Pace of H7N9 cases in China continues unabated

Friday, January 24, 2014
By Paul Martin

Lisa Schnirring
Jan 23, 2014

Chinese health officials saw no letup in the steady stream of H7N9 avian influenza cases today, with reports of seven new infections, a level of activity that threatens to push the second wave of infections higher than the first one last spring.

The pattern of H7N9 cases in recent weeks has strikingly followed the pattern seen last year as H7N9 reached its peak in the spring.

In the week beginning Mar 25, 2013, following a week of just 7 cases, China confirmed 17 new H7N9 cases, according to data compiled by the Minnesota Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance (MCEIRS). The following week saw 28 cases before the spring wave peaked during the week of Apr 8, with 38 cases.

In the past 3 weeks, cases have almost mirrored the 17, 28, and 38 weekly pattern that led to the 2013 peak. In the week of Jan 6, 15 new H7N9 cases were confirmed by official sources, followed by 31 last week and 34 so far this week—and the week is not yet over.

Health officials are quick to say that it’s impossible to predict flu’s next move, but some are warning that upticks in live-poultry commerce and heavy travel conditions as China enters its Lunar New Year holiday period could fuel the spread of the virus in birds and people, factors that could quicken the pace of H7N9 detections.

Last year, the patients identified as the first lab-confirmed H7N9 cases experienced their first illness symptoms in the middle of February, not long after the Lunar New Year period.

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