A young pregnant woman has died of bird flu, China's Health Ministry said, the first reported fatality from the virus since early last year.
The 22-year-old, who was four months pregnant, contracted the illness in late May and died last Thursday in the central province of Hubei, a notice on the ministry's website said.
AdvertisementShe was diagnosed with avian influenza (H5N1) a day before dying, it said.
An investigation by China's Centre for Disease Control and Prevention found that the woman had contact with poultry before she fell ill but that no avian flu infections were found in birds near her home, it said.
It added that it was not clear how she contracted the illness as no outbreaks have been detected in poultry since last year.
Her death brings to 26 the number of people who have died in China since the virus re-emerged in 2003, out of 39 reported human cases, based on previous World Health Organization figures.
China is considered one of the nations most at risk of bird flu epidemics because it has the world's biggest poultry population and many chickens in rural areas are kept close to humans.
Experts fear the H5N1 virus could mutate into a form easily transmissible between humans, rather than from poultry to humans, with the potential to kill millions in a pandemic.
China saw eight human cases of infection -- five of whom died -- in the first two months of 2009, sparking pandemic fears, but no further cases have been reported by Chinese authorities since then.