Workers Have Bird Flu Antibodies

HONG KONG (AP) - Doctors have found antibodies to the bird flu virus in health workers, officials said Monday, renewing fears that the virus that killed six people in Hong Kong could be spread by human contact.
The virus was first detected in humans last year, and doctors have been trying since then to determine how it is transmitted - particularly, if it could be spread by contact with infected people as well as infected poultry.
Preliminary findings of blood tests show fewer than 10 health workers have developed antibodies to the virus, government spokeswoman Pauline Ling said.
Some of them ``may have been in contact with bird flu patients,'' she said.
The presence of antibodies means a person has been exposed to the virus and developed resistance, with or without developing symptoms.
In December, antibodies were found in the blood samples of a laboratory worker and a health worker who cared for the first known human victim. Five poultry workers and two others who had been in contact with the boy also tested positive for the antibodies.
The virus killed six people and infected 12 others. No new cases have been found since the government banned live chicken imports and killed all of Hong Kong's 1.4 million chickens in December. Imports of chicken resumed Feb. 8.

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