A 24-year-old man in China has died from bird flu, bringing that country's death toll from the H5N1 avian influenza virus to 17, the World Health Organization reported Tuesday.
Officials said the man, from Jiangsu Province, developed symptoms on Nov. 24 and was hospitalized three days later. He died Sunday.
Health officials said preliminary reports indicated the man had no contact with sick birds before he became ill. His close contacts were under medical observation and showed no signs of illness, officials said.
While the disease has generally remained confined to people who have come in contact with infected birds and poultry, health officials fear that if the virus mutates it could be easily spread between humans, setting off a worldwide pandemic.
China has reported 26 confirmed cases of bird flu since 2003, when the disease re-emerged. Worldwide, there have been 336 cases, 207 of which have been fatal. The majority of cases reported – 113 – have been in Indonesia, where 91 people have died.