China's first bird-flu case was in November 2003, authorities confirmed yesterday, well in advance of the reporting of what was thought to be the first case in 2004. The change prompted the World Health Organization to point to problems with China's reporting and to urge Beijing to improve the system. The new findings mean the current outbreak of H5N1 may not have started in South Korea in December 2003, the South China Morning Post said. The new diagnosis also raises concerns over other cases that may have gone unnoticed. This early case – a soldier who died in Beijing – first came to light in June when eight mainland scientists wrote to the New England Journal of Medicine. The Ministry of Health said yesterday that the 24-year-old soldier was first thought to have contracted SARS but parallel laboratory tests confirmed he died of bird flu.