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Bird Flu Not Contagious Among People

A Chinese health agency confirms that the strain of H5N1 bird flu that killed a Chinese man last month does not spread between humans.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus)WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, LIP KEE YAP

A 39-year-old bus driver in China died from multi-organ failure on Saturday (December 31) as a result of infection by a virus authorities recently confirmed to be related to the H5N1 bird flu. The case, the country's first in 18 months, led to fears that the virus may spread.  But according to the Shenzhen Disease Control Center, a genetic analysis indicated the virus spread directly from poultry to the victim, and is not contagious among people.

“The virus found in the patient was 90 percent similar to H5N1 viruses previously isolated in ducks in China, which suggested that the man was very likely to have been infected through direct contact with a bird,” the agency said in a statement.  ”Though it is highly pathogenic to human beings, the virus can not spread among people.”

H5N1 rarely infects humans, and is usually...

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