(Bloomberg) — A medical worker at a Shanghai hospital died from bird flu, stoking concern that the influenza virus known as H7N9 may have spread from person to person.
The 31-year-old man died on Jan. 18, according to a statement on the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning website yesterday. The city has identified seven cases of infection with the virus this year, the statement said.
Human cases of H7N9 were first reported in China in March and spiked in April before agriculture authorities temporarily closed live poultry markets to limit human exposure. The World Health Organization has reported 199 laboratory-confirmed cases and 52 deaths since the start of the outbreak.
“It’s always a concern when health workers die,” said Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the WHO in Geneva. “Hospitals and other medical facilities are a flash point for human-to- human transmission. We would be very much wanting to follow up in as much detail as possible on this case.”
Even though H7N9 hasn’t mutated to become as contagious as seasonal flu, strains that emerge in China are of interest to researchers. The 1957-58 Asian Flu and 1968-69 Hong Kong Flu pandemics were first identified in the world’s most populous nation. Another bird-flu strain known as H5N1 is thought to have come from the southern province of Guangdong in 1996.