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Unknown strain of bird flu kills two people in China

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 1st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A frightening new form of bird flu, heretofore undiagnosed and unidentified has killed two men in China. It doesn't discriminate in age, as the two victims were aged 27 and 87. Both men fell ill in Shanghai, one of the country's largest cities, in late February and died earlier this month.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Another woman in nearby Anhui province has contracted the virus and is listed in a critical condition.

According the Chinese National Health and Family Planning Commission, the strain of the bird flu virus found in all three people was identified as H7N9, which had not been transmitted to humans before.

The first birds were infected in 1996. Bird flu was then transmitted to human beings in Hong Kong the following year. 

Experts warn that the highly contagious disease is the world's biggest pandemic threat and could kill between five million and 150 million people. The disease is expected to mutate within birds. Doctors have been able to head off the infection in Asia due to vaccination programs.

Seventeen governments around the world are preparing vaccines to combat a pandemic. Symptoms of the new strain include fever and coughing that later develops into pneumonia. It's not yet known how the three people became infected.

The World Health Organization says it is "closely monitoring the situation" in China, regional agency spokesman Timothy O'Leary said in Manila, Philippines. The WHO says that the latest strain isn't contagious.

"There is apparently no evidence of human-to-human transmission, and transmission of the virus appears to be inefficient, therefore the risk to public health would appear to be low," O'Leary said.

While WHO is confident the latest strain will not easily spread - no symptoms have been reported in any people who had been in contact with the victims, the deaths are sure to reignite fears over the disease.

The most common strain of bird flu, H5N1, found mainly in Southeast Asia, is highly contagious among birds and can spread to humans.

Quick action has led to tens of millions of birds have been culled to stop the spread, which has been brought under control by animal vaccination programs.

The WHO says there have been 566 confirmed human cases of H5N1 since 2003 and 322 deaths. Governments around the world are pumping millions of pounds into developing vaccines in the scenario of a pandemic.

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