The new outbreak of an avian (bird) flu in China has once again seriously worrying scientists that it can mutate into forms that are able to infect humans more easily.
This subgroup of influenza virus named H7N9 has according to World Health Organization killed 26 people so far and infected 128 since the first case was reported just last month. The virus is present in chickens (and this particular strain is not deadly to them, which means it is much harder to track the spread) has been found in all 31 of the Chinese provinces, but at the moment there are no reported cases of human-to-human transmission.
Genetic analysis of the H7N9 virus, published in The Lancet journal, suggests that the virus may have evolved from at least four other flu viruses that have mixed together in wild bird populations, ducks and domestic chickens.
The infection can cause the usual flu symptoms like fever, cough, fatigue and muscle aches but can also progress to severe pneumonia, blood poisoning and multi organ failure, but so far it is suspected that it has been solely transmitted to humans who have had direct contact with live poultry and their excretions: saliva, nasal secretions, and feces.
Current investigations into the possible sources of infection and reservoirs of the virus are still ongoing, but what is worrying health officials is that it could may mutate form becoming transmittable between humans, which would be a signal that that the virus could become pandemic.
To be become transmittable between humans, the H7N9 virus needs to mutate several times.
According to Keiji Fukuda, the World Health Organization’s assistant director general for health, security and the environment said “This is an unusually dangerous virus for humans,” as it is easily transmissible from the birds to humans.
The H5N1 bird flu that provoked more than 360 deaths worldwide since it was found in humans in 2003, it did not spread between humans.