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Bird flu kills Thai boy; reports paint bleak picture in US
Updated: 2005-12-09 15:37

Bird flu killed a young Thai boy, Asia's 70th victim of the deadly virus, authorities said on Friday, as two reports detailed how a pandemic could cause a serious recession in the United States.

Bird flu kills Thai boy; reports paint bleak picture in US
Two fighting cocks are trained for a fight at a farm in Ayutthaya province, 80 km north of Bangkok, December 9,2005. Bird flu has killed a five-year-old Thai boy, the country's 14th victim of the deadly virus, Deputy Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakula said. [Reuters]
China also reported a new case of H5N1, the fifth person in the country known to have been infected with the deadly virus. The 31-year-old woman, who lived in Heishan county, northeast China's Liaoning province, has since recovered.

The death of the 5-year-old boy from the central province of Nakhon Nayok, 110 km (70 miles) from Bangkok, took Thailand's bird flu death toll to 14 out of 22 known cases since the virus swept through large parts of Asia in late 2003.

He was the second Thai killed by the H5N1 virus since bird flu erupted anew in the country in October, when a 48-year-old man died.

It was not yet certain how the boy caught the virus, which usually strikes those in close contact with infected fowl or their droppings, senior health officials said. The boy, who died in hospital on Wednesday, was not known to have had direct contact with chickens, health officials said.

"We believe that the boy contracted the virus from his surroundings because, although his family does not raise chickens, there are chickens raised in his neighborhood," said Thawat Suntrajarn, head of the Health Ministry's Disease Control Department.

That would follow the usual pattern of human infections of the virus, which has not yet shown signs of evolving into a form which could pass easily from person to person.

Experts say that is the great fear. If the H5N1 virus did acquire that ability, it could set off a pandemic which could kill millions of people without immunity to the new strain.

In the two years since the virus began to spread widely in Asia, there has been only one case in Thailand in which H5N1 is suspected of moving from person to person -- that of a mother who died after cradling her dying daughter all night.

But the World Health Organization says the virus is now endemic in parts of Asia and countries around the world are preparing plans to deal with a pandemic which could cause serious economic losses as well as widespread deaths.

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