04/06/2013 12:00 EDT | Updated 06/05/2013 05:12 EDT

Chinese bird flu outbreak monitored by B.C. health officials

Health authorities in B.C. are monitoring the latest outbreak of bird flu in China, but so far there are no signs the virus called H7N9 is spreading to North America.

"We are watching this very closely," says B.C. Centre for Disease Control Epidemiologist Dr. Danuta Skowronski.

"With this number of human cases of a novel avian influenza virus relatively geographically dispersed and without a common source identified, we really want more information," says Skowronski.

Six people have died of the new strain already in China after contracting the disease from birds, but health officials in North America say there are no known cases of the disease spreading between humans.

Still, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday it is preparing a vaccine for a new strain, but it will likely be several months before it is ready.

No travel advisories have been issued so far, but Dr. Barbara Raymond, director of preparedness planning division for the Public Health Agency of Canada in Ottawa, suggests those travelling in China should avoid contact with poultry and practice common-sense hygiene measures like hand washing and coughing into the sleeve.