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In Brief

Some People Got Bird Flu Without Contact With Birds

chickens, bird flu
(Image credit: <a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/pic.mhtml?id=909494'>Chickens</a> via Shutterstock)

Health officials now know of 82 people who've fallen ill with the new H7N9 strain of bird flu in China, including 17 who died, according to the World Health Organization. That's 19 more cases and 3 more deaths since the count was updated yesterday.

WHO said today that some of the ill people have had no contact with poultry. The statement came after a Chinese scientist said that about 40 percent of infected people did not have contact with birds, according to Reuters.

It's still unclear how people are becoming infected.

The new strain, H7N9, is concerning because it has never before been seen in people, and so the general population presumably does not have immunity to it. So far, the virus does not appear to readily pass from person to person. WHO is monitoring more than 1,000 close contacts of those who fell ill and investigating the case of a few contacts who developed flu symptoms.

No vaccine is available, but recently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it had started work on a vaccine in case it's needed.

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Rachael Rettner
Rachael has been with Live Science since 2010. She has a masters degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.