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China reports first new case of H7N9 bird flu since August

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has confirmed a new human case of the deadly H7N9 strain of bird flu, the country's first report of an infection since August, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.

A 35-year-old man in Shaoxing in China's eastern province of Zhejiang has been hospitalized with the virus and is in critical condition, WHO said.

Zhejiang has recorded the highest number of H7N9 infections anywhere in China.

Some 45 people have died from H7N9 flu, which was unknown in humans until the first cases were detected in people early this year.

The Geneva-based WHO said that to date, it had been informed of a total 136 laboratory-confirmed human cases of H7N9 infection, including the 45 deaths.

Currently, three patients are hospitalized and 88 have been discharged, it said in a statement, adding that there was no evidence so far of sustainable human-to-human transmission.

While there has been only a handful of H7N9 infections during the summer months after a surge in April, flu experts warn that the threat posed by the virus has not passed.

The first scientific analysis of probable transfer of the new flu strain between humans, published in the British Medical Journal in August, gave the strongest proof yet that it can jump between people and so potentially cause a human pandemic.

Another study published in August identified several other H7 flu viruses circulating in birds that "may pose threats beyond the current outbreak".

(Reporting by Michael Martina in Beijing and Kate Kelland in London; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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