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Study: H7N9 'highly transmissible' through air

July 19, 2013

NEW YORK — A team of Chinese virologists has found that a new bird virus is capable of spreading from mammal to mammal through the air, reigniting fears that the virus could eventually pass from person to person, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The study, which was published online by the journal Science, found that "one strain of the H7N9 virus isolated from a human subject in eastern China’s Anhui province was 'highly transmissible' between ferrets by respiratory droplets," the article stated.

According to the article, researchers tested the ability of multiple strains of the virus to spread by placing three healthy ferrets in one cage next to three infected ferrets in another cage.

Ferrets respond to flu viruses in a fashion similar to humans and are therefore often used to test the potential of avian flu viruses to infect and spread between people, the article noted.

"The findings suggest that only a few amino acid changes would be needed to make the avian H7N9 viruses highly transmissible," said Chen Hualan, one of China's top virologists.

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