Although health officials still haven't confirmed the species of animal that is the source of the H7N9 bird flu outbreak in China, most people who fell ill had contact with birds or pigs, according to a new report.
The report, published online Wednesday (April 24) in the New England Journal of Medicine, describes an investigation of the 82 people who were infected with the virus from the beginning of the outbreak (in February and March) through April 17.
So far, health officials know of 108 people who've fallen ill with the new strain of bird flu, 22 of whom have died, according to the World Health Organization.
The new report says that of the 77 patients who could report whether they had been in contact with animals, 59 patients, or 77 percent, reported recent exposure to animals, the report said. Most (76 percent) had contact with chickens (including four who were poultry workers), while 20 percent reported exposure to ducks, and 7 percent to swine, the report said.
The researchers said they suspect the source of H7N9 infections to be poultry. This agrees with the result of a study published today, which points to poultry markets as the likely source of H7N9 bird flu infections.
Other findings from the investigation of the 82 cases include:
More investigation is needed not only to identify patients who may be sick with the virus, but also to determine risk factors for becoming ill (some people may not get sick), the researchers said.
A ban on the sale of poultry in market stalls, disinfection of markets or market closures may need to be considered to prevent the spread of the virus from animals to people, the researchers said.
Pass it on: Aninvestigation of 82 people infected with the new bird flu virus shows most who fell ill had contact with birds or pigs.
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