Report: Bird flu coverup in 2003 China SARS case?

A man in China who died of pneumonia in 2003 and was said to be a SARS victim may in fact have died from human bird flu, two years before the Chinese government reported any cases of the disease on the mainland:

The case of the death in Beijing raises the possibility that others attributed to SARS may have actually been caused by the deadly H5N1 flu. But in a confusing development, at least one of the researchers asked Wednesday that the letter reporting the case be withdrawn from publication in The New England Journal of Medicine. Editors of the medical journal said they were trying to find out why.

The letter was available to journalists before its withdrawal, and it describes the case of a 24-year-old man who died of pneumonia and respiratory distress in November 2003. "Because the clinical manifestations were consistent with those of the severe acute respiratory syndrome and occurred when sporadic cases of SARS were described in southern China, serum and lung tissue from the patient, as well as fluid aspirated from his chest, were examined for SARS coronavirus," the researchers wrote. "All tests were negative for SARS."