Bird Flu Kills Two In China: Scientists Race To Understand H7N9 Virus [VIDEO]

By Staff Reporter on April 1, 2013 11:00 AM EDT

Avian flu virus
Avian flu virus (Photo: Creative Commons)

China confirms that a new bird flu strain has killed two men in the city of Shanghai. China officials say the strain of bird flu is not previously known in humans.

According to records, a 27-year-old and an 87-year-old man fell ill with a new strain identified as H7N9 in February. After an extended battle with the virus, the two patients died in March. What's more, another 35-year-old woman caught the strain elsewhere and is said to be critically ill. The unidentified woman is located in Chuzhou, the eastern province of Anhui.

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A serious matter that is currently under close supervision by China's National Health and Family Planning Commission, all three patients experienced fever and coughing before suffering pneumonia. The commission determined the virus responsible for the latest deaths is known as H7N9, a strain not thought to have previously transmitted to humans.

Unfortunately, the commission has yet to assess the new strains ability to infect humans. At this point, there is no vaccine for H7N9.

A serious matter for China, the deadly bird flu strain H5N1 has killed 360 human victims since 2003 and has caused the mass killing of millions of birds in an effort to stop the spread of the disease.

Britain's biggest drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline has finally designed a vaccine that can be used against an H5N1 pandemic. However, regulators have not approved the vaccine.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, the vaccine will require more time before approval "due to an administrative matter that has recently been rectified."

"GSK and the FDA are actively working together to complete the review in a timely manner," explained GlaxoSmithKline in a statement.

Previously, GSK developed an H1N1 flu vaccine known as Pandemrix in Europe. However, the vaccine caused an increase in narcolepsy cases among children that received the vaccine.

Despite the concerned amount of narcolepsy cases, doctors believe the benefit of an H5N1 vaccine certainly outweighs the risk.

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