A new bird flu virus, influenza A (H7N9), has killed or critically stricken patients in China. Genetic evaluation of the virus shows it has the ability to mutate readily.
The World Health Organization notes, “analysis of the genes of these viruses suggests that although they have evolved from avian (bird) viruses, they show signs of adaptation to growth in mammalian species.” So far, H7N9 has not been found to be transmissible from human to human; those who’ve contracted it have had contact with poultry.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has developed a diagnostic test, advising clinicians to be on the lookout for H7N9 in “patients with respiratory illness and an appropriate travel or exposure history.” Most of the people identified with the new bird flu have had symptoms of severe pneumonia such as chest congestion, difficulty breathing, fever, and severe cough. The Society will continue to monitor this situation and will keep members abreast of any new information.