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Bird Flu Death Toll Hits 35 In China, Is Pandemic Possible?

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First Posted: May 13, 2013 12:14 PM EDT
The bird flu virus killed two in China recently

The bird flu virus killed two in China recently Credit:ABC | ITech Post

Three more deaths have been reported from China due to the bird flu outbreak that has ravaged the country since March.

These three bring the death count to 35, with a total of 130 reported infections in the country.

The virus, officially H7N9, has spread to Jiangxi, a province in eastern China.

Chickens have been cited by Chinese scientists as the catalyst for the spread, although the World Health Organization says that 40 percent of people that have contracted the virus have not had any recent contact with poultry.

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There is no evidence of human-to-human transmission of H7N9 so far.

Of the infected, 57 have showed signs of recovery from the virus.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the current strain of bird flu has no chance of starting a pandemic, but they did note that it could mutate into a strain that could.

H7N9 has also had a crippling effect on China’s demand for poultry and livestock.

For now, it is unclear what kind of exposure to poultry humans need to have to contract the virus.

Unlike H5N1, which got global attention a few years back, H7N9 does not appear to infect the birds, allowing it to pass through bird populations without drawing attention to itself.

According to NBC News, at least 50 travelers returning to the U.S. from China have reported flu-like symptoms, all of which tested negative for H7N9.

Meanwhile, another major virus is hitting the Middle East, a coronavirus that is related to SARS.

That disease has killed 18 people, with a total of 34 reported cases. But one case was reported in France last week. Unlike H7N9, it appears the coronavirus can spread human-to-human.

"Until we know how and where humans are contracting these two diseases, we cannot control them," World Health Organization spokesman Gregory Hartl said.

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