New bird flu H7N9 continues to spread in China (update)

As of April 16th, 2013, there have been 71 confirmed cases of the H7N9 strain of bird flu reported from the following areas: 1 case in Beijing, 24 in Shanghai, 2 in the central province of Henan, 21 in the eastern province of Zhejiang, 20 in the eastern province of Jiangsu and 3 in Anhui Province. A total of 16 deaths have occurred.

As yet, there are several important questions to be answered in order to understand the behaviour of this virus. One important question involves the report of a 4 year old boy that was infected with the virus but had no illness. Are there others like him? The World Health Organization (WHO) has noted that a number of people (up to 40 percent) who have tested positive for the virus have had no history of contact with poultry. How did they become infected? Do these facts mean that the virus could be causing many more mild or asymptomatic (no symptoms) infections, perhaps with unperceived human-to-human spread? Research teams are currently investigating this question, along with many others.

In the meantime, the WHO has NOT issued any travel restrictions for China and not other nation has reported any H7N9 cases. Nevertheless, travellers to China should avoid all live poultry markets wherever they exist.

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