• NEW H7N9 BIRD FLU DEATHS REPORTED IN CHINA, HK

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    Security guards stand behind a gate as Thai anti-government protesters wave national flags outside the customs department during ongoing rallies in Bangkok on Tuesday. AFP PHOTO

    Security guards stand behind a gate as Thai anti-government protesters wave national flags outside the customs department during ongoing rallies in Bangkok on Tuesday. AFP PHOTO

    BEIJING: China has reported two new deaths from the H7N9 bird flu virus, state media said, as the disease returns following an outbreak last year.

    A 75-year-old patient, identified only by her surname Li, died this month of the virus in a hospital in Hangzhou in the eastern province of Zhejiang, the government-run news portal zjol.com.cn reported on Tuesday.

    Another patient, 38, in Zunyi in the southwestern province of Guizhou died on January 9 after experiencing symptoms of coughing and dizziness a month ago, the Xinhua news agency said late Monday, citing local authorities.

    Doctors said it was a suspected H7N9 case two days after his death, the report said.

    The reports came after Guangdong province in the south last week reported China’s first death from the virus this year.

    Official statistics compiled by China’s health authorities show that by the end of October 2013 there had been 45 deaths in the outbreak on the mainland, which began in February.

    Meanwhile, a Hong Kong man infected with the deadly H7N9 bird flu died on Monday, less than a week after he was confirmed to be infected with the deadly virus.

    The 65-year-old man was the second person to die from the virus in Hong Kong, and the third reported case of H7N9 infection.

    “The patient passed away at 7:02 p.m. tonight,” a government statement released on Monday said.

    Initial investigations showed that the man had travelled to the neighboring mainland Chinese city of Shenzhen a week before he was infected.

    He had not been directly exposed to live poultry, but had probably contracted the virus outside the city, Hong Kong Center for Health Protection controller, Leung Ting-hung, had told reporters last week.

    “Our initial investigation has revealed that the patient traveled to Lowu, Shenzhen with a family member from January 1 to 2. He passed by a wet market which sold live poultry in Lowu on January 1,” Leung had said.

    Five close contacts of the man remain under quarantine, with 98 other contacts, including healthcare workers and others, under medical surveillance.

    An 80-year-old man died on Boxing Day last year after he was infected with H7N9, Hong Kong’s first death from the virus.

    The case was the second reported incidence of H7N9 infection in the city after a 36-year-old Indonesian domestic helper was diagnosed in early December.

    Hong Kong is particularly alert to the spread of viruses after an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) swept through the city in 2003, killing 299 people and infecting around 1,800.

    The H7N9 outbreak began in China in February 2013 and reignited fears that a virus could mutate to become easily transmissible, potentially triggering a pandemic.

    As of January 12, a total of 169 human cases of avian influenza H7N9 have been confirmed on the mainland.

    AFP

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