Monday, 20 January 2014

Shanghai doctor dies of H7N9 avian influenza: human-to-human transmission?

by Michael Woodhead
The H7N9 influenza-related death of an emergency department doctor in Shanghai seems to contradict the Chinese government's claims that the infection is only being transmitted from animals to humans and poses little risk of a major outbreak or pandemic.
The Chinese website ECNS reports that a 31-year-old doctor at  the Pudong New Area People's Hospital was one of three deaths from H7N9, two of which were in Shanghai and one in Guangzhou.
The doctor is said to have died of pneumonia and respiratory failure on Saturday after being infected with H7N9 avian flu virus.
The other case were a 77-year-old male farmer, Shanghai's seventh H7N9 bird flu case so far.
The deaths follow a claim by China's National Health and Family Planning Commission  on Friday that a large-scale H7N9 epidemic is unlikely because there is no human-to-human transmission.
"The virus is still spreading from birds to human, and the chances of large-scale human H7N9 infection are slim," the NHFPC statement said.
"Current cases are scattered, and no mutation of the virus has been identified so far that could affect public health," it said.
There have been 199 cases of H7N9 influenza and at least 45 deaths in China so far, and there are now about 4-5 new cases reported per day in China. The number of cases is also expected to increase as over Chinese New Year as it is the peak winter season for flu and people travel en masse and live poultry is bought and sold for family celebrations.
Update: The first probable  human-to-human case of H7N9 in China was reported in the BMJ in July by Qi Xian and colleagues at the Department of Acute Infectious Disease Control and Prevention, Jiangsu Province Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Nanjing.

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