China has been in the grips of a bird flu epidemic which since October 2016, which has attracted the concerns of the United States’ Center for Disease Control and Prevention, revealing that there have been up to 460 people affected by the H7N9 virus.
According to Dr. Tim Uyeki, a flu expert at the CDC, China’s bird flu epidemic is the largest one yet since 213. Normally, humans have a very low of being infected by the avian virus. Nonetheless, health officials are constantly monitoring the situation, observing that the virus has suffered some alarming changes.
The report of CDC officials reveals that the if H7N9 bird flu virus continues to spread from person to person, then it poses a much higher risk of starting a real epidemic among humans. Among all the 12 bird flu A viruses which were analyzed by researchers, the H7N9 virus had the highest risk score.
According to officials from the World Health Organization in Geneva, despite the low risk of infection to humans, the features of the virus as well as the case fatalities, is quite similar to other previous infections. Furthermore, as the flu virus continues to change, it will pose an increased threat to the overall public health.
The H7N9 strain has already split into two distinct genetic lines, one being prevalent in the current epidemic, which makes the infected birds to not show any of the regular symptoms, at least not in their outward appearance. Furthermore, the strain can even kill up to 40 percent of all the people affected by it and has symptoms similar to the regular flu.
The CDC reports that since 2013, around 1,200 cases of the H7N9 strain infecting humans have been reported. Out of all these cases, more than one-third occurred in 2017 alone. This year’s virus has managed to surpass its earlier versions and now poses an even greater health threat to both poultry and humans.
However, the CDC has reported that it is currently working on a vaccine for the H7N9 strain of the bird flu. The research and development process will still take several months, for the production and testing of the vaccine.
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