BEIJING (Reuters) - A man in southwest China died of bird flu on Sunday after three days of intensive care treatment in hospital, the official Xinhua news agency quoted the Ministry of Health as saying.
The 39-year old -- who died in hospital in Guiyan, capital of Guizhou province -- began suffering from fever on Jan. 6.
Xinhua said China's centers for disease control and prevention at provincial and national levels confirmed the man had died after being infected with the H5N1 bird flu strain.
The man had had close contact with 71 individuals, but none had shown unusual symptoms, the health ministry told Xinhua. The report did not mention whether the man had been in recent contact with birds.
The virus is normally found in birds, but can jump to people who have no immunity to it. Researchers worry it could mutate into a form that would spread around the world and kill millions.
The virus has become active in various parts of the world, mainly in East Asia during the cooler months.
Authorities in China are worried about the spread of infectious diseases around this time when millions of Chinese travel in crowded buses and trains across the country to go home to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
The current strain of H5N1 is highly pathogenic, kills most species of birds and up to 60 percent of the people it infects.
Since 2003, it has infected 573 people around the world, killing 336.
The virus also kills migratory birds but species that survive can disperse it to new, uninfected locations. It transmits less easily between people, but there have been clusters of infections in people in Indonesia and Thailand in the past.
The latest death follows that of a 39-year-old bus driver from Shenzhen in southern Guangdong province on Dec. 31.