Two people in the central Chinese province of Henan have been infected by a new strain of avian influenza, the first cases found in the region, while the death toll has risen to 13 from a total of 60 infections after two more deaths in Shanghai. One of the Henan victims, a 34-year old man in the city of Kaifeng, is now critically ill in hospital, while the other, a 65-year old farmer from Zhoukou, is stable. The two cases do not appear to be connected.
A total of 19 people in close contact with the two new victims were under observation but had shown no signs of infection, state news agency Xinhua said.
Three more victims were identified in Shanghai, China's business hub, bringing the total number of cases in the city to 24, with a total of nine deaths, state media said.
Three cases have now been reported outside the original clusters in eastern China, including one in the capital Beijing, but there is nothing out of the ordinary so far, the China representative of the World Health Organization said.
"There's no way to predict how it'll spread but it's not surprising if we have new cases in different places like we do in Beijing," Michael O'Leary told reporters. On Saturday, the China Centre for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that a seven year-old child in the capital of Beijing had been infected by the H7N9 bird flu virus, the first case to be reported outside of the Yangtze river delta region in east China, where the new strain emerged last month.
The child's parents work in the poultry trade.