Deadly New Bird Flu Claims Another Victim as Scientists Warn: Could Be 'a Bigger Problem than H5N1'S

The new strain of bird flu that killed two men in China this week has claimed its third victim, Chinese authorities announced on Wednesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases of the virus to nine. The news means that cases have now been reported in Hangzou, Shanghai, and Nanjing, where five victims are in critical condition in the hospital; according to the agriculture ministry, no infected animals have been discovered. H7N9, as the virus is known, is not thought to be transferrable from person-to-person contact yet, but because it may not manifest symptoms in fowl, scientists have described it as a "silent" threat. "[I]f this continues to spread throughout China and beyond China, it would be an even bigger problem than with H5N1 in some sense," University of Hong Kong microbiologist Malik Peiris told the AP, "because with H5N1 you can see evidence of poultry dying, but here you can see this would be more or less a silent virus in poultry species that will occasionally infect humans." This year marks the tenth anniversary of the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong, during which the Chinese government minimized and covered up the virus' spread, and health officials are being careful to make a show of transparency and openness over H7N9—but at least one reported case is said to have been leaked to the media in a blog post by a hospital employee. [Reuters | NYT | AP]