Two people die in new bird flu outbreak

Posted on the 11th April 2013

A strain of bird flu virus that has not previously been reported in humans has killed two people in China and four more remain critically ill.

In all, there have now been seven confirmed cases of the H7N9 avian flu strain in humans.

The World Health Organisation has said there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission, but admit that it is not known how the disease is transmitted. People in the affected area have been advised to avoid contact with sick or dead animals. The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has not ruled out the possibility of human-to-human transmission and is closely monitoring 160 people who have been in contact with those infected.

A similar outbreak of the drug-resistant H5N1 bird flu strain in 2004 was attributed to the widespread use of the antiviral drug Amantadine on poultry farms in China. That outbreak resulted in the destruction of hundreds of millions of birds across South East Asia, Europe and Africa, as well as hundreds of human fatalities.

The filthy, crowded conditions found on intensive poultry farms throughout the world provide perfect breeding grounds for highly contagious diseases such as bird flu, and the use of medicines to control these diseases is leading to increasing drug-resistance, posing a major threat to human and animal health. There were at least five major flu pandemics during the 20th century, causing millions of deaths.

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