New bird flu found to be less deadly

New bird flu found to be less deadly

The H7N9 strain of bird flu that has killed 38 people in China since March is less deadly than had been supposed, according to the most detailed analysis of the outbreak so far.

The risk of death for patients admitted to a hospital with H7N9 infection is about 36%, researchers at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Hong Kong reported. While initial reports of severe illness among most patients suggested the virus may be highly lethal, as many as about 27,000 undetected mild cases may have occurred, lowering the risk, the study said.

Still, H7N9 is only about half as deadly as the H5N1 bird flu strain that has killed about 60% of the 630 infected people since 2003. The new virus, which has subsided with the onset of warmer weather and the closure of live bird markets in China, may rebound this year if it follows a similar pattern to H5N1.

The virus has sickened 131 people in China and killed 39 since it emerged in March, the official Xinhua news agency reported June 9, citing China's National Health and Family Planning Commission. Most cases were among people with exposure to live poultry, and there's no evidence the virus can be transmitted between people, according to the Geneva-based World Health Organization.

The outbreak caused airline stocks and soybean prices to fall, prompting Chinese authorities to halt trading in live poultry, close bird markets and slaughter fowl to curb transmission. Shanghai, the city with the most cases, lifted a ban on live poultry sales last week as concern about the outbreak eased, according to the Shanghai Daily newspaper.

H7N9 is more dangerous than the H1N1 swine flu virus that sparked the 2009 flu pandemic and killed about 21% of those infected in China. The WHO estimated the fatality risk of H7N9 at about 25% in a report last month.
Source: Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Hong Kong


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