Nosocomial transmission of avian influenza A (H7N9) virus in China: epidemiological investigationBMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h5765 (Published 19 November 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h5765
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Dr. Fang and colleague reported evidences on the nosocomial transmission of H7N9 influenza virus between two hospitalized patients . Recently, nosocomial patient-to-doctor transmission of H7N9 influenza virus had also been documented . It is time to re-assess the human-to-human transmission potential of this novel virus.
The human-to-human transmissibility of a virus is measured by its basic reproductive number (R0) among human, defined as the average number of the secondary cases generated from a single infectious case introduced into an all-susceptible population. If the R0 is less than 1, then the human-to-human transmission will occur only sporadically and is not sustainable. On the other hand, if the R0 is larger than 1, then the virus will cause hospital-associated large outbreaks (the probability increases with a higher R0) unless effective interventions have been promptly implemented.
Using China nationwide surveillance data, we estimated the R0 of H7N9 virus is only 0.07 by De Serres’ proportion of cases method [3,4]. Other researchers, using various modeling methods, also estimated the R0 of H7N9 in the range of 0.03-0.4 [5-9]. The less-than-1 R0 indicates that H7N9 virus is unlikely to cause hospital-associated large outbreaks. Nevertheless, nosocomial transmission still can sporadically occur in the absence of infection control measures. To ensure the safety of patients and staff, it is imperative for health care workers to adhere to the infection control guidelines issued by Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention when providing care for patients with suspected H7N9 infections .
Chi-Tai Fang, MD, PhD
National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan
Zhifei Liu, MPH
School of Public Health, Southeast University, Nanjing, mainland China
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Competing interests: No competing interests