New H7N9 bird flu slowly expanding in China (update)

Previously, all cases of the new H7N9 bird flu were reported from 4 provinces, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Anhui and Jiangsu. Over the last 2 weeks, sporadic cases have surfaced in new areas, including Beijing, Jiangxi, Henan, Shandong and Fujian Provinces. One case was reported from Taiwan in a person who travelled frequently to China and was infected there. The total number of confirmed cases so far is 112, including 23 deaths.

Several questions remain. Many of the infected people had no contact with poultry (chickens, ducks or pigeons). How they became infected is not clear. All of the more than one thousand personal contacts of infected people have remained well suggesting that there is little, if any, person-to-person spread of the virus. Most of the cases have been elderly people with underlying medical conditions and an explanation for the age distribution is not clear.

The World Health Organization does not recommend any travel restrictions for China. However, travellers should exercise caution and avoid all public live poultry markets at this time. Frequent had washing is a food measure to help prevent infection with any flu viruses.

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