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WHO releases avian flu update

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The National Health and Family Planning Commission of China has notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of five additional laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A (H7N9) virus. One of those cases was fatal. H7N9 is an extremely rare form of avian flu.

The most recent cases, according to WHO, include two people in their 50’s in Shanghai, a 75 year old from the Zhejiang Province, and two people – aged 29 and 76 – from the Guangdong Province. The two from Shanghai and the woman from Zhejiang Province all had a history of exposure to poultry. The 29 year old works near a poultry market. However, the 76 year old man from Shenzhen City in the Guangdong Province has no history of exposure to poultry.

The woman from Zhejiang Province became ill on the first. She was admitted to the hospital on 5 January and died on the 9th. Three of the others remain in critical condition.

There are nine different potential subtypes of H7 viruses (H7N1, H7N2, H7N3, H7N4, H7N5, H7N6, H7N7, H7N8, and H7N9), according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). These viruses typically affect birds, hence the common name of avian or bird flu. While human to human transactions have not been confirmed, avian flu has been confirmed in humans.

The source of the outbreak remains under investigation. It is believed that people are contracting the virus through either infected poultry or a contaminated environment.

At this time, WHO does not recommend issuing travel or trade restrictions to the area. The US Department of State does not currently include and travel alerts to China. There is currently no vaccine.

Safety Tips:

The general public can protect themselves best by avoiding physical contact with poultry, birds or their droppings. Cook thoroughly any poultry and eggs.

Symptoms

The flu like virus could start out with a fever and cough, according to the CDC, The illness in humans may include severe pneumonia, conjunctivitis and/or upper respiratory tract symptoms. If you have these symptoms see your physician immediately.

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