BEIJING - A man in southern China's Guangdong province died of bird flu on Saturday 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 Dec. 21 and was admitted to a hospital on Dec. 25 because of severe pneumonia, the official Xinhua news agency said.

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He died in the early afternoon of multiple organ failure, having tested positive for the H5N1 virus, 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 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.

The virus is normally found in birds but can jump to people who do not have immunity to it. Researchers worry it could mutate into a form that would spread around the world and kill millions.

In recent years, the virus has become active in various parts of the world, mainly in east Asia, during the cooler months.

Authorities in China are worried about the spread of infectious diseases around this time when millions of Chinese travel in crowded buses and trains across the country to go home to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

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 been clusters of infections in people in Indonesia and Thailand in the past.

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