In China, two men have died from a strain of the bird flu called H7N9; these are the first known deaths associated with the H7N9. The men, both from Shanghai, China, were 27 years old and 87 years old. According to the New York Times, they contracted H7N9 in February and died in March. There is also a third person, a 35 year-old woman from the city of Chuzhou, who contracted the bird flu and is critically ill.
Avian influenza, or bird flu as it commonly referred to, is caused by the influenza A virus. This virus, which is normally limited to birds, can produce mild to deadly symptoms in infected birds.
According to the World Health Organization, in the instance of human infection, these people have been in close contact with infected poultry or with objects that were infected with poultry feces.
H5N1, a more common type of bird flu, was first seen in 1997 in Hong Kong during a poultry outbreak. Since then it has re-emerged in 2003 and 2004 and spread from Asia to Europe and Africa. H5N1 has caused hundreds of cases and deaths; although the H5N1 and H7N9 are both avian influenza, there’s no way to know at this point that H7N9 will have the same track record as H5N1.
According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, H7N9 has only been seen in birds up until now; outbreaks in birds that have H7N9 have been been reported in the Netherlands, the United States, and Japan.
Decoding Science. One article at a time.