The new bird flu strain in China is not spreading easily, despite 70 cases, including 17 deaths. The World Health Organization (WHO) made the announcement on Friday.
The new bird flu strain, H7N9, has seen cases in Shanghai and Beijing. Fifteen health experts from China and around the world are working together in the cities to learn more about the disease, which has proved quite deadly.
Dr. Michael O’Leary, head of WHO’s China office, stated that a major focus for experts is learning how the virus affects humans. The source of the bird flu strain is still not clear, but O’Leary told reporters in Beijing:
“The evidence suggests still that poultry is a vehicle for transmission but epidemiologists haven’t yet been able to establish a clear and strong link.”
Tens of thousands of birds have been tested, but only a handful have been found to carry the H7N9 virus. Many of the patients have also not reported any history of contact with birds. Despite this, Chinese health and agricultural authorities have closed live poultry markets and even slaughtered thousands of birds as a prevention measure.
Wild bird sales have also been suspended in the country to prevent the potential spread of the virus.
Chinese health authorities confirmed this week that the son of an 87-year-old man in Shanghai who was the earliest known victim of the new bird flu, also has the virus. The man became sick in mid-February and passed away in early March. Both of his sons were hospitalized at the time with pneumonia. His younger son passed away and no samples were taken from him.
The man’s older son recovered and was tested for the virus. The results were positive. Another young boy in Beijing was confirmed as a carrier for the H7N9 virus this week. While the four-year-old tested positive for bird flu, he was asymptomatic.
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