Beijing, China — The first case of a new bird flu strain was reported in Beijing on Friday as officials race to combat the deadly disease.
The strain H7N9, has so far just been seen in eastern China, but a seven-year-old child is believed to have contracted the disease. The child is currently in stable condition at a hospital in Beijing.
Samples of the child’s blood were sent to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention for further tests, but all signs pointed to the new bird flu strain as the cause of his illness.
A total of 11 people have died from the new strain in China, which was confirmed in humans for the first time last month. Overall, 43 infections have been reported to date. The only affected areas have been Shanghai and the eastern provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Anhui.
The new bird flu strain’s source remains unknown, though some birds in poultry markets have tested positive for H7N9. Most of those infected with the virus show severe illness. While there has been no indication of it happening officials worry about the virus becoming easily transmissible.
China’s state news agency, Xinjua, assured citizens that two people who had close contact with the child in Beijing have shown no signs of infection. Despite the virus being contained in China so far, US vaccine experts are working toward a vaccine to protect people against H7N9.
There is no evidence that the new bird flu strain will jump from China to the US, but scientists stated that they wish to be cautious in light of the strain’s deadly potential. It also takes months to make an influenza vaccine, so every day may count toward preventing the spread of the illness.
Officials have been rehearsing for a possible pandemic ever since 2009 when the H1N1 swine flu pandemic broke out. It took months for flu experts to deliver the first vaccines against the virus. Hopefully, they will not need to use the vaccine against the new bird flu strain, but they are choosing to be cautious, especially with the new Beijing case.
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