China’s health ministry says researchers have evidence the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu has mutated in human cases.

Health officials worldwide fear the virus could mutate into a genetic order that could be easily transmitted between humans, leading to a global pandemic.

Mao Qun’an, a spokesman for China’s health ministry, said the virus found in human cases in China has mutated “to a certain degree” in comparison to strains discovered in Vietnam, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The spokesman cautioned, however, that “the mutation cannot cause human-to-human transmission of the avian flu.”

Officially, China has reported three confirmed human cases of bird flu, including two deaths in east China’s Anhui Province and one recovered case in central province of Hunan. More than 60 people have died of the disease in Asia since 2003.

Last weekend, WorldNetDaily reported China’s Ministry of Health issued an official refutation of a WND report that a Japanese virologist claimed the country has witnessed several hundred deaths due to bird flu.

“The rumor is absolutely groundless,” spokesman Mao said in an interview with Xinhua. “MOH has confirmed from the World Health Organization Beijing office that there was no Japanese expert in WHO’s mission in Hunan Province early this month.”

All the reports quoting this so-called Japanese expert said that China has had several hundred human fatalities from bird flu were unreasonable and without foundation, he stressed.

In the areas where bird flu outbreaks occurred, health authorities have put all the people who closely contacted with sick and dead poultry under strict medical observation. Surveillance, reporting and separate treatment of fever and respiratory cases have also been strengthened, said Mao.

MOH has made a timely report to WHO, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and some countries on each confirmed case and has immediately released the information to the public as well, he said.

Previous stories:

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Expert: Bird-flu deaths in China actually at 300

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