The strain of H5N1 avian influenza that infected and killed a man in Shenzhen, China, was a mutant strain of the deadly virus, according to Chinese and Hong Kong media reports.
A 39-year-old bus-driver named Chen died from multiple organ failure on Dec. 31 after being infected, according to the Department of Health of Guangdong Province.
The health department stated that an expert team had examined Chen and confirmed that he contracted the H5N1 avian influenza virus.
The Guangdong Department of Health said that in the month before Chen became infected he did not have a history of contact with domestic fowl, nor had he traveled away from home. Further, the 120 people who were confirmed to have had close contact with him did not show any symptoms of the disease.
Ma Wuhan, Deputy Director of the Center for Disease and Control in Shenzhen, told Hong Kong media that the form of the virus that infected the patient was “very virulent,” which is why the patient had experienced a strong reaction, ending in death. He also said that so far, the virus has not been transmitted from human to human: only from animal to human.
Chinese media reported that Chen lived close to a man-made lake and wetlands inhabited by many wild birds. An expert team on avian influenza also stated in the diagnostic report that “the patient had a habit of working out in the morning, and had contracted the disease during the bird flu season.”
Zhou Poping, the chief of an avian influenza expert team in Shenzhen, said that although the patient did not have contact with fowl, experts surmised that he contracted the virus through bird feces, according to a report by Nanfang Daily.
In Hong Kong, the nearby island city south of Shenzhen, there were three reported cases on Dec. 20 of bird and chicken deaths due to the H5N1 virus.
This is the first reported human death due to the bird flu virus in China in 18 months. In June 2010 in Hubei Province, a pregnant woman died from the virus, according to reports.