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China Reports 13 Bird Flu Deaths; Cases Climb To 60

People sit near pigeons at a park in Shanghai Sunday. A new strain of bird flu has spread from eastern China to other provinces, with 13 deaths reported.
People sit near pigeons at a park in Shanghai Sunday. A new strain of bird flu has spread from eastern China to other provinces, with 13 deaths reported.

Health officials in China say they've confirmed 11 new bird flu diagnoses, bringing the number of H7N9 infections to 60, with cases spread across several provinces, the official Xinhua news agency reports. The virus, which first infected people in Shanghai and eastern China, has now sickened at least one person in Beijing, along with two others in the central province of Henan.

As NPR's Richard Knox reports for Weekend Edition Sunday, samples of the virus have been shipped to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other research centers, where virologists hope to develop tests and vaccines to protect against it.

But until then, Michael O'Leary, who heads the World Health Organization's operations in China, says more cases are sure to follow, as infected birds come into contact with people. There is no evidence that humans have passed the virus to another person, something O'Leary tells the AP is "the good news."

As NBC News reports, the virus is causing anxiety for some Chinese, who are opting to stop eating chicken and their eggs. Others are turning to the herbal remedy ban lan gen — including the Suzhou zoo, which is feeding the traditional cure for the common cold to its animals, according to a report in The Shanghaiist.

You can follow NPR's coverage of the bird flu at our Shots blog.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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