Health authorities Thursday refused to link the death of a 12-year-old girl who had flu-like symptoms with the bird-flu outbreak in Central China's Hunan Province.
Initial tests turned out negative for the virus, but the result has to be confirmed, some media reports said Thursday.
The report of the girl's death came the same day that three people on a French island off Africa were being tested for suspected bird flu - the first suspected human cases outside Asia.
A health official with Xiangtan County - the third place in China to report an outbreak caused by the H5N1 strain in a week - said He Yin's death on October 17 could be a "coincidence."
The girl and her 9-year-old brother He Junyao, natives of Wantang Village, fell ill after the family ate a chicken that died of an unspecified disease earlier this month.
"The province sent experts to investigate," the official told China Daily. "But the results of laboratory tests didn't show the girl died of bird-flu infection."
Without disclosing what exactly caused the girl's death, the official - who did not want to be identified - said his department dealt with the incident "according to procedures" and the situation in the county is "well under control."
No other person has been reported ill in the village.
Both the health and foreign ministries said Thursday that no human infection has been reported in China so far.
"The Chinese Government has already taken ... decisive measures to prevent bird flu and to share information with the international community," Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan told a regular news briefing Thursday.
Earlier, Premier Wen Jiabao said the government "was taking effective measures" to prevent the spread of the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus.
Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu urged local governments to take strict measures to curb the disease when he visited farms in Southwest China's Chongqing on Wednesday.
French Health Minister Xavier Bertrand said of the people being tested in the Indian Ocean island of Reunion: "The three travelled to Thailand and visited a bird zoo where they had come into contact with birds.
"Initial tests have been done there and these came out positive," he said.
In Hunan, the dead girl's father, He Tieguang, told China Daily Thursday that the family cooked the bird after two dozen chickens and ducks began dying of an unknown disease on October 6.
"In the next few days, my girl became weak and pale," said the farmer. The family took the girl to the local hospital only when she had a fever and cough.
After being shifted to several hospitals, she died in the intensive care unit of the children's hospital in Changsha, the provincial capital.
"Doctors said my girl died from lung infection, as X-rays showed her lungs were totally infected," the father said.
His son, who started showing flu-like symptoms only after the girl's death, was quarantined in the same hospital Thursday. The father said the boy was in a stable condition.
Following the outbreak, health workers sterilized the whole village and regularly tested the family's temperatures, the father said.
The poor farmer spent more than 10,000 yuan (US$1,200) on his children's treatment; and the hospital said he still owed 6,000 yuan (US$740).
A World Health Organization (WHO) official said Thursday that humans show pneumonia-like symptoms after they are infected with the bird-flu virus.
"But there's no evidence that humans can get infected through the air or eating properly cooked chicken," Alphaluck Bhatiasevi of the WHO Beijing Office said.
Source: Xinhua/China Daily