Tuesday, April 2, 2013

H7N9 Bird flu virus

Update : Authorities in Shanghai said Thursday night that another person has died from H7N9 bird flu, bringing the death toll from the new deadly strain to five around the country. China has confirmed 14 H7N9 cases -- 6 in Shanghai, 4 in Jiangsu, 3 in Zhejiang and 1 in Anhui, in the first known human infections of the lesser-known strain. Of all, 4 died in Shanghai and one died in Zhejiang.

H7N9 bird flu virus, a deadly strain of bird flu which was previously unknown in humans but killed 3 people up to now: 2 in Shanghai and 1 in Jiangsu. The influenza virus have been reported to infect at least nine people. Two deaths have already been reported in Shanghai, while a third person is in a critical condition in nearby Anhui province:

A third person has died from H7N9 bird flu in China as the total number of confirmed cases rose to nine and concerns were raised that the virus might have mutated to infect other animals and humans more readily. 
The latest victim was a 38-year-old cook who fell ill early in March while working in the province of Jiangsu, where five of the other cases were found, authorities said. He died in hospital in on 27 March and a positive test for H7N9 flu came back on Wednesday.
Source : Third death from H7N9 bird flu 
The four new cases were reported on Tuesday in Jiangsu province, which borders Anhui to the east and lies north of Shanghai. The Jiangsu health bureau said three women, aged 45, 48 and 32, and a man (83) had been infected. Worryingly, the four cases were in four different cities, and all patients were in “critical condition” and “under emergency treatment”, Xinhua reported.
Source : Fears as more H7N9 cases in China
Among the four patients in Jiangsu only one, a woman of 45, had worked in the market slaughtering poultry, according to Xinhua News Agency. Jiangsu is a province next to Shanghai:
All four fell ill in mid-March and were hospitalized towards the end of the month. The four had reported varying symptoms of dizziness, fever, cough and breathlessness, Xinhua said.
Source : New strain of bird flu infects four others in China: Xinhua
Although Chinese government seems to believe that the virus is not highly contagious, China has a very bad record when it comes to dealing with bad news, which is often covered up by officials fearing it may attract unwanted attention from superiors and damage promotion prospects, despite government efforts to enhance transparency. In 2003, Beijing initially tried to cover up the epidemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which emerged in China and killed about a tenth of the 8,000 people it infected worldwide:
Some Chinese have complained that authorities took too long before announcing the deaths on Sunday, though the WHO says the government acted properly. Wu Fan, chief doctor and director general of the Shanghai Municipal Center for Disease Control, told reporters on Tuesday that the government had acted as quickly as it possibly could. "In this situation, to take 20 days to identify and confirm a new virus is already considered short," she said.
Source : New strain of bird flu infects four others in China: Xinhua
These worrying news came just after The World Health Organisation (WHO) played down fears over H7N9 but said it was crucial to find out how the virus infected humans:
"It's the first time that H7N9 was found in humans," the UN health agency's spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told reporters, referring to the deadly strain of avian influenza. "It is of concern to WHO and we will be following this with the health authorities in China to know more. But for the time being, it's only three cases and it has shown, for the time being, no human-to-human transmission," she added.
Source : WHO plays down China bird flu fears
Unlike H5N1 strain, which set off warnings when it began ravaging poultry across Asia in 2003, H7N9 virus appeared to be capable of infecting some birds without causing any noticeable symptoms. No single animal is found infected with the virus yet and how these 9 people are infected is a mystery.
If the latest virus continues to spread in China and beyond "it would be an even bigger problem than with H5N1, in some sense, because with H5N1 you can see evidence of poultry dying" said University of Hong Kong microbiologist Malik Peiris, who also examined the genetic information.
Source : Third death from H7N9 bird flu 
Avian influenza, known informally as avian flu or bird flu,  is an illness caused by strains of influenza viruses that have adapted to avian hosts. The highly pathogenic influenza A virus subtype H5N1 is already an emerging avian influenza virus that has been causing global concern as a potential pandemic threat (H5N1 is often referred to simply as "bird flu" or "avian influenza", even though it is only one subtype of avian influenza-causing virus). In January 2004 a major new outbreak of H5N1 surfaced in Vietnam and Thailand's poultry industry, and within weeks spread to ten countries and regions in Asia, including Indonesia, South Korea, Japan and China. In October 2004 researchers discovered H5N1 is far more dangerous than previously believed because waterfowl, especially ducks, were directly spreading the highly pathogenic strain of H5N1 to chickens, crows, pigeons, and other birds and that it was increasing its ability to infect mammals as well. From this point on, avian influenza experts increasingly refer to containment as a strategy that can delay but not prevent a future avian flu pandemic.

In 1918 an unusually deadly influenza pandemic infected 500 million people across the world (not sparing even remote Pacific islands and the Arctic). 50 to 100 million people (3 to 5 percent of the world's population at the time) died making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history.

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