Three More H7N9 Bird Flu Cases Reported in Eastern China

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A few more cases of the deadly bird flu virus H7N9 were reported in China yesterday, according to the Xinhua news agency.

The three new instances of the disease were discovered in Eastern China and have brought the country’s total number of cases to 21. Ten of the 21 occured in Shanghai, which is a major center for international business.

Honk Kong’s stock index took a 2.7 percent hit on Friday due to the disease outbreak, as investors continue to worry about the implications for the local economy.

The auto industry may also take a hit. According to Forbes, one of the country’s biggest auto shows, the Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition, is set to take place April 21-29, but may not attract as many important buyers because of health fears.

Poultry markets in Eastern China have been shutting down in order to contain the spread of the disease, which has killed six people so far.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday that it will be closely monitoring the outbreak in China.

Liang Wannian, head of the H7N9 working group of China’s health commission, said at a briefing in Beijing on Sunday that China is committed to releasing information about the latest infections as quickly as possible and they are boosting hospitals’ abilities to take care of the patients infected.

Though no human-to-human transfer of the virus string has been reported, Ron Fouchier, a molecular virology professor from the Netherlands, says that H7N9 does have genetic hallmarks of a virus that can be easily transmitted.

Health agencies are closely monitoring all bird flu virus strings after the huge, global outbreak in 2009 of the H1N1 swine flu epidemic. The H1N1 string killed about 284,500 people worldwide, according to the CDC.

Experts are still investigating how individual cases of H7N9 originated, and as of now, the United Nations health agency has not recommended people to take special precautions, according to Michale O’Leary, China's representative at the World Health Organization.

Sources: Forbes, Bloomberg