The Chinese government announced on March 31 that two men from Shanghai have died from a variant of bird flu known as H7N9. It is the first time transmission of this type of bird flu has been confirmed in human beings. After contraction of the virus, both men showed symptoms of pneumonia.

The Chinese Health Authorities announced that the 87 and 23-year-old men first showed symptoms of a fever, pneumonia and similar characteristics in March of this year. The 87 and 27-year-old-men died on 4th and 10th of this month respectively.

Shortly afterwards, a detailed inspection into their deaths was carried out where it came to light that both men had been infected with the H7N9 strain of the bird flu virus. It has also been confirmed that a woman in the eastern province of China, Anhui, has been infected with the same strain of bird flu. Her current condition is critical, exhibiting identical symptoms of pneumonia, however the woman is said to be receiving medical treatment.

Up until now there have been a large number of cases of human infection of the H5N1 variant of bird flu, however according to the Chinese Health Authorities, confirmation of the most recent H7N9 strain is a first not only within China itself but also across the world. There are presently no signs of the infection having the virulence to transmit from one human to another and other citizens living within close vicinity to those infected show no signs of illness.

Nevertheless, the Health Authorities remain vigilant about the virulence of the virus, claiming that the first step is to examine just how infectious it is to human beings whilst appealing to the medical institution to strengthen its preventative measures.

The World Health Organization announced, in an interview with Japanese TV station NHK, that at present, there are no confirmed reports of human-to-human infection and it is thought that the probability of a pandemic is rather low. However, we’re cooperating with the Chinese government to monitor any further developments closely. It is an area that still requires close attention.”

Opinions from experts in the field

Hitoshi Oshitani, an expert from Tohoku University on the subject of bird flu, states:

“Without analyzing the properties of the virus I’m hesitant to make any definite diagnosis. However considering that two men have died and one woman is critically ill, I’m inclined to think that this strain of bird flu is highly virulent. Usually when the virulence level is low, even after infection, those who develop severe symptoms are limited to the minority. It is vital to determine whether the virus has mutated into a form whereby human to human transmission has become possible or not.”

Another expert from the Tokyo University’s Medical College Research Center made the following comment:

“There have been reports of the H7 form of virus in the past. Some strains have been weak, while others have been highly virulent. Through analysis, it is likely to be able determine the strength of the virus. Factors to consider when looking at the probability of human infection are analysis of the virus itself, the number of casualties that have arisen thus far, and the precise route of infection.”

We’ll have more on this subject as it breaks.

Source: NHK