Health officials with the China Centers for Disease Control have reported a human case of H5N1 avian influenza in a man from Chengdu city, Sichuan province, according to Chinese media (computer translated).

H5N1 avian influenza Image/Cynthia Goldsmith/ Jackie Katz
H5N1 avian influenza
Image/Cynthia Goldsmith/ Jackie Katz

The 42-year-old patient presented with  fever and other symptoms in late December and was hospitalized in Qingyang district . On Jan. 2, he was transferred to a General Hospital in Chengdu where clinical diagnosis of severe pneumonia and respiratory failure were made.

A specimen from the patient’s lower respiratory tract tested positive for the H5N1 avian influenza virus.

Currently, the patient’s condition is extremely critical.

H5N1 is a type of influenza virus that causes a highly infectious, severe respiratory disease in birds called avian influenza (or “bird flu”). Humancases of H5N1 avian influenza occur occasionally, but it is difficult to transmit the infection from person to person. When people do become infected, the mortality rate is about 60%.

Almost all cases of H5N1 infection in people have been associated with close contact with infected live or dead birds, or H5N1-contaminated environments. The virus does not infect humans easily, and spread from person to person appears to be unusual. There is no evidence that the disease can be spread to people through properly prepared and thoroughly cooked food.