China Bird Flu’s Death Toll Hits 3

China’s death toll from the H7N9 bird flu has increased to 31 after the announcement of four more deaths. The number of infections also rose two to rest at 129 confirmed cases.

Two of the deaths happened in the eastern province of Jiangsu, one happened in eastern Zhejiang, and the fourth death happened in central Anhui.

Chinese health authorities also reported that the two new infections happened in the eastern coastal province of Fujian. The virus was originally concentrated around the commercial capital of Shanghai. However, it spread to Fujian in late April.

So far, the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) has not seen any evidence that the H7N9 bird flu strain is easily transmissible between humans. The strain was first detected in patients in China in March. It has since spread to at least one case in Taiwan.

Chinese scientists have been able to confirm that the H7N9 strain was transmitted from chickens to people, though the WHO has said that 40 percent of people infected with the new bird flu strain had no apparent contact with poultry.

The head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also stated that the current H7N9 strain of bird flu cannot spark a pandemic in its current form, because it is not easily transmissible. However, should the strain mutate, it could result in a serious pandemic.

Scientists around the world have been watching the latest influenza strain. Some virologists have already started working on a vaccine for H7N9 in the event is spreads to other countries or mutates into an easily transmissible virus. Some of the concern comes from the swine flu pandemic of 2009, which was caused by the H1N1 virus.

Since then, at least one other bird flu virus, H5N1, has caused deaths around the world. While it is not easily transmissible either, the H5N1 bird flu strain is also being watched closely.

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