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Health

Chinese capital reports its first bird flu case

China's capital has reported its first case of the new strain of bird flu, which has thus far infected at least 44 people and killed 11. A young girl is the first to have contracted the virus in Beijing.

The new strain of bird flu has spread to the Chinese capital. The new H7N9 bird flu had previously only been found in humans in eastern China.

Now, however, a seven-year-old girl is in stable condition in a Beijing hospital after developing flu symptoms. The girl's parents work in the live poultry trade, a report by the state news agency Xinhua said.

The girl developed a fever, cough, sore throat and headache on Thursday and was taken to the hospital.

Doctors administered the drug Tamiflu through intravenous drips before transferring the girl to an intensive care unit when her condition worsened, Xinhua said. Since then, her breathing has reportedly improved, and her temperature has dropped.

Tests confirmed on Saturday that the girl was infected with the H7N9 virus. The two people in closest contact with the child have not yet shown any signs of contracting the illness.

Spreading fears

Until now, Shanghai and the eastern provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui had been the only confirmed locations of human infection. A total of 44 people have been infected in China, and 11 of them have died.

Because of the strain’s severe effects on those infected, fears have risen in recent days over the potential for the flu to become easily transmissible amongst humans.

Thus far, health officials believe people are only contracting the virus via direct contact with infected birds.

The source of the new strain of flu remains unknown, but the virus has been found in some birds in poultry markets. China and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization are focusing on the poultry markets in their investigations.

tm/slk (AP, AFP, Reuters)