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Around nine people in China have been infected by a novel bird flu strain (H7N9). This new strain is different from the more common H5N1 strain which as it seems to be highly fatal and kills victims within three weeks. Luckily though it can't be transmitted from human to human. The virus also kills irrespective of age two of the casualties were between 27 and 35 while another victim was a 87-year-old man.
Another issue is that virus has no outward symptoms when present in birds. This is troubling because this means that it's harder to track the disease and the traditional technique of culling is not useful. This means that birds will become viral reservoirs and a greater possibility of the virus getting established in a species. Genome sequencing of the virus has revealed that it is a product of re-assortment. This occurs when two or more viruses are present in the same time in a host.
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'. This caused widespread outrage and the program was stopped and the research paper wasn't published in its total entirety. There were worries that if the virus ever escaped it would cause a pandemic and could also be used a biological weapons in the hands of terrorist organisation. Sadly, this mean that Sadly this led to a halt in essential research about the bird flu virus and now we could be sitting on a time bomb while healthcare experts try to figure out what to do with this unknown virus.
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