A 61-year-old man died in Beijing after being infected with the new H7N9 bird flu virus, bringing to 44 the total number of deaths from the illness across China.

The man was diagnosed with the virus on July 20, when he was transported from the northern province of Hebei to Chaoyang Hospital in the Chinese capital, the official news agency Xinhua reported.

The patient died on Monday from multiple organ failure.

On Friday, another case of bird flu was confirmed in the southern province of Canton, bringing the total number of infected people to 134.

Chinese authorities had terminated the emergency plan to contain propagation of the new bird flu virus last May, after several weeks with no new cases.

Nevertheless, Xinhua reported Tuesday that authorities have continued to monitor the situation and they recently reissued the appropriate alerts given the possibility of new outbreaks.

The H7N9 variant of the virus was detected in China in February and so far the majority of the cases have occurred in the eastern part of the country.

For months it was thought that the virus could not pass between humans and could only be acquired directly from birds, thus reducing the risk of contagion, but last week a medical study published by the British Medical Journal revealed that one of the cases was probably the result of contact with an infected person.

The case in question involved a 32-year-old woman who came down with the virus after caring for her father, who had contracted H7N9 after visiting a poultry market, the publication said.

In contrast to her father, the woman had not been in direct contact with birds. Both father and daughter died shortly thereafter in the hospital. EFE