Here’s your daily bird flu update: Two more people in Shanghai have been confirmed as being infected with the H7N9 virus following the city’s first case of 2014 announced on January 4. Meanwhile, Chinese researchers have said that mutations in the H7N9 strain have been discovered, and that the virus has the ability to spread from human to human. One more person infected has died in Zhejiang province aaand the H5N1 virus has infected poultry in Hubei. Doomed.
According to the Shanghai Health and Family Planning Commission, a 58-year old woman surnamed Zhang was diagnosed as being infected with the virus last Friday and a 56-year-old man surnamed Shi was confirmed on Saturday, Shanghai Daily reports.
Shanghai officials said there there is no evidence the virus was spread between human contact, and that the exposure to live poultry at markets was the largest risk factor.
Last week, Shanghai’s municipal government announced that the city would suspend live poultry sales this month until April 30, and that the shutdown could become a “seasonal measure” in upcoming years.
Meanwhile, Guangzhou-based publication Southern Metropolis Weekly this week reported that Chinese researchers discovered mutations in the H7N9 virus, confirming that it has the ability to jump from human to human.
A research team out of the Beijing Institutes of Life Sciences under the Chinese Academy of Sciences broken down mechanisms of transmission of both H5N1 and H7N9, Want China Times reports.
The research team pointed out in a study published in the Science magazine in September last year that they have identified mutations in four key sites of amino acids of the H7N9 strain and found that the virus has an ability to bind to human cells in the upper respiratory tract.
Although the H7N9 and H5N1 viruses have not had the ability to widely spread from human to human, after undergoing genetic mutations and redistribution through mutations, they become better able to bind to human cells in the upper respiratory tract and can evolve into bird flu strains with the ability to transmit among humans, the team says.
George F Gao, deputy director-general of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, explained that the virus can invade cells in the human upper respiratory tract but has a limited ability to be transmitted from human to human. That’s good.
Three new human cases of H7N9 were reported in Zhejiang province as well over the weekend, resulting in one death. The total number of cases in Zhejiang province in 2014 has reached 14. That’s bad.
To top it off: Hubei province on Monday reported an outbreak of the H5N1 virus in poultry, leading local authorities to seal off the infected area and cull some 46,800 chickens.