H7N9, the avian influenza virus that has infected some 133 people in China since March, killing 43 of them, has the potential to cause serious illness and even a pandemic, according to newly published research by University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher Yoshihiro Kawaoka, the same scientist who rendered H5N1 transmissible among ferrets, sparking global controversy. Kawaoka identified factors that make H7N9 a serious public health threat: It can cause infection in the lower respiratory tract in addition to the upper respiratory tract; one sample was transmitted via air between ferrets; and infected chickens usually don't suffer serious health problems.

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