04/24/2013 01:13 EDT | Updated 06/23/2013 05:12 EDT

World Health Organization says lethal new bird flu passes more easily from birds to humans

BEIJING, China - World Health Organization officials say a lethal new strain of bird flu that emerged in China over the past month appears to spread more easily from birds to humans than the one that started killing people in Asia a decade ago.

Scientists are watching the H7N9 virus closely to see if it could spark a global pandemic but say so far there is little evidence to show the virus can spread easily from human to human.

Health officials at a news conference Wednesday in Beijing said they believe the infections with the H7N9 strain are primarily taking place at live poultry markets.

The virus has infected more than 100 people in China, seriously sickening most of them, and killing around 20 — mostly near the eastern coast around Shanghai.