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Last Updated: Monday, 18 February 2008, 18:28 GMT
Bird flu kills central China man
Most people killed by the disease have handled infected poultry
China's health ministry has confirmed that a 22-year-old man has died from bird flu in central Hunan province.

The man, identified only by his family name Li, became ill with a fever and headache on 10 January and died on 24 January, state media said.

Mr Li was the twenty-eighth person to have contracted the H5N1 virus in China and the eighteenth fatality.

Scientists fear that if the virus mutates and spreads between humans it could cause a global pandemic.

WHO notified

A specimen was taken from Mr Li in February and sent to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing, where the H5N1 virus was confirmed.

In a statement, the health ministry said that everyone who had been in close contact with Mr Li had been examined and that no "abnormal conditions" had yet been discovered.

The ministry said that the World Health Organization and other foreign government authorities had been informed, Reuters reported.

More than 200 people around the world have died of bird flu since the outbreak began over five years ago.

Although there have been suspected cases of human-to-human transmission, most people victims had worked and lived in close contact with poultry.

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