Avian Influenza – Potential Threat?

ANGELA GLADKIKH

Staff Writer

The avian flu (H7N9) epidemic, which emerged in early April in China, had taken 35 lives of the 130 people affected, as of May 13. Avian influenza is a deadly type of bird flu detected only in poultry until recently. In the past, bird flu breakouts were terminated in matter of days, through treatment. However, in this incident no cure is known, causing the world to fear the threat of a potential pandemic.

In late April, the death toll increased at an alarming rate. However, the pace of infection has reportedly slowed down in the recent weeks, and 57 people have recovered, according to Reuters.

The factor causing the rapid spread is the inability to detect the disease until the critical state. The factor holding back the H7N9 virus from becoming a pandemic is its inability to be transmitted from person to person. Although Chinese scientists and health experts state that the virus can only spread from chicken to human, there is always a chance that the flu strain could mutate.

“The key question is can it become efficiently transmittable from person to person? And the simple answer is we don’t know,” declared Andrew Pavia, an expert in the division of pediatric infectious diseases at University of Utah, when interviewed by medpage.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), no American travelers from China have tested positive for the avian flu.

While no cases of H7N9 have been detected at this time in the United States, 54 people with flu-like symptoms after traveling to China have been tested,” stated the CDC in its most recent update. “All 54 tested negative for H7N9; while six tested positive for seasonal influenza A, and three tested positive for seasonal influenza B.”

If humans are unable to pass the disease to other humans, a major crisis can be averted. Yet, like anything else in nature, the contagion is unpredictable and cannot be controlled. 

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