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International Research Team Casting Wide Net In Search For H7N9 Source, Transmission Routes

“Another case of bird flu has been reported in China, taking the total infection count to 83 people, as health authorities inside and outside the country try to determine how to stop its spread,” CNN reports. “Seventeen people have died from the H7N9 strain of the virus which, while common in birds, hadn’t been detected in humans before the first cases were reported in March,” the news agency writes (Whiteman, 4/18). “Authorities haven’t confirmed human-to-human transmission of the disease, though the government-controlled Beijing Daily reported yesterday that 40 percent of those sick have had no contact with poultry,” Forbes notes, adding, “Encouragingly, a seven-year-old old girl diagnosed with the flu last week checked out of a Beijing hospital [this week]. She is one of five people released from hospitals after being treated” (Flannery, 4/17).

“Understanding how the virus is spreading is a goal of international and Chinese experts assembled by the World Health Organization as they begin a weeklong investigation Friday,” the Associated Press reports (4/18). “China is investigating four possible cases of human-to-human transmission of a deadly bird flu that has killed 17 people but so far there was ‘no sustained’ evidence of transmission between people, the [WHO] said on Thursday,” the New York Times notes. “As investigators looked at the possibility of human transmission, there was mounting concern that the new virus … may not originate in birds but in other animals and in environmental sources, [a] WHO spokesman said,” the newspaper writes (Perlez, 4/18). The international research team “is examining ‘family clusters’ of people infected with the virus, a top health official was quoted as saying,” Reuters notes (Wee, 4/18).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.