H7N9 Bird Flu in Shanghai Kills First Medical Worker, Renewing Transmission Fears

No evidence Shanghai doctor came into contact with live birds, underscoring danger of human-to-human transmission of H7N9 strain

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Health officials in protective suits put a goose into a sack as part of preventive measures against the H7N9 bird flu at a poultry market in Zhuji, Zhejiang province, on Jan. 5, 2014.

The H7N9 bird flu virus has claimed the life of a medical professional in Shanghai, renewing concerns that the virus can spread between people.

An unnamed hospital official told South China Morning Post that there was no evidence that the thoracic surgeon, who died on Saturday morning, had been in contact with live poultry recently. However, he could have treated patients with pneumonia, a symptom of H7N9 infection.

“If the diagnosis is confirmed and no [bird] exposure history is elicited, this does point slightly more to the possibility that H7N9 may be more transmissible between humans than H5N1,” said Yuen Kwok-yung, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong.

The H7N9 strain of bird flu was found to have been transmitted from human to human for the first time in August, when a woman caring for her H7N9-stricken father in a hospital in eastern China herself contracted the virus.

The World Health Organization said Monday that it had been notified of more than 40 confirmed human H7N9 infections this month in China.