Hong Kong reports its first death from H7N9 bird flu

Officials test poultry at the border with mainland China in Hong Kong on April 11, 2013 as authorities step up measures against the spread of the deadly H7N9 bird flu. PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

An 80-year-old man infected with the H7N9 bird flu virus has died in Hong Kong, the government said on Thursday. It is the first such death in the city after the virus surfaced in early December.

The man, the second person in Hong Kong to be diagnosed with the virus strain, lived in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen and had eaten poultry there, media reported.

The H7N9 strain was first reported in humans in in mainland China in February, and has infected at least 139 people in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, killing more than 40.

The World Health Organization say there is no evidence of any sustained human-to-human transmission of H7N9, and so far all people who came into contact with the man had tested negative for the strain, authorities said. 

 Previously, researchers reported evidence of possible human-to-human transmission of H7N9 in China between a father and his daughter. 

This month, a study of H7N9 in China found a mutation in the novel strain may make it more resistant to typical first-line flu treatments, like Tamiflu. While this does not make H7N9 any more likely to develop into a human pandemic, researchers said it means doctors should be prudent in their use of antiviral medicines to treat cases.

There have been no cases of H7N9 reported in the United States.


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