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New strain of bird flu raises concerns

There’s increased concern about a new strain of bird flu spreading through China. Health officials throughout the U.S. are on alert as 28 people have been infected and 9 have died.

This new H7N9 virus is an Avian (bird) influenza (flu) virus. No cases have been identified in the United States. The virus was found about a week ago in Shanghai. In China hundreds of labs and hospitals, are on the lookout. Poultry markets in three cities are closed, and thousands of birds have been killed as a precaution. The new strain of Influenza is said to be spreading by contact with raw chickens or birds.

Scientists are concerned if this new H7N9 strain of Avian flu mutates again and passes from human to human. With a new mutation, people have no natural immunity and there is no vaccine yet to fight it. If just one infected person flies from Shanghai to our area, the virus could easily spread across the U.S. threatening hundreds of thousands.

The good news is that our counties all have a certain technology where we could diagnose a new strain of influenza much faster than some other areas throughout the state.

The virus is contained in Eastern China, but Santa Barbara and SLO county public health departments are advising the medical community to be aware, especially for those who have traveled to China in the last week or two. CDC advices to follow proper hygiene and food safety precautions.

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