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CDC looks into new strain of bird flu in China

Friday April 5, 2013
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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has posted information on the new strain of avian influenza that has stricken 14 people, six of whom died, in China.

The CDC said these cases represent the first time avian influenza A (H7N9) has been detected in humans. The infections have caused severe respiratory illness that resembles severe pneumonia, but according to the World Health Organization, there is not evidence of person-to-person transmission.

Another strain of avian influenza, H5N1, has killed more than 350 people worldwide since it was detected in 2003. As is the case with the new strain, most of those who became severely ill from H5N1 had close contact with birds.

Analysts have said a tricky aspect of the new strain, unlike H5N1, is that it does not appear to cause symptoms of illness in poultry. That makes it harder to detect.

In coordination with domestic and international partners, the CDC is gathering more information to make a knowledgeable public health risk assessment and develop a candidate vaccine virus. The agency also is reviewing posted genetic sequences of the new virus to assess possible implications regarding transmissibility and severity, and whether existing influenza diagnostic tests need to be enhanced or new ones developed.

"All of these actions are routine preparedness measures taken whenever a new novel influenza virus is detected in humans," according to the CDC.

More information is available from the World Health Organization at www.who.int/influenza/human_animal_interface/faq_H7N9/en/index.html.

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