"Lethal" H7N9 bird flu speads

WHO describes H7N9 flu as "lethal" as first case seen in Taiwan

April 24, 2013

World Health Organization (WHO) officials said Wednesday that the H7N9 bird flu strain that emerged in China during the past month is one of the “most lethal” flu viruses so far. Keiji Fukuda, an official with WHO, said of the new H7N9 virus strain that “when we look at influenza viruses, this is an unusually dangerous virus for humans.” The virus is said to jump more easily from birds to humans than the strain that started killing people a decade ago.

CNN reports the virus has so far killed 22 people in China and sickened 108.

Officials in Taiwan confirmed Wednesday its first case of the deadly new H7N9 strain of bird flu. China and Taiwan have close trade and economic ties. An estimated 1 million Taiwanese live on the mainland and some 6,000 Chinese tourists visit Taiwan every day.

Scientists are monitoring the virus closely to see if it could spark a global pandemic but say there is little evidence so far that it can spread easily from human to human.

So far, the majority of deaths and infections from the new strain have occurred in Shanghai. Like many other cities where the virus has cropped up, authorities there have closed down live poultry markets, in response. Anne keelson, director of QHO Flu Research center in Melbourne, Australia said the market closings appear to be helping.

The Chinese government has carried out tens of thousands of tests on birds but only several dozen have turned up positive.

China has been praised for its transparency during the bird flu outbreak. Wednesday’s briefing came at the end of a weeklong joint investigation by WHO officials and Chinese authorities in Beijing and Shanghai.

International health officials have not requested any restrictions on travel at this time.

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