China's H7N9 bird flu spreads human-to-human

Chickens at a poultry farm in Liaocheng, China
Getty Images
Chickens at a poultry farm in Liaocheng, China

Chinese scientists have discovered the first case of human-to-human transmission of the H7N9 bird flu.

In research published in the British Medical Journal, scientists said that a 32-year-old woman contracted an infection while caring for her father. Both the woman and her father have since died.

(Read more: Could China's Bird Flu Be the Next SARS?)

While this is the first identified instance of a person catching the H7N9 virus through means that did not involve direct contact with birds, experts have noted that it does not mean the virus can now spread easily among humans.

Experts who commented on the research said H7N9 does not appear to be the next flu pandemic, but that "it does provide a timely reminder of the need to remain extremely vigilant."

(Read more: China's Bird Flu Outbreak Cost $6.5 Billion)

"The threat posed by H7N9 has by no means passed," James Rudge and Richard Coker of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine commented in the same journal where the research was published.

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The H7N9 bird flu strain was first reported by Chinese authorities in March. There were 132 cases and 37 deaths in China and Taiwan linked to the virus by the end of May.

Chinese health officials said patients were most likely infected at live animal markets and were able to slow the spread of the virus by shutting them down across the country. They also acknowledged that there were probably some sporadic cases of human-to-human transmission of the bird flu.

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