By Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Two people in eastern China have died from an H7N9 avian influenza virus previously unreported in humans, the Chinese health ministry said on Sunday.
A 87-year-old man and a 27-year-old man both died in Shanghai earlier this month, while a 35-year-old woman from nearby Anhui province was in critical condition, the National Health and Family Planning Commission reported.
The woman from Anhui's Chuzhou city became ill on March 9, and the men developed severe influenza-like symptoms in late February, the ministry said on its website, www.moh.gov.cn.
The three victims all had fever and coughing that worsened into severe pneumonia and breathing difficulties, it said.
Following clinical observation, laboratory tests and an epidemiological survey, health experts confirmed on Saturday that the three were infected with the H7N9 avian influenza strain.
The experts were still unclear how the three were infected with the virus, the ministry said.
The team ruled out mutual infections between the three victims and found no symptoms of avian influenza among 88 of their close contacts.
The cases were the first H7N9 infections reported in humans worldwide, and there was no vaccination against the strain, the ministry said.
But the experts found no evidence that H7N9 was "highly contagious" among humans, it said.
The H5N1 strain of avian influenza infected 622 people and killed 371 worldwide since 2003, the World Health Organization reported in mid-March.