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Scientists Keep Close Watch on H7N9 Flu Outbreak

January 15, 2014
Public Health

The World Health Organisation has confirmed that six more people in China have been infected with the H7N9 flu virus, with one fatality.

H7N9 emerged in February last year and has so far infected 150 people, with 46 deaths reported. The latest death was a 38 year old man from China’s Fujian Province who first became ill on 3rd January and was admitted to hospital five days later.

Scientists are keeping a close eye on the latest outbreak, but WHO experts have been quick to state that there is no evidence yet that the strain can pass easily from person to person. The source of the current crop of human infections is still under investigation. 

Researchers at Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg have isolated live H5N1 flu virus from specimens taken from an Alberta woman who recently died from the infection after a three week trip to China. It is the first time this strain of the virus has been detected in North America. Whilst the source of infection is unknown, it is thought to be an isolated case. WHO spokesperson Timothy O’Leary confirmed, “It usually takes two to eight days for symptoms of H5N1 to show up, so if anyone else were infected then we’d probably know about it by now.”

H5N1 first came to prominence in 2003 and since then the WHO have reported 648 human cases in 15 countries, with 384 deaths.