Bird flu death toll in Vietnam nears 50
( RIA Novosti ) - The Vietnamese Health Ministry confirmed on Thursday the 47th known death in the country from bird flu.
The victim, a four-year-old child from the country's northern Shonla province, died of pneumonia on December 16 in a hospital in Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital.
Subsequent tests confirmed on December 26 that the child had been infected with the deadly H5N1 form of avian influenza. The death was the first known fatality from bird flu in Vietnam since the beginning of August.
It is not known how the child, whose gender has not been given, became infected. However, some reports say that he or she may have eaten a chicken which had died of unknown causes.
The death is the 211th out of a total of 341 cases worldwide since the virus claimed its first victim in 2003. The worst-hit country is Indonesia with 94 confirmed fatalities from the H5N1 strain of the disease.
U.S. health experts were due to arrive in Pakistan on Thursday to look into suspected bird flu cases in the country and to determine if any of the infections had been caused by human-to-human transmission.
Although no cases of human-to-human transmission of avian influenza have been reported, scientists fear the virus could mutate into a strain that could pass easily from person to person, causing a global pandemic similar to the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918 that killed millions around the world.