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
April 4, 2013 -- Updated 0102 GMT (0902 HKT)
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
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 0916 GMT (1716 HKT)
He's one of the fieriest political activists in Hong Kong — he's been called an "extremist" by China's state-run media — and he's not old enough to drive.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 0929 GMT (1729 HKT)
Christians in eastern China keep watch in Wenzhou, where authorities have demolished churches and removed crosses.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 0538 GMT (1338 HKT)
Home-grown hip-hop appeals to a younger generation but its popularity has not translated into record deals and profits for budding rap artists.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 0545 GMT (1345 HKT)
Reforms to the grueling gaokao - the competitive college entrance examination - don't make the grade, says educator Jiang Xueqin.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 1218 GMT (2018 HKT)
Beijing grapples with reports from Iraq that a Chinese national fighting for ISIS has been captured.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 0200 GMT (1000 HKT)
CNN's David McKenzie has tasted everything from worms to grasshoppers while on the road; China's cockroaches are his latest culinary adventure.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 0057 GMT (0857 HKT)
Beijing rules only candidates approved by a nominating committee can run for Hong Kong's chief executive.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
China warns the United States to end its military surveillance flights near Chinese territory.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0312 GMT (1112 HKT)
China has produced elite national athletes but some argue the emphasis on winning discourages children. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout reports
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0513 GMT (1313 HKT)
Chinese are turning to overseas personal shoppers to get their hands on luxury goods at lower prices.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 0908 GMT (1708 HKT)
Experts say rapidly rising numbers of Christians are making it harder for authorities to control the religion's spread.
August 11, 2014 -- Updated 0452 GMT (1252 HKT)
"I'm proud of their moral standing," says Harvey Humphrey. His parents are accused of corporate crimes in China.
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 1942 GMT (0342 HKT)
A TV confession detailing a life of illegal gambling and paid-for sex has capped the dramatic fall of one of China's most high-profile social media celebrities.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 0410 GMT (1210 HKT)
President Xi Jinping's campaign to punish corrupt Chinese officials has snared its biggest target -- where can the campaign go from here?
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 0712 GMT (1512 HKT)
All you need to know about the tainted meat produce that affects fast food restaurants across China, Hong Kong, and Japan.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0230 GMT (1030 HKT)
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 0911 GMT (1711 HKT)
Is the Chinese president a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 0344 GMT (1144 HKT)
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
ADVERTISEMENT