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|China confirmed on Sunday that a ninth person had died from bird flu, state media reported, while Azerbaijan said it was checking if two children may have died from the illness.
As the inexorable spread of the disease continued -- with France, Germany, Greece, Poland, Romania and Switzerland all announcing new confirmed or suspected cases in birds -- authorities in Europe, Asia and Africa stepped up measures to prevent a pandemic.
Hong Kong, which borders the province of Guangdong where the latest Chinese fatality occurred, slapped a ban on imports of poultry and other birds from Guangdong.
Poland and France imposed hygiene safety defences around new infected areas and Nigeria promised neighbouring Niger equipment and training to stem the virus' advance.
Exports for the World Health Organisation, which last week warned the world was "closer to another influenza pandemic than at any time since 1968", are due to meet in Geneva on Monday to work out a rapid response system to stop the virus becoming a pandemic and killing millions of people.
The latest death in China brings to 95 the number of people reported to have died from bird flu since 2003 -- all of them in Asia except for four in Turkey and two in Iraq.
China's health ministry said a 32-year-old man who had frequented poultry markets had succumbed to bird flu in Guangdong, the first case in the province, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Hours later Hong Kong -- which suffered the world's first reported major bird flu outbreak among humans in 1997, when six people died -- suspended imports of live poultry and pet birds from Guandong for three weeks.
On the other side of the world, Azerbaijan said it was checking samples from two children who died in the Asian part of the country. If confirmed, Azerbaijan would, after Turkey, be only the second country straddling Europe and Asia to have recorded human victims.
Tests are also being conducted on four of the children's relatives, who are in hospital.
"They all lived in a village and had direct contact with poultry," a health ministry spokeswoman told AFP.
Further west, the veterinary service in Poland said a dead swan found in the city of Torun "probably" had the highly pathogenic strain of H5N1.
The European Union reference laboratory in Britain is to check samples, which if positive, would signal Poland's first case of the bird flu variant that can kill humans.
Warsaw, which has been on high alert since cases of the virus were detected in neighbouring Germany and Slovakia, introduced a protection zone and traffic restrictions in Torun and urged the public not to panic.
Elsewhere Greece confirmed four more cases of highly pathogenic H5N1 in wild birds and France confirmed two, one of them in a previously unaffected region near Marseilles.
Europe's largest poultry producer has now reported more than 30 incidences of virulent H5N1, prompting the Paris government to announce the allocation from Monday of 52 million euros (63 million dollars) in aid to poultry farmers.
The latter's produce has now been totally or partially banned by 46 countries.
Berlin said it was checking a suspected new case in a wild goose, which could bring to six the number of German states affected by virulent H5N1.
Switzerland said it was testing four wild geese and Romania, the European country worst hit by the virus, announced another suspected death in poultry.
In Africa, where bird flu has been discovered in Nigeria, neighbouring Niger and Egypt, Nigeria promised protective equipment for Niger's three-billion euro emergency eradication plan. This came a day after the World Bank pledged financial aid to the impoverished state.
The worst fear is that the virus will mutate into a strain of bird flu that could be transmitted easily between humans and trigger a global pandemic.
Experts meet at the WHO in Geneva on Monday and Tuesday to agree on an global system for detecting mutations and acting to head off a health catastrophe.
Specialists from five countries near the Black Sea will, at the same time, meet in Romania to thrash out a regional cooperation plan.