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MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Feb. 2) - The World Health Organization is investigating a possible human-to-human transmission of bird flu in Vietnam.

The WHO says two Vietnamese sisters, who died in a Hanoi hospital just over a week ago, could have contracted the H5N1 strain of avian influenza from their dead brother.

He died of respiratory ailments shortly before the girls were admitted to hospital, but no tests for bird flu were conducted on him, ruling out a conclusive link.

The WHO has already warned the H5N1 strain could combine with a human influenza virus to create a new virus, which could kill millions of people across the globe through human-to-human transmission.

Bird flu has been recorded in 10 Asian nations since December and was blamed for 10 deaths last month, eight in Vietnam and two in Thailand.

China has announced more suspected outbreaks of deadly bird flu.

China's Ministry of Agriculture has reported five new suspected outbreaks of the H5N1 virus, all confined to poultry.

They were announced in provinces and areas in the country's northwest, southwest, and center.

China's official news agency has quoted agriculture officials saying the epidemic has been brought under control.

The World Health Organization is worried, and says China's small window of opportunity in containing its bird flu outbreaks is growing smaller with each day.

February 2, 2004

Radio Australia: www.abc.net.au/ra


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