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Girl dies of bird flu in China
Updated: 2006-03-08 17:13

A nine-year-old girl has died of bird flu in China, the Chinese media said on Wednesday, as the United Nations stepped up efforts to battle the rapidly spreading virus.

The girl, China's 10th known death from bird flu, died on Monday night in the eastern province of Zhejiang, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Girl dies of bird flu in China
Chickens are seen at a poultry market in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province February 26, 2006. A 9-year-old girl has died from bird flu in eastern China, bringing the country's death toll from the disease to 10, Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday. [Reuters]
Her death comes days after the government confirmed that a 32-year-old man had died from the H5N1 virus in the southern province of Guangdong, near Hong Kong, triggering alarm there.

The girl was from Anji county, Huzhou city in the province. Her hometown is close to Guangde county in the neighboring Anhui Province where abnormal deaths of chicken and ducks were reported in mid-January.

It is reported that the girl visited her relatives in Guangde twice during the past Spring Festival.

The virus has spread rapidly since the beginning of February, killing birds in at least 15 new countries as it spreads deeper into Europe and Africa.

Nigeria said highly pathogenic bird flu has been found in three new states, including one in the far south, indicating that the virus has spread all over Africa's most populous country despite measures to contain it.

Excluding China's latest death, bird flu has infected 175 people, killing 95 of them since 2003, and scientists fear it is only a matter of time before the virus mutates into a form that passes easily among people, triggering a pandemic. Millions could die and economies crippled for months.

To try to combat the growing threat, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization is to play a greater role in fighting bird flu, becoming a "global clearing house" for efforts to stem the spread of the virus, it said on Tuesday.

The United States and the European Union have backed the formation of what a senior U.S. official called an "emergency operations center" at the FAO's Rome headquarters. The initiative was agreed at a meeting at the FAO requested by the United States and the EU.

Funding for the center will come from a pot of almost $2 billion pledged by wealthy nations at an international conference in Beijing in January. The United States would provide experts to help run the center and expects other nations to follow suit.

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