Avian Influenza H7N9

 

MEDICAL ALERT

 

Avian Influenza H7N9

 

 

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According to the World Health Organization, a recent outbreak of Avian Influenza A (H7N9) has been confirmed in southern China, the fifth and largest ever reported in the region. As of February 20, 424 human cases had been identified, while infections acquired in China have also have been found in Taiwan, Malaysia and Canada. As of yet, there are no reported instances of H7N9 in Vietnam, although there have been cases detected close to the Vietnam border.

 

 

What is H7N9?

 

The H7N9 virus is one of many subtypes of Influenza A that is sometimes found in birds but not usually in people. They have been present in poultry for hundreds of years. In March 2013, China reported the first known cases of a new strain of the virus that was very different from previously-known H7N9 subtypes. Since 2013, H7N9 viruses have continued to cause poultry infections in China, with associated annual increases in the number of human infections during the fall, winter, and spring months.

Is there any risk?

 

The risk of contracting H7N9 in Vietnam remains highly unlikely. Most human cases are exposed to this virus via contact with infected poultry or contaminated environments, including live poultry markets. Since the virus continues to be detected in these circumstances, further human cases can be expected. However, current epidemiological and virological evidence suggests that this virus has not acquired the ability of sustained transmission among humans, thus the likelihood of human to human infection is very low.

While travelers have been shown to carry the infection from China to other countries, further community spread abroad is considered unlikely while the virus remains unable to spread easily among humans.

How can I protect myself from infection?

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The WHO advises that travelers to countries with known outbreaks of animal influenza should avoid farms, contact with animals in live animal markets, entering areas where animals may be slaughtered, or contact with any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with animal faeces. Travellers should also wash their hands often with soap and water. Travellers should follow good food safety and good food hygiene practices.

 

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