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Bird Flu Virus Reported in China's Hunan Province, Researcher Confirm Wet Market Poultry Transmit H7N9 Virus

Update Date: Apr 27, 2013 01:31 PM EDT

China's deadly outbreak of H7N9 bird flu which was first reported in February 2013, has spread to the central province of Hunan, local health authorities said Saturday, the third announcement in three days of a case in a new location.

According to a local news report by Xinhua, the patient was a 64-year-old woman, identified only by the surname Guan, from Shaoyang city. She developed a fever on April 14, four days after having contact with poultry. Her condition had improved with treatment. So far, the bird flu virus has killed 23 people in China and its continuing to spread.

In a briefing by the World Health Organization (WHO) this week, they called the virus "one of the most lethal", and said it is more easily transmitted than an earlier strain that has killed hundreds around the world since 2003.

"The situation remains complex and difficult and evolving. When we look at influenza viruses, this is an unusually dangerous virus for humans," Keiji Fukuda, the World Health Organization's assistant director-general for health security, according to US News.

The Hunan cases come a day after the eastern province of Fujian reported its first case and during the same week that a man in Taiwan become the first case of the flu outside mainland China. He contracted the flu while travelling in China.

Meanwhile, researchers have confirmed that the bird flu virus was transmitted from chickens at a wet poultry market to humans, according to a new study conducted by Chinese researchers published in The Lancet. Wet markets, which are common in Asian countries, are where live animal are bought and sold.

For the study, researchers wanted to determine whether the virus could have been transmitted from the poultry-to-humans. The researchers took cloacal swabs from 86 birds from wet markets and inoculated embryonated chicken eggs with the samples. Forty percent of the pigeons as well as 20 percent of the chickens were tested positive for H7N9. 

"Overall, the evidence, in terms of epidemiology and virology, suggests that it is a pure poultry-to-human transmission, and that controlling [the epidemic in humans] will therefore depend on controlling the epidemic in poultry," said co-lead author of the study, Professor Kwok-Yung Yuen.

The study was funded by Larry Chi-Kin Yung, National Key Program for Infectious Diseases of China.

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