H7N9 strain said to mix wild bird, chicken genes


A health worker vaccinates a pigeon to fight against the H7N9 bird flu virus in Liuzhou City, south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, on April 7, 2013.


By Hu Longjiang and Wu Jingjing

A top Chinese biology lab said on Wednesday of April 10 that the H7N9 avian influenza virus now infecting humans combines genes from both wild birds and chickens.

According to research by the Key Laboratory of Pathogenic Microbiology and Immunology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a portion of the H7N9 virus is similar to segments of virus derived from east Asian wild birds, while other genes in the virus are traceable to chickens in Shanghai and the provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu.

The researchers theorize that a virus carried by wild birds from the Republic of Korea and other east Asian regions mingled with avian influenza virus carried by ducks and chickens in the Yangtze River Delta during the wild birds’ migration.

They said the genetic reassortment most likely occurred in east China’s Yangtze River Delta, which covers Shanghai, and Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces.

The researchers found that no genes in H7N9 were traceable to pigs, thus excluding pigs as intermediate hosts for the deadly strain of bird flu.

As to why the H7N9 is more harmful to humans than to birds and poultry, researchers said it’s because of viral mutation.

Animal experts and scientists have stepped up monitoring of migratory birds to try to control the spread of H7N9, according to the China Wildlife Conservation Association.

H7N9 bird flu has killed nine of 33 people infected with the virus.



China reports another H7N9 death,

infections rise to 38

By Qiu Yi and Shi Shouhe

Five more cases of H7N9 bird flu — three in Shanghai and two in Jiangsu Province — were reported on Thursday of April 11, bringing the total number of people infected in China to 38, including 10 that have died.

Three more people had tested positive for the H7N9 avian influenza virus in Shanghai, including one patient who died, as of 5 p.m. Thursday, local health authorities said.

The new confirmed cases brought the infection count in the city to 18. So far, six of the 18 cases have resulted in death, according to a statement from the Shanghai Municipal Health and Family Planning Commission.

After first being diagnosed with pneumonia, a 74-year-old man surnamed Zheng tested positive for the H7N9 virus on Wednesday night, the statement said.

Zheng died Thursday afternoon after rescue efforts failed.

Another patient, surnamed Jiang, began showing symptoms of fever and coughing on April 2. She also tested positive for the H7N9 virus on Wednesday.

The 83-year-old woman is receiving medical treatment and is currently in stable condition.

A 68-year-old man, surnamed Tang, also tested positive for the H7N9 virus on Wednesday.

Tang experienced a fever and muscle pain on April 4, he was later taken to the hospital and diagnosed with pneumonia. He is currently in stable condition, the statement said.

Seventy people have had close contact with the three patients, but none of them have exhibited abnormal symptoms, according to the statement.

Also on Thursday, east China’s Jiangsu Province reported two new cases of H7N9 bird flu.

A 31-year-old restaurant chef in Yangzhou City and a 56-year-old teacher in Suzhou City both tested positive for the H7N9 virus around noon on Thursday, according to a statement issued by the provincial health department.

Both men are in critical condition, said the statement, noting that 52 people who have had close contact with them have not shown any abnormal symptoms.

A total of 12 cases of H7N9 bird flu have been confirmed in Jiangsu Province, including one that ended in death.

Other cases have been reported in Anhui Province, which confirmed two cases, including one death, and Zhejiang Province, which confirmed six cases, including two deaths.

In order to effectively cope with the new avian influenza, health authorities in Shanghai City and Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui provinces have agreed to form a regional mechanism for joint prevention and control of the disease.

Health authorities in these regions will strengthen information sharing and cooperation in prevention and medical treatment.

In the meantime, an expert team on H7N9 infection will be organized to offer technical support for regional prevention and control.

On Wednesday, a four-year-old boy who had tested positive for the H7N9 virus was discharged from a Shanghai hospital after he no longer tested positive for the virus.

He is the first H7N9 patient to recover and be discharged from the hospital.




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