Chinese Flu Inspectors

New Avian Influenza A H7N9 Virus in China: The Next Pandemic?

It's not time to panic.

The latest April 14, 2013 update on the H7N9 Avian Influenza A outbreak from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports 11 additional cases of human infection have been laboratory confirmed. Three cases are from Shanghai, two from Jiangsu, four from Zhejiang and the other two from Henan. There are two more deaths, and both are from Shanghai.

Mainland China statistics:
Total confirmed cases to date: 60
Total death to date: 13
Number of provinces affected: 6

Chinese Flu Inspectors

So far, no close contacts of the identified cases have been found to be infected, so it appears that these human infections are sporadic without evidence of human-to-human spread thus far. Based on previous experience with other avian influenza viruses such as H5N1, some limited human-to-human spread of this H7N9 virus would not be surprising.

What would change things, is if this virus mutates to allow for easy human-to-human transmission. That did happen with the H1N1 swine flu, but that particular strain turned out not to cause severe disease in most people. Experts say that the combination with a highly-aggressive influenza strain and human-to-human spread will occur sooner or later, and we will all be potentially affected.

So far, all three viruses seem to be susceptible to the influenza antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir, but they are resistant to the adamantanes. Bad news for consumers and taxpayers: both of the effective drugs are “on patent” and extremely expensive.

For sure, vaccine manufacturers and other stakeholders in the “epidemic industry” are making plans to capitalize on the  legitimate concern of a pandemic influenza strain developing.



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