January 6, 2009 / 8:32 AM / 9 years ago

China says "suspected" bird flu patient dies

BEIJING (Reuters) - A woman suspected of being infected with bird flu has died in Beijing, the local health bureau said on Tuesday of what would be the first bird flu death in the country in almost a year.

The woman died on Monday. Her age was not known, Xinhua news agency said. There were no other details.

“The report is true, but there are no details so far,” said Zhang Jianshu, a spokesman with the publicity office of the Beijing Health Bureau, told Reuters by telephone.

The World Health Organisation’s China office was not immediately able to provide comment.

Since the H5N1 virus resurfaced in Asia in 2003, it has killed more than 200 people in a dozen countries, according to the World Health Organization.

Experts fear the constantly mutating virus could change into a form easily transmitted from person to person and potentially kill millions of people worldwide.

The last known reported fatality in China was in February last year when a 44-year-old woman died in the southern province of Guangdong.

A five-year-old has been infected with bird flu in neighboring Vietnam, the first human case reported in the country this year, Vietnam’s state-run television said on Tuesday.

Reporting by Ian Ransom and Yu Le; Editing by Nick Macfie

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