Posted: April 8, 2013
On April 1, 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported three human infections with a new influenza A (H7N9) virus in China; additional cases have since been reported. At this time, no cases of H7N9 have been reported outside of China.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Response (CDC), the new H7N9 virus has not been detected in humans or birds in the United States.
CDC has indicated that in most reported cases, infected individuals have experienced severe respiratory illness; in some cases, however, people have died. According to WHO, no person-to-person spread of the H7N9 virus has been found at this time and there are no links between the reported cases. There is an ongoing investigation by Chinese health authorities to determine the source of these infections and detect other cases.
This new H7N9 virus is an avian (bird) influenza (flu) virus. Human infections with avian influenza (AI, or "bird flu") are rare but have occurred in the past, most commonly after exposure to infected poultry. However, this is the first time that this bird flu subtype (H7N9) has been found in humans. This virus is very different from other H7N9 viruses previously found in birds.
According to the CDC, this is a "novel" (non-human) virus and, therefore, has the potential to cause a pandemic if it were to change and become easily and sustainably spread through person-to-person contact. Thus far, the H7N9 his virus does not appear to have that capability; however, influenza viruses constantly change and it's possible this virus could gain that ability. The CDC takes routine preparedness actions whenever a new virus with pandemic potential is identified, including developing a candidate vaccine virus to make a vaccine if it were to be needed. There is no licensed H7N9 vaccine available at this time.
NFDA is in contact with the Department of Health & Human Services, the CDC and the Department of Homeland Security on this issue and will keep members updated as the situation warrants.
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