At least one more person has contracted the new H7N9 "bird flu" influenza strain emerging now in China, an official from the Jiangsu Province said late yesterday.

A 45-year-old poultry worker contracted the disease and developed a fever and cough early last week, lapsing into critical condition by yesterday, Chinese state television reported. Presently, health officials there are observing 167 people who had close contact with all four confirmed cases, two of whom have died.

No epidemiological connection among the four cases has been established, health officials said.

The newest victim, a woman who slaughtered poultry at a local market, is hospitalized in Nanjing, the capital of the eastern Chinese province. The World Health Organization said today that they will continue to work with local public health officials to research the novel avian flu virus. There is currently no vaccine for the disease.

The other three cases involved respiratory tract infection developing quickly to severe pneumonia and trouble breathing, WHO said. An 83-year-old man from Suzhou Wujiang District and a 32-year-old man from Changzhou, a resident of Wuxi City, both died of acute respiratory distress syndrome. Another woman, 48 years-old, also in Nanjing, remains in critical condition.

None of the people presently observed by health officials have developed symptoms of the new flu strain but, according to the Shanghai Daily, hospitals in that city have been ordered by the government to monitor patients with respiratory illness, with Hong Kong also reporting such disease surveillance.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that although no vaccine exists for this novel flu virus the disease can be treated with Tamiflu.