A construction site in Chongqing.
Chongqing, China.
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BEIJING - A man in southern China's Guangdong Province died of bird flu yesterday, a week after being admitted to hospital with a fever, state media reported.

The 39-year-old bus driver living in Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong, developed symptoms on December 21 and was admitted to a hospital on December 25 because of severe pneumonia, the official Xinhua news agency said.

He died early Saturday afternoon of multiple organ failure, having tested positive for the H5N1 virus (aka avian influenza, or bird flu ), the report added.

He had no direct contact with poultry in the month prior to getting sick and had not left the city, Xinhua said.

Guangdong's official newspaper, the Southern Daily, said separately that 120 people who had been in contact with the man had developed no signs of sickness.

About 10 days ago, Hong Kong culled 17,000 chickens at a wholesale poultry market and suspended all imports of live chickens from mainland China for 21 days after a dead chicken there tested positive for the H5N1 virus.

Authorities in China are worried about the spread of infectious diseases around this time, as millions of Chinese travel in crowded buses and trains across the country ahead of celebrations for the Chinese New Year (on January 23 ).

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 manage to survive can carry and disperse the virus to new, uninfected locations.

It transmits less easily between people, but there have previously been clusters of human infection in Indonesia and Thailand.