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Avian influenza A H7N9


What is avian influenza H7N9?

Avian influenza refers to a group of viruses that usually infect birds. Certain avian influenza viruses are known to spread to humans via contact with diseased poultry.  The H7N9 is a particular type of avian influenza virus that has only been recently discovered in China. It is known to cause serious infections in humans.


What are the symptoms of H7N9 infection in humans?

Symptoms usually appear first in the form of  high fever and cough. A lot of these cases have progressed to very serious illnesses, including severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), septic shock and multi-organ failure leading to death. At present, there is a lack of information with regard to the full range of possible symptoms that would result from this viral infection.

How does the virus spread to humans?

The exact source of infection and mode of transmission are still being investigated. It is known that infected patients had contact with animals or their living environment. The virus has also been found in chickens, ducks and pigeons bred in captivity at locations where human infections were reported. The possibility of human to human transmission is in the process of undergoing investigation.


How can infection with H7N9 be prevented?

Although both the source of infection and the mode of transmission are unclear, basic hygiene practices is important in preventing transmission of infections. Such hygiene practices include proper hand-washing with soap and running water before and after handling food, before touching your eyes, nose and mouth, after handling contaminated surfaces and after contact with respiratory and/or bodily secretions, and covering the mouth and nose with tissue when coughing or sneezing. There is currently no vaccine against the H7N9 virus.


How is H7N9 infection in humans treated?

Currently, oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) and zanamivir (Relenza®) are the two antiviral medications that have been used for treatment of humans infected with H7N9. Nonetheless, there is no guarantee due to a possibility that these drugs may not be effective as the virus can develop resistance to them.


Is it safe to eat poultry?

As influenza viruses are inactivated by normal temperatures used for cooking (70°C in all parts-no “pink’ parts), it is safe to eat properly prepared and cooked meat from poultry and game birds  (a pheasant or grouse, that is widely hunted for sport). Diseased animals that have died should not be eaten. In addition, consumption of raw meat and uncooked blood-based dishes should be avoided.


Is it still safe to travel to China?

Since the virus does not spread easily from person to person, it is not necessary to delay or cancel trips to China for now. However, the WHO will continue to monitor the situation closely and issue appropriate travel advisories accordingly. Travellers to China are recommended to avoid close contact with poultry and to observe good hygiene practices. Should one develop symptoms such as fever, coughing, or shortness of breath within 10 days of travelling to China, he/she should seek immediate medical attention and inform the doctor about his/her travel history.




World Health Organization - Frequently Asked Questions

Centers For Disease Control And Prevention



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