H7N9 Avian Influenza Virus
What is it?
The H7N9 virus is a strain of avian flu not previously detected in humans. Authorities suspect the H7N9 strain of avian flu, already known to exist in wild birds, had probably been transmitted to poultry, and it then infected the humans.
How is it contracted?
Chinese authorities are working to determine the source of the human infections. They have so far said there are no signs of transmission of the H7N9 virus between any infected individuals or people they have come into close contact with, suggesting the virus does not spread easily person-to-person.
What are the symptoms?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. So far, patients with this infection have had acute pneumonia. However, information is still limited about the full spectrum of disease that infection with the H7N9 virus might cause.
Is there a vaccine and treatment protocol?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention are working on a vaccine for prevention of H7N9 influenza. Hospitals in China are equipped with testing kits for early detection. Once diagnosed, it is believed that existing anti-flu drugs such as Tamiflu and a newly released drug called Peramivir are likely to work against the H7N9 strain.
What can you do to protect yourself?
- It is also recommended to follow basic principles of hygienic food preparation. Normal temperatures used for cooking (such that food reaches 70°C in all parts— "piping" hot throughout — make sure there’s no "pink" parts) will kill the virus.
- Just like other strains of influenza, contracting H7N9 can be prevented through hand washing/sanitizing and covering the nose and mouth while sneezing and coughing.
- Click on the WHO link below for additional information on respiratory hygiene and food safety measures.
For more information and updates on the H7N9 virus:
Ø World Health Organization
Ø Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention