Avian flu sickens more than 300 in China

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The virus has claimed nearly 90 lives, including a young mother and her 3-year-old daughter. 

GENEVA – A total of 304 laboratory confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A (H7N9) virus in China, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently reported. The cases were reported to WHO between Jan. 19 and Feb. 14.

The global health agency said that there were 36 deaths reported at the time of notification. Two case patients had mild symptoms, while 82 case patients were diagnosed with either pneumonia (34) or severe pneumonia (48). The clinical presentations of the other 184 cases were not available. WHO noted that 144 case patients reported exposure to poultry or a live poultry market. Eleven case patients had no clear exposure to poultry or poultry-related environments, and 149 cases are under investigation.

WHO said among the patients were a 22-year-old woman and her 3-year-old daughter living in Yunan Province. The child became sick on Jan. 29 and died on Feb. 7. The mother, who was caring for her sick child, developed symptoms on Feb. 4. Both mother and child reported exposure to poultry in Jiangxi Province.

The agency said that human infections with the H7N9 virus remain unusual and most human case patients are exposed through direct contact with infected poultry or contaminated environments such as live poultry markets. Human-to-human transmission cannot be ruled out although common exposure to poultry is likely, WHO said.

“Since the virus continues to be detected in animals and environments, and live poultry vending continues, further human cases can be expected,” WHO said in a statement. “Additional sporadic human cases may be also expected in previously unaffected provinces as it is likely that this virus circulates in poultry of other areas of China without being detected.”

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