WASHINGTON - The White House is keeping a close eye on the outbreak of a new strain of bird flu in China, a spokeswoman said on Thursday, noting that the US government is prepared to help world health authorities if needed.
There have been a total of 14 confirmed cases of the virus in China, a strain called H7N9, which has killed five people, four of them in the financial hub of Shanghai.
World health authorities are on alert. But there is no evidence so far that the flu is spreading from person to person, which would raise fears of a pandemic.
White House national security staff are monitoring the outbreak, said spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.
"In coordination with the government's relevant experts, we are tracking the outbreak and preparing a response if one should be required," she said.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is examining the genetic sequencing of the virus and assessing its severity, the agency said on its website. The actions were "routine" whenever new strains of flu are detected, it said.
"The CDC stands ready to assist the World Health Organization and China's Ministry of Health as needed," Hayden said.