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China Reports Spread Of Avian Flu Virus H7N9 To Hunan Provnince

Apr 27, 2013 01:16 PM EDT

China officials reported the spread of the H7N9 virus Saturday with the confirmation of the first case in the southern province of Hunan.

The patient, a 64-year-old woman surnamed Guan, is a resident of Shaoyang City.

Guan was exposed to poultry four days before she developed a fever; Chinese officials report no abnormal symptoms have appeared in the 41 people Guan had close contact with.

Though described as having been critically ill, officials confirm her condition is improving.

According to a report from the World Health Organization (WHO), a panel of international and Chinese experts completed an assessment on Thursday regarding China’s response to the virus that has sickened more than 100 and killed more than 20.

“China’s response has been exemplary,” said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Security. “Government agencies such as Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local authorities of affected areas acted quickly, and have shared critical information such as genetic sequence and virus needed to analyze the situation and be ready to make vaccine if needed in the future.”

Such actions, Fukuda said, represent healthy investments into public health preparedness by the Chinese government, which has seen a number of “extraordinary diseases,” including SARS and the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.

Thus far, the virus has largely been limited to sporadic outbreaks, with only a handful of family clusters having been identified, according to the WHO.

Whether these cluster outbreaks are the result of common exposure to the virus or limited human-to-human transmission is unclear, though, the WHO warns, the latter cannot be ruled out.

“In light of this, the team highlighted the need for continued cooperation at the national and international level,” the WHO report stated. “At the national level, there is a need for the health and agricultural sectors to continue working closely together. Internationally, the continued sharing of information, guidance, findings and the viruses themselves is critical.”

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