Beijing: China braced for a major outbreak of the new bird flu H7N9 virus after it reported the death of a sixth person on Friday with two more new cases taking the total number of cases to 16.
    
Chinese scientists have also invented a detection kit to be distributed to hospitals for quick diagnosis. Also Shanghai, China’s biggest metropolis with 23 million people moved on a war footing halting sales of chickens and other birds while ordering culling of thousands of birds following yesterday's detection of the H7N9 virus among pigeons.
    
A 64-year-old man surnamed Zhang, a peasant from Huzhou City died from the H7N9 bird flu, taking the death toll from the new deadly strain to six in the country. He passed away after rescue efforts failed last night.
    
The city has reported three infections to date, and two have died, the Health Bureau of Zhejiang Province said today. So far, 55 people who had close contact with Zhang have shown no abnormal symptoms, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
    
Meanwhile, a 14-year-old Thai tourist died from severe pneumonia in southwest China's Yunnan Province, sparking speculation that his death was due to the H7N9 virus. Confirming his death, Chinese officials however said he tested negative for the bird flu virus.     

According to the disease control and prevention departments of Yunnan, test results from the boy for H7N9 (a new strain of bird flu), H5N1 and H9N2 were negative, the news agency report said.
    
Also two bird flu cases have been confirmed in east China's Jiangsu Province on Friday taking the total number of infections to 16 nationwide. The virus for which there is no medicine so far.
    
According to state television, Hong Kong reported its first case of the bird flu after a seven-year-old girl was infected with the new virus. She was reportedly visited Shanghai earlier and exposed to poultry.
    
In all the places where the cases were reported, dozens of people who have come in contact with the patients were being watched to determine whether the virus could pass on through human-to-human contact.
    
So far no such cases were reported, which doctors say is an indication the disease could only pass on from birds.     China has confirmed 16 H7N9 cases, six in Shanghai, six in Jiangsu, three in Zhejiang and one in Anhui, in the first known human infections of the lesser-known strain.

So far, six people have died from H7N9 infections in Shanghai and Zhejiang. Meanwhile, the new detection kits developed by scientists to quickly diagnose the virus were being passed on to the hospitals, the television report said. This would enable the doctors to diagnose the cases locally without referring to the referral centres and wait for results. Officials in Shanghai ordered the temporary closure of live poultry markets.
    
Significantly, an adult, who is receiving medical treatment in one of the hospitals showed signs of recovery. State media is also highlighting the government's commitment to release the accurate information immediately unlike during the SARS epidemic in 2003 when information was withheld leading to the deaths of hundreds.
    
The Chinese government has conveyed the same assurance to the World Health Organisation, (WHO). Japan, which was concerned about the spread of the disease there has requested H7N9 samples to conduct research to develop a cure and vaccine.

(Agencies)

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