BEIJING, April 3 (Reuters) - China has found two more cases of a new strain of bird flu and one of the victims has died, state media said on Wednesday, bringing to nine the number of cases.
A 38-year old cook became ill early last month while working in the province of Jiangsu, where five of the other cases were found. He died in hospital in Hangzhou city on March 27, the Xinhua news agency reported. Samples tested positive for the new H7N9 strain on Wednesday.
The second patient, also in Hangzhou, is a 67-year old who is under treatment. Xinhua said no connection between the two cases had been discovered, and no one in close contact with either patient had developed any flu-like symptoms.
Of the seven other cases of the new strain, two have died, both in the business hub of Shanghai. The other five are in a critical condition in hospital in Nanjing.
Shanghai, Nanjing and Hangzhou are all close to each other in eastern China.
The Agriculture Ministry said it had yet to find any animals infected with H7N9, though added it was possible it had been brought to China by migratory birds.
The World Health Organisation said on Monday that the first three cases had shown no evidence of human-to-human transmission, but that there were questions about the source of the infection and the mode of transmission.
China has stepped up its alert level since the cases came to light and has said it is being transparent in dealing with the outbreak.
China has a chequered record when it comes to tackling bad news, which has been known to be covered up by officials fearing it may attract unwanted attention from superiors and damage promotion prospects.
In 2003, authorities initially tried to cover up an epidemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which emerged in China and killed about a tenth of the 8,000 people it infected worldwide. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard and David Stanway; Editing by Robert Birsel)