Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Report: Third man in China dies from unusual bird flu strain

By Jethro Mullen and Jason Hanna, CNN
updated 9:02 PM EDT, Wed April 3, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Third man to die lived in Zhejiang in eastern China, but worked in Jiangsu province
  • Announcement comes days after the first three other cases -- and first two deaths -- were announced
  • Officials are trying to find the source of the infections

Hong Kong (CNN) -- A third man in China has died from the H7N9 virus, a strain of avian flu not previously detected in humans, the Zhejiang provincial department of health said Wednesday, according to state-run media outlet Xinhua.

The disclosure of the third death comes only days after Chinese authorities announced the first three known cases of humans infected with the H7N9 bird flu virus on Sunday.

The total number of people infected with H7N9 in China has risen to nine, Xinhua reported Wednesday.

The death reported Wednesday was that of a 38-year-old man who passed away on March 27 in his home province of Zhejiang in eastern China, Xinhua reported. He worked in nearby Jiangsu province, where at least four other cases of humans infected with H7N9 were reported Tuesday.

2012: Bird flu research published
2011: Bird flu tests as terror threat?

Two other people who died -- men aged 27 and 87 -- lived in nearby Shanghai, according to Xinhua. The World Health Organization confirmed those deaths Monday.

Chinese authorities are trying to find the source of the human infections. They have so far said there are no signs of transmission of the H7N9 virus between any of the victims or people they have come into close contact with, suggesting the virus isn't highly contagious among humans.

They have also dismissed suggestions linking the infections with the discovery of thousands of pig carcasses from the Huangpu River which runs through Shanghai.

The Shanghai Animal Disease Prevention and Control Center on Monday tested 34 samples of pig carcasses pulled from the river and found no bird flu viruses, Xinhua reported.

On Tuesday, the Jiangsu provincial health bureau reported four cases of H7N9 in humans: a 45-year-old woman from Nanjing, a 48-year-old woman from Suqian, an 83-year-old man from Suzhou, and a 32-year-old woman from Wuxi.

The Nanjing woman worked culling poultry, it said.

Malik Peiris, a professor at Hong Kong University's School of Public Health, said Monday that the H7N9 strain of avian flu, already known to exist in wild birds, had probably been transmitted to poultry, and it infected the humans.

"It's really important to understand where this virus is coming from," he said.

Authorities in Shanghai are gathering daily data on cases of pneumonia resulting from unknown causes and will set up a team of experts to assess the "severity and risk" of H7N9, Xinhua reported Tuesday.

Since the transmission of these types of viruses from animals to humans is usually "extremely inefficient," there are often tens of thousands of infected birds for every human case, according to Peiris.

As a result, "it is very likely that there is a quite widespread outbreak happening" among the animals from which it came, he said, underscoring the urgent need to track down the source.

The World Health Organization said Monday it was "in contact with the national authorities and is following the event closely."

Because there are so few cases of H7N9 detected so far, little research has been done, according to Xinhua. There are no known vaccines against this virus, it said.

But Peiris said it was likely that existing anti-flu drugs, such as Tamiflu, are likely to work against the H7N9 strain. He also noted that the WHO has identified the H7 virus family as a potential threat and earmarked possible vaccine candidates.

He said other strains from the H7 family had caused previous outbreaks in poultry in countries including the Netherlands, Britain, Canada, the United States and Mexico. Human infection was documented in all of those cases except the Mexican one.

The outbreak of the H7N7 strain in the Netherlands in 2003 infected 89 people, one of whom died, according to Peiris.

The better known H5N1 avian flu virus has infected more than 600 people since 2003, of which 371 have died, according to the WHO.

In February, China reported two new human cases of H5N1 in the southern province of Guizhou, both of whom were in a critical condition, the WHO said.

A spike in H5N1 deaths, many of them children, has been reported in Cambodia, prompting concern among health authorities.

READ MORE: 2 dead in China from unusual bird flu strain

READ MORE: New killer strain of bird flu in China not previously found in humans

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:53 PM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
China is building an island in the South China Sea that could accommodate an airstrip, according to IHS Jane's Defence Weekly.
updated 5:57 AM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
North Korean refugees face a daunting journey to reach asylum in South Korea, with gangs of smugglers the only option.
updated 6:19 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
China and "probably one or two other" countries have the capacity to shut down the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructure.
updated 5:39 AM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
It'd be hard to find another country that has spent as much, and as furiously, as China on giving its next generation a head start.
updated 12:32 AM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
In 1985, Meng Weina set up China's first private special needs school in the southern city of Guangzhou.
updated 3:14 PM EST, Wed November 12, 2014
Despite China's inexorable economic rise, the U.S. is still an indispensable ally, especially in Asia. No one knows this more than the Asian giant's leaders, writes Kerry Brown.
updated 10:38 PM EST, Wed November 12, 2014
For the United States and China to announce a plan reducing carbon emissions by almost a third by the year 2030 is a watershed moment for climate politics on so many fronts.
updated 3:26 PM EST, Mon November 17, 2014
China shows off its new stealth fighter jet, but did it steal the design from an American company? Brian Todd reports.
updated 8:01 PM EST, Mon November 10, 2014
Airshow China in Zhuhai provides a rare glimpse of China's military and commercial aviation hardware.
updated 8:14 AM EST, Wed November 12, 2014
A new exchange initiative aims to bridge relations between the two countries .
updated 12:51 AM EST, Tue November 11, 2014
Xi and Abe's brief summit featured all the enthusiasm of two unhappy schoolboys forced to make up after a schoolyard dust-up.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Mon November 10, 2014
Maybe you've decided to show your partner love with a new iPhone. But how about 99 of them?
updated 9:19 PM EST, Sun November 2, 2014
Can China's Muslim minority fit in? One school is at the heart of an ambitious experiment to assimilate China's Uyghurs.
updated 9:55 AM EST, Tue November 4, 2014
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is one of thousands of Americans learning Chinese.
updated 12:00 AM EST, Tue November 4, 2014
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou says he needs to maintain good economic ties with China while trying to keep Beijing's push for reunification at bay.
updated 1:28 AM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Chinese drone-maker DJI wants to make aerial photography drones mainstream despite concerns about privacy.
updated 1:18 AM EDT, Wed October 29, 2014
A top retired general confesses to taking bribes, becoming the highest-profile figure in China's military to be caught up in war on corruption.
ADVERTISEMENT