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Friday, August 9, 2013

First known human-to-human bird-flu transmission recorded

For the first time there is a documented case of a bird flu - in this case, the novel virus H7N9 - being transmitted from human to human. In China a 32 year-old woman fell ill after caring for her infected 60 year-old father, despite her having no contact with live poultry; both died from the infection. Genetic testing of the virus in both individuals concluded with certainty that the two strains were near-identical, thus proving it moved between two human subjects.

While this new strain of H7N9 has researchers concerned, they note that it is still too early to conclude that it has the capability to transmit human-to-human on a large scale. They also cannot rule it out however, saying that it "possesses the potential for pandemic spread."

From early April through late June there have been 133 cases of H7N9 reported, killing 43 people; all cases were reported in eastern China. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), fever, cough, and shortness of breath are likely symptoms with infected individuals, and in severe cases immune-system overload, blood poisoning, and organ failure are all possible. While there is no vaccine available, it is treatable with normal prescription-based medications if discovered in its early stages.

Observation: I wrote brief blurbs about H7N9 on my Twitter page when it was first discovered in early April 2013, and at the time I voiced concerns about this particular virus; there was just something about the reporting of it that made me nervous. I stand by those concerns - SB

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