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expert reaction to emergence of new strain of bird flu in China

At the time of writing, seven cases of the bird flu virus H7N9 had been reported in China, with three deaths.


Dr John McCauley, Director of WHO Collaborating Centre on Influenza, Division of Virology, MRC National Institute for Medical Research, said:

“A new strain of influenza virus affecting humans has been recently identified in eastern China by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the WHO Collaborating Centres for Reference and Research on Influenza, part of the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System. The first three cases showed disease symptoms between 19 February and 15 March.

“The virus belongs to the A(H7N9) sub-type, a sub-type that has not previously infected humans, and has emerged from the reservoir of avian influenza viruses.

“The cases have been in the Anhui and Jiangsu provinces and in the city of Shanghai. The number of laboratory-confirmed human cases currently totals seven – three have died of the infection.

“It is not known how the virus was transmitted to these seven individuals. By identifying the source of infection measures can be taken to reduce human exposure to this new virus. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating whether there has been any human-to-human transmission.

“Analysis of the three virus isolates at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has shown that the viruses are sensitive to the anti-influenza drugs that target the virus neuraminidase, Tamiflu and Relenza.”

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