Nine people have died from a rare strain of bird flu in China, as health officials investigate possible cases of transmission between family members. The latest fatalities occurred in Anhui and Jiangsu provinces — both in eastern China — and brought the total number of deaths from H7N9 avian influenza to nine, from 28 reported cases, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency. So far the virus has been limited to the east of the country, with infections reported in the Shanghai region, as well as in the provinces of Anhui, Jiangsu and Zhejiang.
A total of 13 cases, including five resulting in fatalities, have been reported in Shanghai alone, where the authorities are considering a permanent ban on the trading of live poultry after culling more than 100,000 birds in the past week in an effort to contain the problem. While the source of the infection is unknown, poultry markets have become the focus of the investigation by China’s health ministry and the World Health Organization (WHO). The virus had been known to affect pigeons but had not previously been discovered in humans until a series of cases were reported in China last week.