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 don't tend to suffer serious health problems.

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