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Health Officials Continue To Monitor 2 New Respiratory Virus Outbreaks

“Two respiratory viruses in different parts of the world have captured the attention of global health officials — a novel coronavirus [NCoV] in the Middle East and a new bird flu spreading in China,” the Associated Press reports. The “WHO, which is closely monitoring the viruses, says both have the potential to cause a pandemic … if they evolve into a form easily spread between people,” the news agency writes. “Since it was first spotted last year, the new coronavirus has infected 34 people, killing 18 of them,” the AP adds, noting, “Nearly all had some connection to the Middle East” (Cheng, 5/13). In China, 130 people have been infected with the new H7N9 bird flu strain, and 35 of those have died of the disease, according to Chinese state media, Reuters reports.

“Chinese scientists say the [flu] virus has been transmitted to humans from chickens, though the [WHO] says 40 percent of people infected with H7N9 had no contact with poultry,” the news agency notes (Koh, 5/13). In France, where two cases of NCoV have been confirmed, researchers “suspect the virus might have jumped to humans from bats, since it is similar to a bat virus, but other animals are being looked at,” the New York Times writes. “Cases have been reported in Britain and Germany, but most of those with the virus had traveled to Saudi Arabia, other Persian Gulf nations, Jordan or Pakistan,” the newspaper notes, adding, “Saudi Arabia has said the country has had 24 confirmed cases since summer, with 15 deaths” (Erlanger, 5/13).