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article imageCan H7N9 bird flu spread between people?

By Tim Sandle     Jan 25, 2014 in Science
The death of a medical worker in China has prompted concern that the avian flu virus can spread between humans. This follows a second presumed case of human-to-human transfer.
In August 2013 it was reported that the H7N9 strain of avian influenza appeared to have been transmitted between people, and now medical evidence indicates that it may have happened again.
The first case was based on research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), and reported on in Digital Journal.
With the second case, news reports indicate that a 31-year-old male health worker at a Shanghai hospital died January 18 of H7N9 infection. Some evidence suggests that this was the result of human-to-human transmission.
Two types of bird flu have been identified to date: H5N1 and H7N9. Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, which may progress to severe pneumonia. The H7N9 bird flu is regarded as the most dangerous strain.
It is also known that H7N9 spreads easily. For example, Chinese scientists have confirmed that the avian flu virus H7N9 can spread through the air. This was shown on studies conducted with ferrets.
Despite the development, not all scientists are of the view that the virus has developed the ability to spread easily between people. An earlier report in Digital Journal points out that H7N9 has not yet acquired the genetic changes necessary to infect people easily.
The World Health Organization has reported that there have been more than 40 lab-confirmed human cases of H7N9 influenza in China since the beginning of 2014, but said that “there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission.”
More about H7N9, Bird flu, Avian flu, Influenza
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