Bird Flu May Pass from Human to Human

H7N9 bird flu human transmission in China now considered a possibility

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The reports of the H7N9 bird flu strain in China have had health officials on alert. The latest development could cause further concern and potentially mean easier transmission of infection.

Chinese officials have claimed that human-to-human transmission of the virus is now being considered a possibility.

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“In a departure from earlier comments, scientists at Beijing’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said evidence from H7N9 infections in families was ‘unclear’ and they were still studying the cases to determine whether human-to-human transmission had occurred,” the Financial Times reported.

According to the Financial Times, Feng Zijian, Director of the Public Health Emergency Center at the Chinese CDC, said, “For a virus that can pass from birds to humans, then after a person is infected, in theory it can also infect, in very rare cases, members of a population who are particularly susceptible to infection or who have certain characteristics.”

The latest infection counts from the World Health Organization (WHO) report 87 cases of H7N9 infections in humans, including 17 cases which have ended in death.

According to the Financial Times, Mr. Feng maintained that there remains no hard evidence of human-to-human transmission.

“Even if a small number of family cluster infections appear, it would not mean the virus had already achieved the ability of effective human-to-human transmission,” he said.

Much is still to be learned about the transmission of the strain. The Financial Times reported, “While bird-to-human transmission is suspected, only half of the people who have caught H7N9 remember having recent contact with birds.”

“Investigations into the possible sources of infection and reservoirs of the virus are ongoing,” reported the WHO. “Until the source of infection has been identified, it is expected that there will be further cases of human infection with the virus in China.”

According to the Financial Times, China, Taiwan and the US have all said that they have scientists working on a vaccine, though there is not yet one available.

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Review Date: 
April 18, 2013
Last Updated:
December 10, 2013