Deadly H7N9 avian flu spreads between humans

H7N9A potentially deadly strain of avian (bird) influenza virus appears to have transmitted between humans for the very first time.

Research published online by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) claims that the avian influenza A (H7N9) virus which has claimed dozens of lives in China this year, had been passed from a 60-year-old man to his 32-year-old daughter who was caring for him at the time.

The father and daughter lived in eastern China and the father had made frequent trips to a live poultry market. He suddenly became ill just days following his latest visit back in March and later died on 4 May due to multiple organ failure.

However, the man’s daughter had developed symptoms of her own just six days after her father’s admittance into hospital and actually died ten days before he did, on 24 April. She was in good health before caring for her father and had apparently not been in contact with any live poultry, which means the virus must have been passed to her from her father. Investigations later confirmed an identical virus strain in both patients.

Dr Peter Horby, senior clinical research fellow at the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Hanoi, Vietnam, said: “The most likely source of infection for the daughter was her father, during the period that she cared from him whilst he was ill.”

He alleviated fears over other strains of avian flu however, noting that avian flu has been in existence for more than a decade and that they “have not progressed any further down the path towards a pandemic virus”. Dr Horby also said human-to-human transmission had been minimal for strains H5N1 and H7N7, and the swine origin flu virus H3N2v.

Up until the end of June, within China there had been in excess of 130 cases reported and 43 deaths since February. Despite Dr Horby’s assertions, there is huge fear that the outbreak could now spread amongst humans at a rapid rate.

According to available evidence, in the majority of instances the effected people had previously visited live poultry farms or had come into contact with live poultry approximately seven to 10 days prior to the emergence of their symptoms.

Symptoms begin with a high fever, cough and a shortness of breath. Often, the sufferer will then develop more severe illness such as pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), septic shock and multi-organ failure leading to death.

Although the World Health Organization (WHO) state that no vaccine for avian influenza A(H7N9) infections in humans is currently available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends Tamiflu (oseltamivir) for the treatment of H7N9 because many of the H7N9 viruses that have been studied are likely susceptible (sensitive) to this medication.

It is estimated that Britain attracts around 179,000 Chinese tourists a year, and it only takes one person carrying the virus for an outbreak to erupt and spread between people.

Tamiflu is available today through Medical Specialists Pharmacy from as little as £21.98 per pack of 10 capsules. You can buy Tamiflu online with or without a prescription at Medical Specialists, after completing a simple online consultation.

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