BEIJING, Nov. 16 (Xinhuanet) -- China's Ministry of Health on Wednesday confirmed two human cases and one suspected case of H5N1 bird flu.
The two confirmed cases involve a nine-year-old boy in Xiangtan County of Hunan Province, central China, and a 24-year-old woman farmer in Zongyang County of Anhui Province in the east.
Earlier Wednesday, the ministry said three human cases had been confirmed.
The boy surnamed He had fever and showed pneumonia-like symptoms on Oct. 10. There was an outbreak of H5N1 bird flu occurred in his village.
Lab tests on the boy's blood serum samples show his H5 antibodies rose by more than four times, which indicates that he was infected by the H5N1 bird flu virus.
Based on clinical and lab tests, experts from the ministry and the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed the boy as a human case of H5N1 bird flu. He was discharged from hospital on Nov. 12 after recovery.
The woman farmer in Anhui developed fever and pneumonia-like symptoms on Nov. 1 and died of prostration of breathing on Nov. 10. Chickens and ducks at her home died one to two weeks before she fell ill and she had contacts with sick and dead chickens and ducks, the ministry said.
Meanwhile, the boy's 12-year-old sister, who had similar symptoms as her brother and died on Oct. 17, was reported as a suspected human case according to WHO standards, said the ministry.
The experts from the ministry suspected the girl of being a human case of H5N1 bird flu, but cannot confirm it by WHO standards due to insufficient evidence from laboratory tests, according to the ministry.
Roy Wadia, WHO spokesman in Beijing, said that by WHO's strict definition, the girl in Hunan could not be confirmed as a human case as the samples collected from her were too limited.
"It is not surprising to see human case of bird flu reported inChina," he said.
However, "while any 'first' is, of course, symbolic, in purely medical and scientific terms this particular instance is more of areiteration and continuation of the existing bird flu scenario in this part of the world than something that is completely 'new'", he said.
It also indicates the ongoing challenge countries face in raising public awareness -- especially at the rural, backyard farmers' level -- of the dangers posed by avian flu, Wadia said.
As for the third pneumonia case in Hunan reported previously, aschoolteacher, Wadia said, WHO experts have not ruled him out of bird flu infection. "More tests need to be done."
Apart from the WHO, the ministry has also reported the two confirmed human cases and one suspected case to related authorities in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, as well as some countries.