Beijing girl infected with bird flu; 44 cases now reported

Story highlights

  • A patient from Shanghai becomes the 11th person to die from bird flu
  • The number of infections across China climbs to 44
  • Hong Kong will test imports of poultry from the Chinese mainland

A 7-year-old girl is the latest person to be infected with bird flu in China -- and the first case in the Chinese capital, the country's official Xinhua news agency reported Saturday.

The girl is being treated at a hospital in Beijing and is in stable condition, the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau said, according to Xinhua.

Her case brings to 44 the number of people infected in China with a new variation of bird flu called H7N9. All of the other cases have come from the eastern part of China.

Eleven of the 44 have died.

While the source of the infection is unknown, poultry markets have become the focus of the investigation by China's health ministry and the World Health Organization, which are closely monitoring the cases.

Several cities in eastern China have suspended trading in live poultry in an effort to contain the problem.

The father of the 7-year-old girl now infected with the virus is involved in live poultry trading, Xinhua said, citing a spokesman for the municipal health bureau.

New bird flu well-adapted to infect people

The WHO said Friday there is no evidence of "ongoing human-to-human transmission," but the international agency and Chinese health officials continue to monitor.

"The Chinese government is actively investigating this event and has heightened disease surveillance," WHO said.

The virus involved, H7N9, is known to affect pigeons but wasn't discovered in humans until a series of cases was reported in China last week.

On Wednesday, the Chinese Academy of Sciences said the H7N9 virus probably came from migratory birds from East Asia that mixed with domestic fowl in China's Yangtze River delta region.

Hong Kong's Food and Environmental Hygiene Department announced Friday that poultry imported from companies in mainland China would be subjected to "fast tests" for the H7N9 and H5N1 strains of the virus.

Officers will randomly select 30 birds out of every 1,000 and collect swabs and blood samples to detect the H5 and H7 antigen and antibodies, the department said.

Results will available within five hours, with cleared poultry then taken to a temporary wholesale market in the city for sale.

If any of the birds are infected, all poultry imports will be suspended, said Allen Chan, a senior veterinary officer with the city's health department.

The current outbreak has started to take its toll economically. Yum Brands, the parent company of KFC in China, said this week that sales at its restaurants across the country suffered a sharp fall.

Xinhua also reported that the price of poultry fell by as much as 50% in some eastern cities in the past week, hurting farmers economically. Shanghai has now completely banned the sale of live poultry.