Page last updated at 13:55 GMT, Wednesday, 7 January 2009

China alert over bird flu death

By James Reynolds
BBC News, Beijing

A relative mourns 19-year-old Huang Yanqing, who died of bird flu in China's Hebei province on Monday
A relative mourns the first person to die of the virus for nearly a year

China has issued an alert against bird flu following the death of a 19-year-old woman from the disease.

The woman died after she came into contact with poultry in a market in central Hebei province.

Since the outbreak of bird flu in 2003, 21 people in China have died. Worldwide, 247 people have died.

But this is China's first bird flu death in almost a year, and the authorities here have reacted by declaring a bird flu alert.

Officials have shut down and disinfected poultry markets in Hebei.

In a statement the World Health Organization said it was concerned by the death of the 19-year-old woman, Huang Yanqing.

But it said this single case did not change its risk assessment.

The Chinese health ministry has said that that it will step up its attempts to monitor the disease.

Efforts to keep an eye on bird flu in China are important because this country has the world's biggest poultry population.

Any mass outbreak here would have serious consequences for China and for neighbouring countries.

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