BEIJING, China – A new strain of bird flu has killed five people, according to China's state-run media.
Four people died in Shanghai, while officials reported the other death in the neighboring province of Zhejiang, according to reports. The H7N9 bird flu is considered a low pathogenic strain that isn't easily contracted by humans. The majority of human deaths from bird flu have been from H5N1. It is unclear how the victims contracted the disease, but Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention officials said there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission. Local news media reported that some of the victims worked in the country's poultry industry.
Shanghai authorities began slaughtering poultry after the virus was found in samples of pigeon taken from a market. The positive test for the virus prompted authorities to close the market, according to media reports.
Experts have confirmed at least 14 additional case of H7N9. China's Xinhua News Agency reported that six cases were confirmed in Shanghai, four in Jiangsu, three in Zhejiang and one in Anhui. Government guidelines are advising that butchers, poultry sellers and meat processors are at higher risk for contracting the virus.
Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control said on its web site that the agency is monitoring the situation in China and coordinating with domestic and international counterparts in gathering more information and developing a candidate vaccine virus.
"This is the first time avian influenza A (H7N9) viruses have been detected in humans," CDC reported. "The infections so far have resulted in severe respiratory illness and, in some cases, death."
CDC added that the cases in China do not have a known epidemiological link to one another.
"An investigation by Chinese health authorities is ongoing to determine the source of infection and detect any additional cases," the agency said. "This is an evolving situation and there is still much to learn. CDC will provide updated information as it becomes available."