of procedures to confirm a case and it usually takes two laboratories to confirm.”
He Junyao and his 12-year-old sister fell ill last month and were treated for pneumonia symptoms. The boy was discharged from hospital last weekend but his sister died.
Chinese officials said initial tests showed she had tested negative for bird flu .
The WHO is sending a team this week to the southern province of Hunan to investigate the cases, which China later said could not be ruled out as bird flu . The children lived close to the site of a poultry outbreak.
The H5N1 virus has killed more than 60 people elsewhere in Asia since 2003 and is endemic is poultry flocks in many parts of the region. Almost all of those who died had been in close contact with infected birds.
Health experts fear millions could be killed around the world if the virus mutates to the point where it could spread easily from person to person.
Battling to control several outbreaks of the H5N1 virus, China vowed on Tuesday to vaccinate its entire stock of 14 billion poultry, with the government footing the bill, as it scrambles to prevent more outbreaks.
It gave no timetable for the inoculation campaign.
China is also probing a possible human infection in a northeastern province, the World Health Organisation said on Monday.