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H7N9 avian flu kills seven and infects 23 in China

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f2222 (Published 09 April 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2222
  1. Jane Parry
  1. 1Hong Kong

The outbreak of H7N9 avian influenza in eastern China had killed seven people and infected 23, including 12 severely, by 8 April.

Ten cases occurred in Shanghai and the remainder in three nearby provinces of Anhui, Zhejiang, and Jiangsu. One 4 year old boy in Shanghai, who was confirmed as a patient on 4 April, has since shown signs of recovering, according to a blog post on 7 April by Wu Fan, director of the Shanghai Municipal Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

There was no evidence of human to human transmission, according to Liang Wannian, director of the H7N9 influenza prevention and control office under the National Health and Family Planning Commission, speaking at a press conference in Beijing on 8 April. He told reporters that 621 close contacts of infected patients had been monitored, and none had shown signs of infection.

In addition to genetic sequencing data of the virus samples from three patients made available online by the Chinese health authorities to international researchers, the first virus sample has been shared with World Health Organization affiliated laboratories, Liang said. “We have maintained close cooperation with WHO in clinical research and epidemiology. We will boost cooperation regarding the study of the virus, including its pathological condition, infection rate, and recovery rate,” state media quoted him as saying.

“No doubt the Chinese have been keeping people informed and it’s also reassuring that the animal health side is coming out with information on the virus in poultry markets,” said Malik Peiris, clinical virologist specialising in emerging virus disease at the animal-human interface at the University of Hong Kong’s Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine. “There’s been quite a significant number of cases, and the virus is able to cause substantial severity and mortality. I don’t think there’s any less cause for concern than there was [when the first cases were announced] in early April,” he said.

Sales of live poultry have been suspended in Shanghai, and a cull of birds in markets where the virus has been detected has been ordered. Poultry sales in Nanjing (Jiangsu province) and Hangzhou (Zhejiang province) have also been suspended.

The Hong Kong government will begin testing live poultry imports from China on 11 April, and at the time of going to press, nine people who had travelled to the affected region had been tested for the virus on their return to Hong Kong. An outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza in 1997 killed six people in Hong Kong and resulted in the mass culling of all poultry in the city.

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2222