Monday, 15 April 2013

H7N9 Bird flu cases rise to 60 in China, so who came up with that name?

H7N9 Bird flu cases rise to 60 in China, so who came up with that name?, China reported two new human cases of H7N9 bird flu today. This brings the national total to 60. Eleven people have died from the flu. The virus first infected people in Shanghai and eastern China and has spread to several Chinese provinces. One person is sick in Beijing and two new cases are in the central province of Henan. According to an April 14 NPR article, the World Health Organization (WHO) expects more cases as infected birds come into contact with humans. There are no cases in the U.S. or anywhere else outside of China.

According to an April 12 release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the first reports of the virus in humans came in March. While the virus has never been seen before, there is no proof yet that it passes from human to human. The common wisdom is that H7N9 could mutate to make that possible. Not all of the infected people had contact with birds, which raises concerns about human-to-human or other forms of transmission.

A sample of the H7N9 virus was sent to the CDC where scientists will take normal pandemic precautions. The virus isolate will go through genetic sequencing. Scientists will also identify any antibodies that may work against the virus. The goal is to prepare a vaccine.

The CDC explains how the H7N9 virus got its name

Viruses are classified as type A, B or C. Type A viruses spread between birds, pigs, horses, and other animals. Wild birds are the natural hosts for type A viruses.

Type A viruses are divided into subtypes based on two surface proteins, hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA).

H7N9 is a type A virus of the H7 subtype. There are nine potential subtypes of H7. The H7N9 virus Hemagglutinin is an HA 7 protein.

H7 infection is rare in humans is rare but can occur if a person has direct contact with infected birds. Symptoms may include conjunctivitis and/or upper respiratory symptoms. H7 viruses have been known to cause mild to severe and fatal illness in humans.

N9 indicates the neuraminidase is a NA 9 protein.

H7N9 is a "novel" virus because it has not been seen before.

Ban lan Gen, a doubtful cure

Some Chinese have stopped eating chicken meat and eggs, while others are using a herbal remedy called ban lan Gen. According to an April 11 article, Beijing Cream, some public health officials recommend using Ban lan gen to ward off the flu. This caused a lot of outrage.

Ban lan gen is Woad Root or Isatis Root. There is plenty of ridicule to go around about this herbal remedy, but the substance is flying off the shelves and the Suzhou zoo workers are feeding it to birds in their care.

Ban lan gen helps with sore throat, inflammation and infection, but does not prevent or cure the flu. Users dissolve the herbal remedy in hot water and take it as a tea.

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