Disease May Move Easily to Humans; U.S. Is Preparing to Develop a Vaccine
Concerns about a deadly new strain of bird flu intensified as the disease claimed a sixth life in eastern China and agricultural authorities in Shanghai ordered a wide-scale slaughter of poultry in an effort to stem its spread.
The new strain of bird flu has infected 20 people in China. News that a Sixth person died in the outbreak has spread concern overseas. The World Health Organization (WHO) said that 10 infected people had severe cases and two had mild cases of the fatal disease. It reiterated there was no evidence of ongoing human-to-human transmission of the virus.
Flu experts are very concerned about the new virus because it exhibits signs of being more readily able to infect humans from ailing birds than is another form of avian flu known as H5N1, which has been infecting people intermittently over the last decade. Another big concern is that unlike H5N1, which can kill birds, this H7N9 virus doesn’t make birds very ill, so it is harder to detect when flocks have been infected. In addition, some flu watchers are convinced that the test that doctors are using to detect the H7N9 virus are faulty — that they are not sensitive enough. There are also reports that animals are falling ill with the disease, even birds falling out of the sky. These animals may test negative for the virus, but if the tests are faulty, that could be a big problem.
The UFE staff is wary of any travel to China. This concern has been echoed in the Airline stocks that travel to these areas which have seen large declines in their stock value since this outbreak began. It is best to use a “wait and see” approach as most experts agree that this outbreak could become more serious as more evidence is gathered.