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Did migratory birds carry avian influenza into China?

According to an expert with the China s agricultural ministry, migratory birds may have carried the H7N9 avian influenza virus into the country. According to health authorities, a total of 20 H7N9 cases have been reported in China till Sunday evening, including the six cases that ended in fatalities.

As the source of infection and its transmission remained unclear, the possibility of migratory birds carrying the H7N9 avian influenza virus into the country could not be ruled out, Xinhua quoted Yu Kangzhen, the chief veterinarian with the agriculture ministry, as saying Sunday.

The virus has mostly been found in live poultry trading markets, not in farms raising poultry, he said, adding the virus had not been found in pigs so far.

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He said the number of most infections has been reported from Shanghai, but the possibility of the virus spreading further also existed.

What is 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. It s not particularly dangerous for humans yet. There are some researchers who believe that if this strain mutates and starts spreading between humans it could cause a large scale pandemic.

With inputs from IANS

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