Chinese scientists say they have discovered a lethal form of avian influenza in pigs. If the findings are verified, a human pandemic may be closer than was previously thought.

So far, bird flu has claimed the lives of more than 25 people and 200 million birds in Asia. The fear is that if the virus has spread to swine, it may mutate into a lethal form that could easily spread to humans.

Speaking at a conference last week, Chen Hualan from China's Ministry of Agriculture said that the deadly strain of bird flu known as H5N1 was found in pigs at several Chinese farms in 2003 and 2004, including one in the Fujian province.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has yet to confirm the findings and is awaiting an official response from the Chinese authorities.

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