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Bird flu spreads within U.S. and China

According to the Chinese National Health and Family Planning Commission, during the first quarter of 2015 nine Chinese provinces saw 59 new laboratory-confirmed cases of human patients infected with avian influenza A(H7N9), which can cause severe pneumonia.

With these events, 49 of the newly reported cases occurred in people who had been exposed to live poultry or markets where live birds are sold. The majority of cases occurred in Guangdong province. Seventeen cases were fatal.

Based on advice from the World Health Organization, the Chinese government will strengthen monitoring and treatment as well as other disease-controlling measures such as closing live poultry markets in the areas where outbreaks have occurred, and disinfecting others.

However, not all scientists are confident that the situation in China can be resolved so easily. A recent review published in Nature suggests that the outbreak could develop into a pandemic.

To add to this, a leading scientist, Yi Guan University of Hong Kong, told The Washington Post: “This virus is more dangerous.” Guan notes that as of September 2014, 318 people had been infected and 100 had died.

In the U.S. new strains of avian flu that are highly infectious among birds have been found on commercial turkey farms in many states, as The Wall Street Journal has reported. An initial outbreak of H5N8 detected in a Californian turkey flock in January has mixed with North American avian flu strains to generate two new strains, including H5N2, which has been detected along the Pacific bird migration route in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that H5N2 had been detected in Minnesota, the first instance of the disease in the Mississippi bird migration route. The virus has spread further to commercial turkey farms in Missouri and Arkansas, including to suppliers of Butterball turkeys.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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