- Associated Press - Monday, January 2, 2012

BEIJING (AP) - Authorities in southern China are appealing for calm after a man died of bird flu in the country’s first reported case in humans in 18 months.

The Disease Control Center in the southern city Shenzhen said Monday the virus cannot spread among people and called on the public not to panic. The statement from the city across the river from Hong Kong was cited by the official Xinhua News Agency.

A bus driver identified only by the surname Chen died Saturday with the H5N1 bird flu virus. Monday’s statement said genetic analysis indicated the virus was contracted directly from poultry.

H5N1 rarely infects humans and usually only those in close contact with diseased poultry. Scientists are closely watching for any signs the virus is becoming more easily transmissible among humans.

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