China reports third death from A.I.

BEIJING — A 16-year-old boy infected with the H5N1 bird flu virus died Tuesday in central China, according to The Associated Press. This death marks China’s third fatality from the virus this month. Bird-flu precautions were increased by authorities on fears the virus can survive longer in cold weather as tens of millions of people travel between cities and rural hometowns for the Lunar New Year holiday, which typically includes eating poultry with meals.

The latest victim fell ill on Jan. 8 in his hometown in the neighboring province of Guizhou and was transferred to a hospital in Huaihua on Jan. 16, when his condition worsened. He had contact with dead poultry, according to reports. The two other bird flu deaths were a 27-year-old woman in Shandong province in the country's east who died on Saturday and a 19-year-old woman who died in Beijing on Jan. 5.

Most bird-flu cases stem from exposure to sick birds, but human-to-human transmission of bird flu has happened about 12 times in the past in countries including China, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Turkey. Transmission has occurred in almost every case among blood relatives who have been in close contact, and the virus has not spread into the wider community.

Although the disease remains hard for humans to catch, scientists have warned if outbreaks among poultry are not controlled, the virus may mutate into a form more-easily passed between people. A new influenza virus could quickly turn into a pandemic, infecting millions of people with no immunity.

Prior to January, no new human cases had been reported in China since February 2007.

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