A 39-year-old bus driver has become the first victim of bird flu in over a year in China in the province of Shenzen, after developing what had at first appeared to be pneumonia.
According to the BBC, the man was admitted to hospital with suspected pneumonia but then tested positive for the H5N1 strain of the virus, the most dangerous for humans with up to 60% of infected humans dying from the disease.
The man had not apparently had any contact with poultry or travelled outside of his area. However, it has been discovered that infected chickens were being sold in a market in Hong Kong, leading to a cull of around 17,000 birds.
According to CBC News, the man died on Dec 31 after having first developed symptoms on Dec 21. The report said that the man, whose surname is given as Chen lived in a wealthy city in the southern part of the Shenzen province which is separated from Hong Kong by a small river.
People who had been in close contact with the victim, said to number around 120, have not developed any sign of the illness. The World Health Organisation has been informed of the death. The last person to die in China of the illness was a 22-year-old pregnant woman in June 2010. She had, however, been exposed to sick poultry before contracting the illness.
The Poultry Site describes avian flu as being caused by a type of influenza virus that is hosted by birds but may infect mammals. It was first identified in Italy in the early 1900's and is now known to exist worldwide.
A report in the health section of the CBC news website state that the World Health Organisation is concerned about ongoing research by scientists into bird flu which has produced a version of the virus that is very easily transmittable between species. The WHO is concerned that this type of research could lead to the deadly virus falling into the wrong hands, issuing a statement on Dec 30 to this effect.