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The death of an 11-year-old boy points to a new risk for the world’s second most populous nation battling the coronavirus pandemic.
India is investigating the first documented human death from bird flu after an 11-year-old boy succumbed to the disease earlier this month, the health ministry says.
The boy was admitted to the distinguished All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi on July 2. He died Tuesday after a multi-organ failure, a government statement said late Wednesday.
Health workers treating the boy’s patient and family have been kept in isolation and authorities have begun tracing contacts, the statement said.
In Haryana, the boy’s home state in northern India, the Animal Care Department has found no suspected bird flu, but has stepped up surveillance.
Genome sequencing and virus isolation are underway and an epidemiological investigation has been launched, the health ministry said.
The boy lived in Gurgaon, on the outskirts of the capital New Delhi, and also suffered from leukemia and pneumonia, the AFP news agency reported on Thursday.
The death from the bird flu virus of the H5N1 strain highlights a potential new risk to the world’s second most populous nation battling the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 31 million people and killed more than 400,000.
India has seen more than half a dozen outbreaks of bird flu in poultry in the past 20 years, all of which were brought under control, with no previous human cases reported in the country.
Avian influenza mainly affects birds and poultry. In 2008, millions of poultry were culled in India.
But cases of transmission between people are extremely rare.
H5N1 first broke out in 1997 and then spread between 2003 and 2011, while H7N9 was first detected in 2013.
Two strains of bird flu, H5N1 and H7N9, first found in 2013, led to human contamination in Asia from infected birds.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, H7N9 has infected 1,668 people and killed 616 since 2013.
In the Indian case, the ministry said, the virus belonged to the H5Nx subtype, which is considered to be of concern as it has been proven to have evolved into very dangerous strains.
Last month, China revealed its first human case of bird flu, and in February Russia discovered the disease among workers at a poultry factory.
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