A lethal new strain of bird flu that emerged in China over the past month appears to spread more easily from birds to humans than the one that started killing people in Asia a decade ago, according to World Health Organization officials.

Scientists are watching the H7N9 virus closely to see if it could spark a global pandemic but say so far there is little evidence to show the virus can spread easily from human to human.

The virus has infected more than 100 people in China, seriously sickening most of them, and killing around 20 mostly near the eastern coast around Shanghai.

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