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Avian influenza cases in China - Update 1

03 May 2013

The World Health Organisation (WHO) was first notified on 31st March 2013 of 3 cases of the new strain of avian influenza A (H7N9) infection in humans by the China Health and Family Planning Commission. The cases were by laboratory testing at the China Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

A total of 126 people are known to have been infected with the new strain so far. Of these, 24 people have died, with many others currently seriously ill and receiving hospital treatment.

There is no evidence to suggest that there has been any human-to-human spread in these cases. So far, the source of almost all of the cases has been traced back to contact with poultry. As long as the virus is only able to spread from birds to a person through direct contact, the disease poses a relatively small risk on a global scale. Should the virus develop the capability to spread from person to person, its potential impact is much more serious.


Map used by permission of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin

Cases have been reported from the following Chinese provinces: Anhui, Fujian, Henan, Hunan, Jiangsu and Zhejiang as well as the municipalities of Beijing and Shanghai. In addition, a case has been reported in Taiwan of a Taiwanese traveller who had recently returned from a visit to Jiangsu province and Shanghai.

A map of affected provinces and reported cases is available from the World Health Organisation.

The Chinese government has implemented measures to enhance surveillance for possible further cases of avian influenza including laboratory strengthening and further training of health care professionals to improve detection rates, reporting and treatment of cases.

The World Health Organisation does not recommend the introduction of travel or trade restrictions with respect to visitors to China or people leaving China.

Another strain of bird flu, H5N1, has led to more than 360 confirmed human deaths since 2003 and the deaths of tens of millions of birds.

Avian influenza – outline information

Avian influenza is an infectious viral disease of wild birds, which often does not cause obvious signs of illness. There are several avian influenza viruses including H5N1, H7N7. H7N9 and H9N2 among others. Avian influenza viruses can spread to domestic poultry and thereby cause large outbreaks of the disease. They may go on to infect humans with serious, and sometimes, fatal consequences.

Symptoms of the disease include severe pneumonia, blood poisoning and organ failure.

Advice for those travelling to or working in the areas affected:

To date, there has only been one case of avian influenza in international travellers (Taiwan case detailed above). International travellers are currently deemed to be at low risk of contracting this strain of avian influenza. However we suggest you follow these guidelines to reduce your risk of contracting avian influenza, particularly in countries where human cases of the virus have been recorded:

·    Wash your hands frequently with soap and water and maintain good personal hygiene

·    Avoid direct or indirect contact with animal faeces

·    Do not touch dead or dying birds

·    Avoid spending time at markets where live animals are sold

·    Avoid spending time at poultry farms

·    Do not eat or handle uncooked or undercooked poultry or eggs.

In addition, travellers who fall ill with respiratory symptoms within 7 days of returning from visiting China should seek prompt medical advice.

For further advice please click on the related information topics on the right hand panel of this screen.


World Health Organisation Disease Outbreak News, BBC News online, National Travel Health Network & Centre (NaTHNaC)

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