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Grim report: New bird flu causes brain damage, multi-organ failure

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 12th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Severe illness with pneumonia, septic shock, brain damage and multi-organ failure are appear to be part and parcel of the frightening new strain of bird flu. The most recent report on three of the first stricken patients in China is especially worrisome. All three of the patients have since died.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "It is possible that these severely ill patients represent the tip of the iceberg," Dr. Timothy Uyeki and Dr. Nancy Cox, both of the influenza division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention write. The report was by a group of Chinese scientists and was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
 
In the early days of an outbreak of a new influenza virus, H7N9 had never been seen before in humans. H7N9 has infected at least 40 people in four Chinese provinces and killed 11 in the past two months, Chinese authorities say.

Patients included two men, ages 87 and 27, both from Shanghai, and a 35-year-old woman from Anhui. All had pre-existing health conditions and two had been exposed to chickens at live poultry markets in the previous week. All three fell sick between Feb. 18 and March 13 and died between March 4 and April 9 of severe complications, the report said.

Traced to a re-assortment of genes from wild birds in East Asia and chickens in east China, the flu "raises many urgent questions and global public health concerns," the U.S. researchers wrote.

The virus clearly has the potential to create critical illness and has genetic characteristics that suggest that it might be better adapted than other bird flu strains to infect mammals -- including humans. Even worse, humans have no resistance to it, U.S. scientists report.

The virus is even far more insidious as it doesn't make birds sick, so it may spread widely and remain undetected until people become ill.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they received specimens of the virus from China this week and were continuing to rush efforts to create a vaccine, a process that could take several months.

Scientists are expected to start growing more of the virus to share for development. CDC officials will also use it to create a diagnostic test that could be used to detect infection in travelers who return to the U.S. from China with symptoms of flu, or those who've been in contact with someone who's been sick.

In addition, the CDC is urging local public health officials to watch for signs of sick travelers from China. About 10 people who recently traveled from China to the U.S. have been tested for the H7N9 virus because of suspicious symptoms, officials said. Everyone that has been tested in the U.S. has been negative - thus far.

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