Most Recent H7N9 Flu Deadlier Than H1N1
By Alexandra Sifferlin
June 24, 2013
The first estimates of the severity of the H7N9 influenza virus show that about one-third of people who were hospitalized with the infection died. And flu experts warn that the strain could reappear in the next flu season.
In February, Chinese health authorities first reported infections with the H7N9 influenza virus, a flu strain emerging from birds. While the virus did not seem to be as virulent as previous avian strains, public-health officials were concerned that it was the first time cases of H7N9 had been documented in humans.
According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) H7N9 report in early June, there have been 132 lab-confirmed cases of human H7N9 infection in China. The majority have been reported in middle-aged men, most of whom had some exposure to poultry, and by June, 37 people had died from the disease.
Flu scientists say that so far there is little evidence that the virus easily spreads from person to person. But they are not ruling out the possibility, since a few cases appeared to result from an infected person passing on the infection during close contact, such as occurs among family members or health care workers. Based on previous studies that confirm how easily influenza viruses can mutate, researchers are also concerned that H7N9 could morph to become more transmissible.