Bird Flu Making Alarmin Trend In China With 5th Death

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An 18-year-old man died from bird flu today in southern China, the fifth human death from the avian flu virus in the country this year, according to state media reports.

However, according to the Associated Press, the country's Health Ministry said after the earlier deaths this month that there is no evidence of a large-scale outbreak of bird flu. It called the illnesses isolated and unrelated.

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The fourth victim, a 31-year-old woman from the western part of the country, died Friday, Associated Press reported.

Both victims died from the H5N1 strain of bird flu, the same strain that has caused the deaths of 251 people since the World Health Organization (WHO) started keeping statistics in 2003.

The other three deaths appear not to be related, AP reported, coming in three different geographic regions. As in all other human cases reported by WHO, this incident of bird flu appeared to be contracted by contact with poultry or fowl and not transmitted from human to human.

Scientists have been carefully monitoring avian flu outbreaks, in which millions of birds have been put to death, to see whether the H5N1 virus has mutated. The fear is that a mutation causing human-to-human infection could lead to a worldwide influenza pandemic.

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