Amidst growing concerns of a new bird flu outbreak, two Chinese men have been confirmed to have died due to a strain of the bird flu virus H7N9. Chinese health officials have confirmed that the deaths happened in Shanghai.
Counting the two recent deaths, a total of 7 cases of H7N9 infections have been reported in the city. The first cases of the virus infecting humans in China occurred March last year. In the following months, the incidents escalated prompting city officials to order the temporary closure of a number of poultry markets in the country in an effort to contain the spread of the virus. Since March, the World Health Organization has recorded a total of 52 fatalities and 199 confirmed incidents of the virus in China.
The two men who who died, included a 77-year-old farmer and a 31-year-old doctor. Representatives from the Shanghai municipal health commissions have stated that both individuals tested positive for H7N9. While the doctor was initially thought to have died from respiratory failure and a case of pneumonia, further testing confirmed that the death was due to bird flu.
The deaths occurred while the country is preparing for the upcoming Chinese New Year celebrations. Aside from the fact that Chinese citizens often travel to their provincial homes during the festivities, officials are also worried that many families plan on purchasing chicken and other poultry products in preparation for celebrations.
While the deaths have been confirmed in Shanghai, incidents related to H7N9 are not isolated to the city. Six cases of H7N9 have also been recorded in Zhejiang over the weekend.
Aside from bird flu incidents being reported in the Chinese mainland, the virus has also reared its ugly head in neighboring regions such as Hong Kong. Unlike other strains of bird flu, H7N9 is harder to contain due to the fact that birds such as ducks and chickens can carry the virus without large numbers of the bird populations dying off. While a small number of birds may die due to the virus, the situations has not been observed to escalate into large die offs, making it harder for health officials to detect the flu and implement quarantine measures.