April 1, 2013
New Bird Flu Strain Kills Two Men, Chinese Health Officials Report
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Two men have died after contracting a strain of bird flu that had previously never been detected in humans, Chinese health officials reported on Sunday.
According to BBC News, a 27-year-old man and an 87-year-old man both fell ill with the H7N9 influenza strain in February and died a few weeks later. A third person, a 35-year-old woman from nearby Anhui province, also caught the virus and is said to be “critically ill.”
South China Morning Post reporters Lo Wei and He Huifeng confirmed the two deaths, writing that the 87-year-old man died on March 4 and the 27-year-old man passed away six days later.
Both men died within two weeks of contracting the disease, both showed symptoms including coughing and fever, and both went on to develop severe pneumonia and respiratory issues prior to their deaths. The woman fell ill on March 9 after coming in contact with poultry, they added.
“The National Health and Family Planning Commission said yesterday it wasn't clear how the three became infected, but there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission,” the South China Morning Post reporters said. “Experts say the virus does not seem to be highly contagious but appears more deadly than other strains of the H7 virus that have previously infected humans.”
“There was no indication the three contracted the disease from each other and no signs of H7N9 infection among the 88 people who had closest contact with them, the medical agency said. However, two relatives of the 87-year-old victim developed pneumonia around the same time he did. Their diagnoses have yet to be confirmed. One of them — his 55-year-old son — has died,” they added.
A spokesman from the World Health Organization (WHO) told the Daily Mail that the agency is “closely monitoring” the situation. He added that there appears to be “no evidence” of person-to-person transmission of the virus, and that it represented a “low” public health risk associated with H7N9.
Last month, Chinese health ministry officials reported that two residents in the southwestern part of the country had contracted a different form of bird flu, the H5N1 avian influenza virus. The victims were a 21-year-old woman and a 31-year-old man, both of whom were residents of the city of Guiyang.
The unidentified woman tested positive on February 2 and the man tested positive the following day. Both were said to be in critical condition and were being treated by medical personnel. Health officials said that there were no apparent epidemiological connections between the two cases.