(BEIJING) — Officials in Beijing confirmed Saturday that a 7-year-old girl is infected with H7N9 avian influenza, widening the geographic spread of the virus that has already killed 11 people.
The girl, whose parents sell live poultry, was admitted to the hospital on Thursday with pneumonia and is the first case reported outside eastern China, where the virus was first reported in late March.
Government officials said the total number of new bird flu infections across the country rose to 47 today as the eastern province of Jiangsu reported two fresh cases and Shanghai reported one.
What is concerning about this latest report is the distance between Shanghai and Beijing.
The virus was able to travel more than 750 miles without leaving a trail of dead birds.
Unlike the H5N1 bird flu that raised concerns starting in 2003, H7N9 does not seem to make birds very sick or sick at all. This makes tracking the movement of the virus and containing it to limited flocks of birds next to impossible.
Authorities can’t just test flocks that show signs of the disease. The case in Beijing illustrates that clearly. In order to understand where people might be at risk, China will have to screen many healthy birds across an increasingly large area.
The epidemiologic investigations of people who were sickened by H7N9 are extremely important. In order to prevent infections, authorities need to determine what kind of exposures put people at risk.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Jackie Wattles, CNN