UK & World News

  • 31 March 2013, 11:42

Bird Flu: New Strain Kills Two In China

Two men have died in China after contracting a strain of avian influenza that has never been passed to humans before, the Chinese official news agency has reported.

The men, aged 87 and 27, became sick late last month and died in Shanghai in early March, according to the Xinhua news agency.

The strain of the bird flu virus was identified as H7N9, which had not been transmitted to humans before, Xinhua said, quoting the national health and family planning commission.

There are no known vaccines against the H7N9 virus.

However, the strain does not seem highly contagious because no health abnormalities were detected among 88 of the victims' close contacts, the commission said.

Another woman in nearby Anhui province also contracted the virus in early March and is in a critical condition.

All three cases showed symptoms of fever and coughs that later developed into pneumonia.

It is unclear how the three were infected.

China is considered one of the nations most at risk from bird flu because  it has the world's biggest poultry population and many chickens in rural areas are kept close to humans.

The World Health Organisation says more than 360 confirmed human deaths from the H5N1 strain of avian influenza have been reported globally from 2003 until March 12 this year.