Questions Remain About H7N9 Bird Flu Strain As 4 More Die Of Virus In China

“Four more people in China have died from a new strain of bird flu, bringing to 31 the number of deaths from the mysterious H7N9 virus, with the number of infections rising by two to 129, according to Chinese health authorities,” Reuters reports. “Among the deaths, two occurred in the eastern province of Jiangsu; one was from eastern Zhejiang; while another was from central Anhui, based on a Reuters analysis of the data provided by Chinese health authorities on Monday,” the news service adds (Wee, 5/6). CDC Director Thomas Frieden “says the current strain of bird flu that is causing illness and deaths in China cannot spark a pandemic in its current form — but he added that there is no guarantee it will not mutate and cause a serious pandemic,” Reuters reports in a separate article (Steenhuysen, 5/6). And the WHO’s “ability to police the new strain of bird flu … in China is being jeopardized by budget cuts, according to” Frieden, Reuters notes in another article, adding, “Frieden said he planned to raise the issue with other countries at the World Health Assembly (WHA) meeting, which is being held in Geneva, where the U.N. agency has its headquarters, from May 20 to May 28.”

“Many scientific questions still have to be answered about the new flu strain,” the article continues (Hirschler/Nebehay, 5/6). “Poultry workers moving to and from wet markets and farms may be responsible for the spread of the deadly H7N9 virus in China, says a virologist who’s working with the WHO to investigate the outbreak,” CNN’s “On China” blog notes (Hunt, 5/6). “The WHO has said so far there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission but has warned H7N9 is ‘one of the most lethal’ influenza viruses ever seen, and urged travelers against contact with live poultry,” Agence France-Presse writes (5/6). “A map of avian influenza (H7N9) risk [was published] in Biomed Central’s open access journal Infectious Diseases of Poverty” last week, according to a BioMed Central press release (5/3). BBC News provides a Q&A on the virus (Gallagher, 5/3). Additionally, Reuters provides a factbox of “key facts about vaccines, drugs and avian influenza” (Hirschler/Steenhuysen, 5/6).

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