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June 1, 2013


New strains of the bird flu developing in China

A new version of the bird flu—known as H7N9—has developed in China and is exhibiting some worrisome new abilities. Previously, the bird flu could only be passed by close contact with a carrier of the virus, but new studies show that this more recent version can be passed in airborne droplets as well.

Flu passed airborne

The study, published in Science and presented in Hong Kong, found that “three ferrets—an animal often used for research on flue—that were in the same cage as ferrets infected with H7N9 had contracted the disease. One of the three ferrets kept in separate cages nearby also became infected, through airborne exposure.”

Future threat considered

This evolution is a concern for scientists and doctors because in the event of a future outbreak, the disease would be much harder to contain. Yi Guan, microbiologist, and his team of researchers warned, “The findings suggest that the possibility of this virus evolving to form the basis of a future pandemic threat cannot be excluded.”

WHO weighs in

There’s not much worry currently, however, as this most recently flu outbreak in China has been characterized as “under control” by the World Health Organization (WHO). In addition, this strain does not appear to be especially severe, as the ferrets in the trials only exhibited mild symptoms and all infections cleared up within 7 days.

Source: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_137200.html


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