China bird flu: 33 infected, nine dead

With the detection of five more cases, the number of people infected with the new H7N9 strain of bird flu in China stands at 33. Nine people have died of the virus. Meanwhile, a four-year-old boy who had experienced slight symptoms made a complete recovery.

By regions, Shanghai continues to have the greatest number of cases, with 15, followed by Jiangsu with 10, Zhejiang with 6 and Anhui with 2, all in eastern China.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission said that among the people who have been in direct contact with infected people medical authorities have not detected a single abnormal symptom or the slightest sign of an epidemic relationship among them. In addition, the commission said that the infected people have been isolated and that no person-to-person contagion has been detected. Clinical observations have shown that, if the patient is treated up to five days after showing the first symptoms, current therapeutic methods in China can be effective in dealing with the disease, a Shanghai physician told the state-run Xinhua news agency.

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The first case of this new strain of bird flu was detected on March 1 but not confirmed by Chinese authorities until the end of last month. The health ministry said that the delay was due to the research required to identify the virus and determine if it was a new type of bird flu.

Bird flu or avian influenza is an infectious viral disease which normally affects wild birds but can sometimes spread to domestic poultry. Often when this happens, affected birds have to be culled to prevent the virus from spreading. One of the bird flu strains, H5N1 can affect various other species including mammals like humans. H5N1 has not been particularly dangerous for humans yet.

A top Chinese biology lab on Wednesday had ascribed the H7N9 avian influenza to genetic reassortment of wild birds from east Asia and chickens from east China. The researchers had found that no genes in H7N9 were traceable to pigs, thus excluding pigs as intermediate hosts for the deadly new strain of bird flu, reported Xinhua. The report had come from the Chinese Academy of Sciences Key Laboratory of Pathogenic Microbiology and Immunology.

This emergence of a new bird flu virus throws the spotlight on a 2011 research where scientists trying to figure out if H5N1 could cause a global pandemic had created a mutated bird flu virus that was described by many as the most dangerous virus that you could make .

With inputs from IANS

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