7-year-old Girl First To Contact New Bird Flu Strain In Beijing

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A seven year old girl in China’s capital is the first person to contract a new strain of bird flu outside of the eastern region, state news agency Xinhua reported.

The girl was reportedly in a stable condition in a Beijing hospital on Saturday, and she has been given the drug Tamiflu, received intravenous drips on Thursday night, and was transferred to an intensive care unit when her condition worsened.

Two people who have had close contact with the child have shown no signs of being infected so far.

The parents of the girl, who developed flu symptoms on Thursday morning, are engaged in the live poultry trade.

The website of China’s state radio showed a photo of the girl lying in bed, wearing a large blue face mask and with a stuffed doll next to her.

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11 people have so far died of the H7N9 bird flu strain since it was confirmed in humans for the first time last month, with 44 infections in all having been reported to date.

Shanghai and the eastern provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui had been the only confirmed locations of infection until the case in Beijing, a city home to over 20 million people.

The source of infection remains unknown, though the virus has been found in some birds in poultry markets that remain the focus of investigations by China and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

The new virus has caused severe illness in most of the people affected, leading to fears that if it becomes easily transmissible, it could cause a deadly influenza pandemic, though there has been no indication of that happening.

In a bid to calm public jitters over the virus, Chinese authorities have detained a dozen people for spreading rumours about the spread of bird flu.

Earlier in April, the World Health Organisation praised China for mobilising resources nationwide to combat the strain by culling tens of thousands of birds and monitoring hundreds of people close to those infected.

“So far, we really only have sporadic cases of a rare disease, and perhaps it will remain that way. So this is not a time for over-reaction or panic,” said Michael O’Leary, the WHO’s representative to China. [AlJazeera]

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