A NEW strain of deadly bird flu which kills 38 per cent of those infected and could spark a global pandemic has been identified in China.
Scientists around the world believe the new pathogen, dubbed “Disease X”, could be as lethal as 1918 Spanish flu which killed up to 100million people.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, told The Telegraph that virus H7N9, which is circulating poultry in China, could cause a global outbreak.
He said: “[H7N9] is an example of another virus which has proven its ability to transmit from birds to humans.
“It’s possible that it could be the cause of the next pandemic.”
In China, the deadly pathogen has killed 623 of the 1,625 people which have been infected.
How can you prevent bird flu?
The NHS reveal ways you can avoid contracting bird flu:
- avoid visiting live animal markets and poultry farms
- avoid contact with surfaces that are contaminated with bird droppings
- don’t pick up or touch birds (dead or alive)
- don’t eat or handle undercooked or raw poultry, egg or duck dishes
- don’t bring any live poultry products back to the UK, including feathers
- always practise good personal hygiene, such as washing your hands regularly
While the virus cannot yet be passed from person to person, experts believe it is only three mutations away from being able to spread from human contact.
The symptoms of H7N9 include a high fever, cough and shortness of breath which can then develop into pneumonia.
Once the disease has developed, those infected develop acute respiratory distress syndrome, septic shock and organ failure.
Older people, pregnant women and those with existing health problems are most at risk, according to the World Health Organization.
Bird flu can spread to people when they have direct contact with the infection.
This can occur when humans touch dead or alive contaminated birds, their droppings or secretions from their eyes.
Visiting live bird markets in countries that have suffered from avian flu outbreaks is sometimes also a cause for concern.
The NHS explains that “close and prolonged contact with an infected bird is generally required for the infection to spread to humans.”