- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 3, 2013

China has found two more cases of a deadly strain of bird flu not previously found in humans, bringing the number of known cases to nine.

Another person with the bird flu strain has died as scientists scramble to identify the source of the H7N9 infection. Officials still do not know if those infected people had contracted the strain from birds or any other animal.

The Agriculture Ministry said it had yet to find any animals infected with the strain, but added it was possible it had been brought to China by migratory birds, Fox News reports. If the virus is spread from birds to humans, scientists and other officials are worried about the potential for an H7N9 pandemic.

“The virus has to a certain extent already adapted to mammalian species and to humans, so from that point of view it’s worrisome,” a top flu expert, Ab Osterhaus, told Reuters news agency. “Really we should keep a very close eye on this.”

A 38-year old cook fell ill last month while working in Jiangsu, where five of the other cases were found. He died last week in Hangzhou city, the Xinhua news agency reported. The second patient, also in Hangzhou, is a 67-year old who is under treatment.

Of the seven other cases of the new strain, two have died, both in Shanghai. The other five are in critical condition in Nanjing, Fox News reports.