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Scientists monitoring H7N9 'bird flu' virus

Scientists are watching the H7N9 virus closely to see if it could spark a global pandemic but say there is little evidence so far that it can spread easily from human to human.

In comparison, the earlier bird flu strain, H5N1, is known to kill up to 60 of every 100 people it infects.

An employee wearing a protection suit sprays disinfectant on chickens at a poultry market in Hefei, Anhui province. Credit: REUTERS/Stringer

Experts said they still are not sure how people are getting infected but said evidence points to infections at live poultry markets, particularly through ducks and chickens.

However they added that it was encouraging that reported infections appeared to slow after the closure of live poultry markets in affected areas.

WHO concern over 'one of the most lethal bird flu viruses'

The World Health Organisation's (WHO) top influenza expert, Dr. Keiji Fukuda, said that people appear to catch the latest 'bird flu' virus, H7N9, from birds more easily than the H5N1 strain that began ravaging poultry across Asia in 2003.

Health experts are concerned about H7N9's ability to jump to humans, as well as the strain's capacity to infect birds without causing noticeable symptoms - making it difficult to monitor its spread.

"This is definitely one of the most lethal influenza viruses we have seen so far," Dr Fukuda said. But he added that experts are still trying to understand the virus, and that there might be a large number of mild infections that are going undetected.

The H7N9 bird flu virus has infected more than 100 people in China, seriously sickening most of them and killing more than 20, mostly near the eastern coast around Shanghai.

Obama meets Chinese leader at summit

President Barack Obama said the relationship between the United States and China is "cooperative and constructive" and that it is important the two nations set "clear rules of the road" for trade and investment.

President Obama meets with Chinese Premier Wen at the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh. Credit: Jason Reed / Reuters

Obama and China's outgoing premier Wen Jiabao held a meeting at a summit of Asian countries taking place in Cambodia.

Despite tensions between the two economic powerhouses, President Hu Jintao said he and Obama share the view that the US-China relationship is one of the most important in the world.

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