The British Medical Journal is reporting today that a 32-year-old woman became infected with H7N9, while caring for her father. Both have since died. This is the first confirmed case of human to human transmission of the disease.
Prior to this case, there was no evidence to confirm contact spread, and it was thought to be caught only from contact with diseased birds. So far there have been 133 cases of H7N9 and 43 deaths, all of them in Eastern China.
Tests have shown that the strain of virus taken from the father and daughter were genetically almost identical, and the family has confirmed that the woman had no contact with poultry at all in the six weeks before she fell ill.
Dr James Rudge, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that limited transmission between humans is not surprising and has been seen before in other bird flu viruses, such as H5N1.
“Our findings reinforce that the novel virus possesses the potential for pandemic spread,”
He added: “It would be a worry if we start to see longer chains of transmission between people, when one person infects someone else, who in turn infects more people, and so on.
And particularly if each infected case goes on to infect, on average, more than one other person, this would be a strong warning sign that we might be in the early stages of an epidemic.” (source)
So far the virus has not appeared outside of China but the odds are it will. Much of eastern China is given over to agriculture and smallholder farming. Many of the residents do not travel farther than the markets and the surrounding villages.
Viruses constantly mutate and this virus is no different. Its prime objective is survival and that is why they mutate so readily.. According to the British Medical Journal report the H7N9 virus can be in the body several days before symptoms show up. Even then someone with the virus will not realize how sick they are for a couple of days, often longer.
It’s this that gives rise to the pandemic potential of the virus. Once it makes it to a major metropolitan area, where commerce and business call for national and for international travel the chances of it ‘escaping’ China rise dramatically.
Chris Carrington is a writer, researcher and lecturer with a background in science, technology and environmental studies. Chris is an editor for The Daily Sheeple, where this first appeared. Wake the flock up!