According to a report from China released on Tuesday, four more people in the province of Jiangsu have been found critically ill due to a new strain of bird flu virus, as 2 have been already confirmed dead from the illness. The Jiangsu health bureau confirmed the sickness to be caused by the H7N9 virus, a strain that previously has not caused sickness in humans.
The more virulent – and because of that, more widely known – strain of the bird flu is the H5N1, which killed poultry all across the continent in 2003 and also caused 360 deaths around the world, mostly after close contact with infected birds. The report confirmed that three women and a man from different cities in the Jiangsu province are all sick with flu from the H7N9 virus. Of the four confirmed cases, only one was in regular contact with birds – as she butchered chickens for a living. There was no immediate connection made between all four cases, and the flu did not appear to be contracted on close contact with the current patients.
With the authorities now alerted and seeming to put more effort into finding the cause of this new strain, experts have said that it is highly possible that more and more cases will surface. “A lot of people get severe respiratory conditions, pneumonia, so you usually don’t test them. Now all of a sudden you get this new reported strain of flu and so people are going to submit more samples to test, you’re more likely to see more cases,” says Dr. Ray Yip, a public health expert who heads the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in China. Jiangsu’s provincial health bureau, working together with Beijing and Shanghai, assured the public that said it was strengthening measures to monitor suspicious cases, urging them to stay calm as new steps to respond to the virus are being rolled out.