China's lack of openness about its handling of bird-flu cases makes it difficult for experts to determine if the dangerous H5N1 virus is mutating and spreading, a World Health Organization official told Agence France Presse Friday.
"The situation in China is quite confusing and there is some conflicting information," said Julie Hall, the WHO's coordinator of epidemic alert and response in China.
"We really don't know how many strains of bird flu there are in China because we have limited amounts of information shared with us by the Ministry of Agriculture and the virus samples we have asked for have not been shared," Hall told AFP.
She made her remarks after Chinese officials discounted claims by U.S. and Hong Kong scientists that a new strain of bird flu -- called the "Fujian-like" strain -- had appeared in southern China.
China's Ministry of Agriculture said the strain of bird flu that's emerged in southern China is consistent with earlier strains, AFP reported.
Expert worry that the H5N1 bird-flu virus could mutate into a form that's easily transmitted between humans and spark a global pandemic.