Experts warn of rise in H7N9

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Shanghai Daily, August 20, 2013
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There is a possibility that H7N9 bird flu may reappear this autumn and winter, the traditional peak for respiratory diseases, World Health Organization officials said in Shanghai yesterday.

Medical authorities should be on high alert and prepare by sharing clinical experience on critical patients, establishing guidelines and training staff, officials said.

The officials were speaking at a seminar on respiratory infections at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center, the designated hospital for H7N9 patients.

By last Thursday, the latest figures available, H7N9 bird flu had killed 45 people on the Chinese mainland since the first human infection was confirmed in late March. A total of 134 cases of H7N9 infection have been confirmed on the mainland.

Wang Yu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said there were still many unknown aspects of the H7N9 virus as well as diseases that might result from it, including its source, infection routes and mutation. In particular, the future development of the new bird flu virus was still unclear.

The virus, which is believed to be vulnerable to heat, was seldom reported after May when the weather got warmer. However, a case in Guangdong Province of south China was reported on August 10 after another H7N9 case in the northern Hebei Province in July.

Attending the seminar was Dr Lu Hongzhou, a member of the nation's H7N9 prevention and control expert group and vice president of Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center. He had said previously that the virus can be killed after being heated.

After the weather becomes cooler, the virus can better survive, he said.

Though there is no evidence to show H7N9 can spread sustainably between people, WHO officials said the virus could have a limited human-to-human spread as a mainland couple had both been infected. They said there needed to be more studies on susceptible genes. Research published in the British Medical Journal on August 7 analyzing a family cluster of cases of H7N9 infection in eastern China found it was very likely the virus "transmitted directly from the index patient to his daughter."

Experts commenting on the research said it provided "a timely reminder of the need to remain extremely vigilant."

Most cases have been in people who had visited live poultry markets or had close contact with live poultry.

Shanghai public health experts said a complete ban on live poultry business could help control the spread of diseases including H7N9. The live poultry trade was suspended in April but resumed in late June.

Dr Lu said that, in addition to H7N9 virus, live poultry can hold other microorganisms that can cause infections in humans.

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