Three more people have died from the H7N9 bird flu virus, raising the number of deaths to 35 so far while the number of infections rise to 130, reported Xinhua news agency, the official press agency of the People's Republic of China, on Monday. Xinhua also reported that a new case of the H7N9 was found in China's east Jiangxi province.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that the current strain of bird flu cannot start a pandemic but noted there is no guarantee that it will not mutate and cause a serious pandemic. Scientists have already found mutations in the virus that are known to help avian viruses adapt to mammalian hosts.

Noting that 57 of those infected have recovered, Xinhua reiterated that Chinese scientists say the virus has been transmitted to humans from chickens and there has been no evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus so far.

The World Health Organization says 40 percent of people infected with H7N9 had no contact with poultry. The H7N9 flu virus was first detected in March and is described by WHO as one of the most lethal flu viruses around.

On Friday, research published in Clinical Chemistry demonstrated that a recently developed diagnostic test can detect the H7N9 influenza virus. The one-step diagnostic test has a high specificity for the H7N9 virus and does not cross-react with distantly related viruses, including all previously known avian and mammalian H7 viruses. Additional evaluation of the test using clinical specimens from H7N9 patients is still needed. Scientists believe a diagnostic test could help prevent a pandemic.

CDC reports that most patients with bird flu have had severe respiratory illness, including pneumonia, and many have died. At this time, there is little experience with the use of drugs for treatment of H7N9 infection, though it is known that influenza viruses can become resistant to drugs. The new H7N9 virus has not been detected in people or birds in the United States.

A Neighbor's Fear

Today, Shigeru Omi, head of the Japanese government's new influenza countermeasures panel, said the bird flu outbreak in China hasn't crossed over to Japan, but Tokyo must stay on guard against the virus.

He noted that some areas in China, including Shanghai, have lowered their alert levels since the spread abated. But the drop in patients could be attributed to the closure of bird markets and safer culling of poultry, Omi said, and much remains unknown about the new virus, including its origin.

"It is too early to judge that the outbreak is (nearing an) end," he told reporters at Japan Times.

In the past, bird flu cases have declined during the summer only to return once temperatures drop later in the year. And there is no way to tell if the virus has stopped spreading among poultry, Omi said.

Compared with other bird flu strains, the H7N9 virus appears to spread faster from poultry to humans, and its symptoms are severe, he said.