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China bird flu analysis finds more virus threats lurking

A deadly new bird flu virus in China evolved from migratory birds via waterfowl to poultry and into people, and there are other bird flu viruses circulating that could follow the same path, scientists have found.

The study - an analysis of the evolutionary history of the H7N9 bird flu that has so far killed 44 people - identified several other H7 flu viruses circulating in birds that the researchers said "may pose threats beyond the current outbreak".

While none of the additional H7 strains they detected has yet been found in humans, some are able to infect other mammals such as ferrets, the researchers said, suggesting a jump to humans may be possible.

"The discovery ... reminds us that even if H7N9 does not return, there are risks lurking amongst the great diversity of avian influenza viruses," said Peter Horby, a bird flu expert at the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Hanoi, Vietnam, who was not involved in the research.
 
 

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