It kind of feels like deja vu all over again. I was just thinking tonight about SARS and the first time I heard about the mysterious new disease back in 2002. Then a friend of mine called and told me about a confirmed case of bird flu in Beijing, just announced today. The woman was only 19 years old.
A 19-year-old woman has died of the H5N1 bird flu virus in Beijing after coming into contact with poultry, health authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong said on Tuesday.
This human H5N1 case would be China’s first in almost a year. Experts said while the case was not unexpected as the virus is more active during the cooler months between October and March, it points to holes in surveillance of the virus in poultry.
With the world’s biggest poultry population and hundreds of millions of farmers raising birds in their backyards, China is seen as crucial in the global fight against bird flu.
“The woman fell ill on December 24, was hospitalized on December 27 and died on Monday (at) 7.20 am,” the Beijing Municipal Bureau said in a faxed statement….
China’s official Xinhua News Agency earlier reported that the woman from eastern Fujian province had bought nine ducks at a market in Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing, and then gutted the birds. She gave three ducks to her father, uncle and a friend and kept the other six ducks, the agency reported.
I think we had all forgotten that bird flu, long touted as the world’s next and long-overdue pandemic, even existed. This may bring the story back with a vengeance, especially considering that this happened right here in Beijing and not off in the countryside.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.