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H7N9 Bird Flu Virus Continues To Spread Throughout China

“China on Saturday reported its first case of H7N9 bird flu in the southern province of Hunan, the latest sign the virus that has killed 23 people in the country is continuing to spread,” Reuters reports (Ruwitch, 4/29). “A 64-year-old woman surnamed Guan, a resident in Shaoyang City, started suffering from a fever on April 14, and laboratory tests confirmed her H7N9 infection on Saturday, Hunan Provincial Health Department said in a statement,” Xinhua writes (4/27). “Six more cases of H7N9 bird flu were reported on Friday in the Chinese provinces of Fujian, Jiangsu, Jiangxi and Zhejiang,” Xinhua notes in a separate article (4/26). And “[o]n Thursday, the eastern province of Jiangxi confirmed its first case of H7N9, in a 69-year-old-man,” Agence France-Presse adds, noting, “More than 110 people in mainland China have been confirmed with H7N9, with 23 deaths, since the government announced on March 31 that the virus had been found in humans” (4/26). “The reports of new cases come just a day after a Taiwanese man was found to have the H7N9 virus, which he caught in China. It is the first report of the flu outside of the mainland, according to Reuters,” GlobalPost writes (Ralph, 4/27).

Last week, the WHO “called the virus, known as H7N9, ‘one of the most lethal,’ and said it is more easily transmitted than an earlier strain that has killed hundreds around the world since 2003,” Reuters notes in a separate article, adding, “Chinese scientists confirmed on Thursday that chickens had transmitted the flu to humans” (Rajagopalan, 4/26). “In a fast-track study published in leading medical journal the Lancet on Thursday, a team of scientists from mainland China and Hong Kong showed that strains of the virus that infected some of the earliest patients were genetically very similar to strains found in infected chickens and pigeons at wet markets,” the Wall Street Journal writes (4/26). “There is no evidence yet of it spreading from person to person, but the WHO has warned that the virus could gain that ability in the future, increasing the threat,” the Los Angeles Times reports (Alpert, 4/26). The “CDC noted in a news release Friday that ‘the number of human infections with avian influenza A (H7N9) in China has risen to 109 with 23 deaths. There are still no reports of H7N9 in the United States. While there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human spread of this virus, CDC is taking routine pandemic preparedness measures to prepare for that possibility,’” CQ HealthBeat writes (Reichard, 4/29).