Thursday, April 25, 2013

Oh Goody...

The new strain of avian influenza that has infected more than 100 people in China in the last two months has, for the first time, been reported outside mainland China.

Officials in Taiwan reported one case in a 53-year-old Taiwanese citizen who traveled regularly to the Chinese city of Suzhou for work, where he probably contracted the virus. He fell ill on April 12, three days after returning to Taiwan. Tests revealed on Wednesday that he was infected with the H7N9 bird flu virus. As of Tuesday, Chinese officials had reported 108 cases and 22 deaths from the new flu.
A 20% fatality rate?  That's a serious flu, on par with the "Spanish Flu" of 1918-1920. The fact that it's hopping countries is not a good sign.
In a news conference Wednesday in Beijing, a World Health Organization official described this type of bird flu as ''unusually dangerous.''

The virus is ''definitely one of the most lethal influenza viruses we've seen,'' said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, an assistant director general at the World Health Organization.

''The potential development of human-to-human spread cannot be ruled out,'' the health organization said in a statement.
Apparently, most cases so far can be ascribed to bird to human transmission, which makes those of us who don't live with duck and chickens a little safer.  On the other hand, we may need to stop putting out safflower seeds and meal worms to attract birds to the feeders.
In the United States, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have received samples of the virus from China and have shared them with five other laboratories to study the virus and work on a vaccine.
Hope they get a good vaccine, but remember, flu vaccines have a significant failure rate, especially if 20% of those infected are likely to die:
In adults, vaccines show a three-quarters reduction in risk of contracting influenza (4% influenza rate among the unvaccinated versus 1% among vaccinated persons) when the vaccine is perfectly matched to the virus and a one-half reduction (2% get flu without vaccine versus 1% with vaccine) when it is not, but no significant effect on the rate of hospitalization.

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