Saturday, 20 April 2013

China bird flu cases rise to 95; 18 dead from flu that 'mutated under the radar'

China bird flu cases rise to 95; 18 dead from flu that 'mutated under the radar', As China's bird flu cases rose to 95, scientists say the flu "mutated under the radar" to create quite a mystery. The immediate concern is whether the flu will mutate until it transmits easily from human to human.

Even though more than half of the new cases report no contact with birds, there is no clear confirmation that the H7N9 strain can spread from human to human.

According to an April 19 Reuters article, Dutch and Chinese researchers said the H7N9 virus has already acquired levels of genetic diversity that are like much larger H7 flu outbreaks. The term "H7" designates a bird flu that transmits from birds to humans.

According to an April 19 Reuters article, the scientists said, "widespread circulation (of the H7N9 strain in China) must have occurred, resulting in major genetic diversification,"

An April 20 Reuters article reported four new cases and one more death. A 69-year old man died in Zhejiang province. Most of the cases are in eastern China, but the flu has spread to other provinces.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued its first warning along with new guidance for U.S. doctors. Doctors are now to be on the watch for H7N9 in other parts of the world. The alert includes warnings about,

"Current lack of a vaccine for H7N9 virus. Severe H7N9 disease with substantial mortality to date. Limited current human-to-human H7N9 virus transmission, but potential for increased transmission in the future,"

China has responded well to this crisis and may have corrected past mistakes in handling flu outbreaks like the SARS pandemic in 2002 and 2003.

This time, China welcomed help from scientists at the World Health Organization and the CDC. As a result, the global response could be more effective if the H7N9 bird flu should mutate to transmit more easily between humans.

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