Health officials in China have announced that a man in the southern city of Shenzhen has died from bird flu virus, the first such fatality in the country in more than a year.

The victim, a 39-year-old bus driver, was initially diagnosed with pneumonia when admitted to hospital, but later tested positive for bird flu.

However, Chinese state-controlled media reported the man had not had any contact with local poultry markets.

The H5N1 strain of the flu is extremely dangerous, killing up to 60 percent of people who contract it, according to reports.

Officials in nearby Hong Kong have also detected the virus in three dead birds, prompting the government to issue a health alert and order the mass culling of 17,000 chickens.

Hong Kong officials have also prohibited the import and sale of live chickens for up to three weeks.

Annemarie Evans, a BBC correspondent in Hong Kong, noted that the leader of the island nation,Chief Executive Donald Tsang, has sought to assure the public that his regime has the virus under control.

“He emphasized how good the health notification system was between mainland China and Hong Kong,” she wrote.

“The city is particularly fearful of pandemics, not only due to its dense population housed largely in high-rise buildings, but because of the city's health history.”
Evans added that in November 2010, a 59-year- old-woman in Hong Kong was diagnosed with the H5N1 virus, the first such case in the city for seven years. However, she survived.

“In 1996, Hong Kong was the site of the world's first cases of mutated bird flu affecting humans,” Evans noted.

“Six people died. In 2003, nearly 300 people died from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).”

BBC reported that while bird flu virus remains endemic in Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia and Vietnam – with 565 cases on humans over the past eight years, 332 of whom died.