Recently, I read a report whereby the H7N9 bird flu virus has claimed the life of a medical professional in Shanghai, renewing concerns that the virus can spread between people. The H7N9 is a bird virus that has jumped to humans. This occurs mostly through direct contact through poultry or human to human contact.
Based on reports from china, there was no evidence that the thoracic surgeon who died had been in contact with live poultry recently. However, he could have treated patients with pneumonia, a symptom of H7N9 infection. If the diagnosis is confirmed and no bird exposure history is elicited, this does point slightly more to the possibility that H7N9 may be more transmissible between humans than H5N1.
The H7N9 strain of bird flu was found to have been transmitted from human to human for the first time this year when a woman caring for her H7N9-stricken father in a hospital in eastern China herself contracted the virus. The World Health Organization said Monday that it had been notified of more than 40 confirmed human H7N9 infections this month in China. Keep in mind that we have to rely on China for news. They are not exactly forthcoming with information.
So why the worry? Well lets all remember when we say an outbreak of the H5N1 bird flu a few years ago. It was fatal for humans. As it turns out, H5N1 is a form of Influenza that has jumped from birds to humans. This is a strong flu that usually has symptoms that include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches conjunctivitis and, in severe cases, breathing problems and pneumonia that may be fatal. Currently, we have antibiotics and vaccines to contain or prevent the spread. My fear is what happened during the spanish influenza of 1918 which some say killed over 50 million people. The H5N1 kills over half the humans it infects and also infecting and killing species that were never known to suffer from influenza viruses before
The biggest problem is the human mutation that occurs when the virus jumps from birds to humans. Since our cell structure is a bit different from chickens, the virus mutates or changes to adapt to its new host. This becomes a problem since our immune system doesn’t know how to fight it and has never seen it before. Before we recognize how to defeat the virus, it could have spanned the globe and infected millions.
Now we have a H7N9 that has killed a human. Alright, the concern isn’t that great since it is occurring in China which is on the other side of the world. But it seems that the most potent viruses come from that continent. All it needs is 1 host on an airplane and we have a huge dilemma. At the present time, it seems to be contained based on published reports. If it wasn’t, there would be a full-blown panic on our hands. Keep in mind, that it takes time to create large-scale vaccines for the population. In the meantime, I am keeping an eye on this.
Do these bird flu’s worry you?