BEIJING Police in southwestern China have detained two men and a woman for "causing concern and worry" about H7N9 bird flu, Chengdu city police department's official website said on Wednesday.
Chinese authorities are cracking down on "spreading rumors" which they say is necessary to preserve social stability and prevent false information from causing panic.
Rights advocates say the crackdown is an excuse to further limit free speech online.
The three detainees are accused of saying on WeChat messaging that bird flu had killed many people in their home city of Chengdu, a microblog on the police site said.
In January at least 24 people had caught H7N9 and three deaths were confirmed by the World Health Organization, a big increase on the two cases and one death reported for the four-month period of June to September.
China's government came under heavy criticism for initially trying to conceal an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which emerged in China in 2002 and killed about one in 10 of the 8,000 people it infected worldwide.
(Reporting by Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Louise Ireland)