China Has a New Strain of Bird Flu to Worry About

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Workers place dead chickens into plastic bags after they were killed at a live chicken distribution centre in Hong Kong on December 21, 2011. Hong Kong culled 17,000 chickens and suspended live poulty imports for 21 days after three birds tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu virus. AFP PHOTO / AARON TAM (Photo credit should read aaron tam/AFP/Getty Images)

The scary news first: Two men in Shanghai died of a little-known strain of bird flu and a woman in the city of Chuzhou is critically ill with the disease. The Shanghai men, ages 87 and 27, became ill on Feb. 19 and Feb. 27, respectively, and died on Feb. 27 and March 4. They were the first deaths attributed to the strain, called H7N9. (The deadly strain behind the 2003 outbreak was H5N1). The 35-year-old woman became ill March 9.

Now, some reasons not to be too scared: H7N9 "is considered a low pathogenic strain that cannot easily be contracted by humans," the Associated Press reports. Chinese health officials said there was no sign the people had gotten each other sick, nor that those in close contact with them had been infected. A World Health Organization spokesman told AP, "the risk to public health would appear to be low." So unless you're planning on hobnobbing with some birds in western China, there's probably nothing to worry about. Hopefully.