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Bird flu’s spread around the globe

The World Health Organization confirmed on Thursday the death of a 27-year-old Vietnamese man from Ninh Binh province from the H5N1 strain of Avian flu.

The World Health Organization has also confirmed two deaths in Indonesia, one a 16-year-old male who died on Feb. 10, and the second a 3-year-old boy who died on Feb. 15. China said on Thursday that a 41-year-old man had died from the H5N1 bird flu virus, but this has yet to be confirmed by the WHO on its Web site. The outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu began in Asia in 2003. Following are some facts about the H5N1 virus and its spread:

* Since the virus re-emerged in Asia in 2003, outbreaks have been confirmed in about 60 countries and territories, according to data from the World Organization for Animal Health.

* The virus has killed 231 people since 2003, according to the WHO. Countries with confirmed human deaths are: Azerbaijan,

Cambodia, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Laos, Nigeria, Pakistan Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam. Djibouti and Myanmar also have had human cases but no deaths.

* In total, the virus is known to have infected 365 people since 2003, according to the WHO. Many of the dead are children and young adults.

* The WHO says Vietnam and Indonesia have the highest number of cases, accounting for 155 deaths.

* The H5N1 virus is not new to science and was responsible for an outbreak of avian influenza in Scotland in 1959. Britain confirmed new cases in birds in Scotland in April 2006 and in southeast England in February 2007.

* H5N1 is not the only bird flu virus. There are numerous strains. For example, an outbreak in 2003 of the H7N7 bird flu virus in the Netherlands led to the destruction of more than 30 million birds, about one-third of the country’s poultry stock. About 2.7 million were destroyed in Belgium and about 400,000 in Germany. In the Netherlands, 89 people were infected with the H7N7 virus, of whom one -- a veterinarian -- died.

* The H5N1 virus made the first known jump to humans in Hong Kong in 1997, infecting 18 people and killing six of them. The government ordered the immediate slaughter of the territory’s entire poultry flock, ending the outbreak.

* Symptoms of bird flu in humans have ranged from typical influenza-like symptoms, such as fever, cough, sore throat and aching muscles, to eye inflammations, pneumonia, breathing problems, viral pneumonia and other severe and life-threatening complications. (Reuters)