First likely case of human spread of H7N9 flu
THE first scientific analysis of probable human-to-human transmission of a deadly new strain of bird flu that emerged in China this year gives the strongest evidence yet that the H7N9 virus can pass between people, scientists said yesterday.
Research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) analysing a family cluster of cases of H7N9 infection in eastern China found that it was very likely the virus was "transmitted directly from the index patient to his daughter".
Experts commenting on the research said that while it did not necessarily mean H7N9 is any closer to becoming the next flu pandemic, "it does provide a timely reminder of the need to remain extremely vigilant".
The new bird-flu virus, which was unknown in humans until February, has infected at least 133 people in China and Taiwan, killing 43 of them, according to the World Health Organization.
Most cases involved people who had visited live-poultry markets or had close contact with live poultry within seven to 10 days before falling ill.
The BMJ study analysed a family cluster of two H7N9 patients - a father, 60, and his daughter, 32 - in eastern China in March. Strains of the virus isolated from samples taken from the pair were "almost genetically identical" - a strong suggestion that the virus was transmitted directly from father to daughter, the researchers said.