The new strain of bird flu that killed two men in China this week has claimed its third victim, Chinese authorities announced on Wednesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases of the virus to nine. The news means that cases have now been reported in Hangzou, Shanghai, and Nanjing, where five victims are in critical condition in the hospital; according to the agriculture ministry, no infected animals have been discovered. H7N9, as the virus is known, is not thought to be transferrable from person-to-person contact yet, but because it may not manifest symptoms in fowl, scientists have described it as a "silent" threat. "[I]f this continues to spread throughout China and beyond China, it would be an even bigger problem than with H5N1 in some sense," University of Hong Kong microbiologist Malik Peiris told the AP, "because with H5N1 you can see evidence of poultry dying, but here you can see this would be more or less a silent virus in poultry species that will occasionally infect humans." This year marks the tenth anniversary of the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong, during which the Chinese government minimized and covered up the virus' spread, and health officials are being careful to make a show of transparency and openness over H7N9—but at least one reported case is said to have been leaked to the media in a blog post by a hospital employee. [Reuters | NYT | AP]
Yes, the flu season is really bad this year. No, it's not entirely due to "people use too much Purell nowadays" or whining about what's probably just a cold, either. The CDC reports that more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from "flu-related complications" every year. Sometimes, especially in the winter, people will use the word "flu" to describe any condition they want, but this is not the flu's fault and you should not blame it.
How bad is this year's flu season? Here's a Google map that estimates how bad the flu is across the country based on aggregated Google search data. No matter where you live in the U.S., you're facing "intense" or "high" flu activity — unless you live in Connecticut, in which case you're only looking at "moderate" activity (but you're suffering enough).
By tweaking the H5N1 bird flu virus a bit, a Netherlands-based virologist and his crew have created a highly contagious version that, if ever unleashed upon the general population, could kill millions of us. But don't fret! Their research, like that one Rolling Stones documentary, hasn't been released to the public. At least not yet, anyway.
Of the 3,000 New Yorkers who die from the flu each year, 800 will be from Brooklyn, according to a city Dept. of Health doc in the Daily News. There's some bullshit explanation about low vaccination rates, mistrust of medicine within specific enclaves in the borough's central neighborhoods, blah blah blah. We all know exactly what the real cause is: the deadly virus vector host that is the goddawful F train.