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Four More People Infected with New Strain of Bird Flu: WHO

Update Date: Apr 02, 2013 11:25 AM EDT

The news of the new strain of bird flu continues to become worse, but health officials are attempting to downplay fears that the public may have.

The Agence France Presse reports that four additional cases of the new strain of bird flu, H7N9, have been reported in China. The three women and one man have been hospitalized in Jiangsu. Health officials do not yet know how to connect the cases, which have all appeared in different cities in the eastern province. The individuals were between the ages of 32 and 83. Only one patient, a 45-year-old woman, has reportedly had close contact with birds; she worked in the market and slaughtered poultry.

These cases would bring the total number of bird flu cases up to seven in the country. Over the weekend, China announced that two men, aged 87 and 27, had died from the new strain of bird flu. A third woman in Anhui was hospitalized and in critical condition.

According to Reuters, health officials do not believe that the illness is seriously contagious, so have not suggested any emergency protocol. There is no evidence of human-to-human transmission. Officials are monitoring the 43 people who have reportedly been identified as having had close contact with the patients, but none have exhibited any symptoms. The symptoms of the illness are breathlessness, cough, dizziness and fever.

Since the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), many members of the Chinese public have been suspicious of the government's activity in connection to outbreaks. During the SARS outbreak in 2003, the government attempted to cover up the cases of the illness that killed a tenth of the 8,000 people that it infected. Later, the numbers were dramatically raised upwards.

However, WHO officials say that the Chinese government reacted properly and promptly with this illness. They say that it needed to be investigated before the information was given to the public.

Many have suspected that the thousands of pig carcasses found in a Shanghai river that provides the city with its water supply are related to the bird flu. However, according to Xinhua, there were no traces of bird flu found in the carcasses.

Health officials consider three subtypes of the bird flu - H5, H7 and H9 - to have a high risk for creating a human pandemic.

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