New H7N9 "bird" flu in China (update)

Number of cases reported to date : 95
Number of deaths: 18
Provinces affected: Shanghai, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Henan and Anhui

There are a number of unanswered questions that are being investigated by Chinese scientists with the assistance of an international group of influenza experts and the World Health Organization (WHO). These include:

  • How are people who have had no contact with poultry (about 50 percent of the cases) becoming infected?
  • Over 1,000 personal contacts of the infected people have remained well with no signs of person-to-person spread, but are any of them carriers of the virus without becoming ill?
  • After testing nearly 50,000 chickens for the virus, only a few have been positive (less than 50). So, where is the virus in nature?
  • Will the virus mutate sufficiently to permit person-to-person spread?
    At present the WHO does not recommend any travel restrictions. Nevertheless, travellers to China should avoid visiting live poultry markets and follow general precautions for avoiding ordinary influenza, e.g., frequent hand washing.

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