Seven-year-old girl becomes Beijing's first case of new bird flu


Taiwan's Center for Disease Control staff stand at the entrance of Sungshan Airport in Taipei on April 4, 2013. Taiwan enhanced its level of alert against bird flu and set up a contingency center after China's report of a new strain of avian influenza.


Sam Yeh

A seven-year-old girl is the first confirmed case in Beijing of the new H7N9 bird flu, which was previously only recorded in eastern China.

The girl's parents both work in the live poultry trade, noted Reuters — a salient detail, as close contact with poultry on a regular basis is a major risk factor for contracting bird flu.

Read more from GlobalPost: China H7N9 bird flu death toll rises to 9

Until this latest Beijing case, H7N9 had only been confirmed in the city of Shanghai and in the eastern Chinese provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui. Mass slaughter of poultry and the shuttering of live fowl markets followed those cases.

The total number of confirmed bird flu cases has now risen to 44, wrote CNN, while eleven of those confirmed to be infected have died of the disease.

"The Chinese government is actively investigating this event and has heightened disease surveillance," the World Health Organization said of the ongoing problem — with the added assurance that there's no evidence yet that the disease is being spread from person to person.

However, that's the development that epidemiologists fear. Person-to-person transmission of avian flu could shift the spread of disease from double-digit figures to pandemic scenarios.

In anticipation of such a disease spread, Beijing has already banned both pigeon releases and live bird trading, noted Agence France-Presse, and has also increased its surveillance of both poultry traders and wild birds.