Officials in China have denied reports, published on the Internet, that 200 people have contracted bird flu in Qinghai province and that 121 have died from the infection.
The reports originated from the US-based Chinese news agency Boxun News and were repeated by ProMED—mail, an online reporting system that warns of outbreaks of infectious diseases.
In 2003, ProMed—mail broke the news of China's outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) after it was reported by Boxun News. At the time, China had yet to report the outbreak.
Denying Boxun's claim that bird flu had claimed human lives in China, the official Xinhua news agency added that hospitals in Gangca county, where the bird flu cases were reported had opened a separate department for patients with fever.
The World Health Organization says it has no reason to believe the Chinese authorities' denial of human cases of bird flu.