A new bird flu virus called H7N9 strain has caused a deadly outbreak in China because of its threat to the world health. The H7N9 strain has already infected 125, killed 24 and the remainder are still very ill. It is considered as one of the most lethal flu viruses according to the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO). The infection can lead to blood poisoning, pneumonia, and organ failure. While H7N9 is the strain, the version is known as avian influenza and its caused the Nastiest bird flu virus outbreak in years.
The high mortality rate and the relatively large number of cases can transmit between people made it a pandemic risk. Experts in virology suggest the worrisome characteristics which include two genetic mutations, which make Avian Influenza likely to spread from person to person when remain unchecked. Therefore, if this becomes widespread, it could be a devastating outbreak with extraordinary proportion.
Genetic Sequence from H7N9 victims
Scientists who analyzed the genetic sequence data called “triple reassortant” virus is a mixture from three other flu strains genes Asian birds.
The H1N1 “swine flu” which is a mixture of mammal and bird flu are milder because mammalian flu is less likely to make people ill. On the other hand, pure bird-flu like the H7N9 strain and the H5N1 Avian version that killed 371 infected people out of 622 since 2003, are deadlier for people.
Human cases of H7N9 have now been recorded in all the provinces of China. The virus was unknown to humans until sick people in China were identified carrying the strain on March 30. Scientists believe that the virus was jumping from birds to people, but evidence still has to prove that it is passing between people. The virus is completely new to the human population, and the range of those infected stretched from toddlers to people in their late 80s.
H7N9 Genes Show Evidence of Four Sources
According to George Gao, DPhil of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Microbiology, two variants of the novel H7N9 flu from four bird sources have caused the disease. The hemagglutinin gene (the ‘H’ in H7N9) allegedly came from wild ducks in the east Asian flyway that covers eastern China, Japan, and South Korea. Lack of surveillance data from the bird population has hampered the complete genetic pedigree. However, the gap in the surveillance data means that it is still unclear what intermediate hosts might be involved.
Should we worry about H7N9?
Yes, we should worry about it because of the potential global outbreak, and no, because the virus is still confined to China. H7N9 is the ‘nastiest Avian virus to attack humans in years.’ Often when there are pandemics, older people have the immunity because they have been exposed to similar viruses before. Then again, with H7N9, there is no immunity across ages that are why it should not be taken lightly. However, it is too soon to predict how far it will spread, or it can be spread between humans. Call for greater vigilance and global surveillance should be imposed.
Written By: Janet Grace Ortigas