BEIJING - The World Health Organization is talking with the Chinese government about sending international experts to China to help investigate a new bird flu strain that has sickened at least 24 people, killing seven of them.
A 64-year-old retired man in Shanghai became the latest victim of the H7N9 bird flu virus that had previously not been known to infect humans, the city government said Monday.
The Shanghai government said the man died Sunday night, a week after first experiencing chills. He sought medical treatment last Wednesday for pneumonia-like conditions. By Sunday, he was admitted for in-patient treatment. He died hours later.
Michael O'Leary, head of WHO's office in China, told reporters in Beijing on Monday that the international health organization had confidence in China's efforts to track and control the outbreak of H7N9 infections, but that growing interest in the virus globally has prompted WHO to consider sending a team.
The cases are of "great interest not only in the scientific community but in the world at large," O'Leary said at a joint press conference with China's national health agency. "WHO's responsibility in part is to make sure that we serve as liaison and linkage between China and the rest of the world."
The team would likely include epidemiological, laboratory and communications experts, but the matter was still being discussed by the two sides, O'Leary said.
Aside from the latest fatality, China reported two more cases of human infection of the H7N9 bird flu virus on Monday, raising the total to 24 - all in the eastern part of the country. Milder infections may be going undetected.
The H7N9 strain previously was known only to infect birds, and officials say they do not know why the virus is infecting humans now. The virus has been detected in live poultry in several food markets where human cases have been found.