Five local officials in southwest China have been fired for mishandling an outbreak of the H5N1 strain of bird flu late last year.

China's state-run media say the officials in Sichuan province's Dazhu county failed to investigate reports of poultry deaths at a farm last December.  The H5N1 strain killed nearly 2,000 birds there.  The Health Ministry announced the outbreak in January. 

The province later reported three human bird flu cases, two of whom died.  The third, an eight-year old girl, is recovering.

China has vowed to be more open in reporting cases of bird flu following international condemnation over its handling of an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003. Chinese officials were accused of suppressing information about the outbreak.

SARS infected more than 8,000 people and killed almost 800, mostly in China, between late 2002 and mid-2003.