Seems that we have a newly emerging avian flu virus in the Shanghai region of China. Utterly unrelated to H5N1, this one is an H7N9 strain and never been seen before in humans. I spotted it at the beginning of the week (while ironically looking for the latest news on the new corona virus -emerging diseases are a bit of an interest of mine)
So far it has killed 6 and 14 are officially declared to be infected. It seems to have first popped up mid February but since identified at the weekend the cases seem to be starting to pop up quite quickly.
From what I've read it's a low pathogen avian flu, which means that it doesn't tend to kill birds off, but it has aquired genes which are adapted to mammalian infection. (Flu viruses are great at swapping genes amongst themeselves) Yesterday the Chinese authorities said they have found it in pigeons in a market and so are closing down poultry markets in the area.
Some are linking it to the 14,00 pig deaths found in rivers in shanghai in mid march and indeed pigs can be a good carrier of some flu strains, but authorities say they haven't found any evidence of flu in the pigs though they still don't know what killed them.
WHO currently say there is no evidence of sustained human to human transmission. It could stay that way, lots of viruses don't really adapt properly to a species and fade out. On the very positive side, scientists are really alert to emerging viruses now and detect new ones very quickly. This means that alerts go up very quickly about diseases that fail to get hold in the human population. So hopefully it may well be the same with this virus.
Have just spotted this thread. Marking place to read later, very interesting reading. I'm always telling DH that I think humans will at some point be all but wiped out by an infectious disease which we cannot control he thinks I'm mad
The numbers being released aren't making much sense now, they've really dipped but it has spread to new provinces (including Hunan, which doesn't really fit in with the migratory bird pattern quite so well unless I'm misunderstanding things)
They've found some h7 in poultry in Hong Kong too, but they haven't released which type of h7 it is, so it may not be related.
A few more sequences released, showing human adaptation. A couple of them share a gene common to human seasonal flu and hasn't been found in any of the avian sequences.
I wonder if things are going to get quieter now as we move out of flu season (h1n1 did not though it paused in the UK during the summer holidays)
Whilst the news on h7n9 remains quiet, the new coronavirus is actually starting to look alarming. It's been renamed mers-CoV (middle east respiratory syndrome coronavirus) a few cases have been escaping recently. Notably now a chap who had been to Jordan is now hospitalised in Florence with it after visiting his son in Jordan who appeared to be suffering from an unspecified flu. his two year old niece and a colleague appear to have contracted it from him in Italy showing human to human infection that maybe classified as sustained. They are tracing contacts.
In my utter laymans opinion, there must be cases that are going undiagnosed. 30 out of the 50 clinically diagnosed infections (as of the 31st) have died but cases have been exported to the UK, Italy, France, Germany and Tunisia.
At the moment, the official CFR (case fatality rate) is 60% with excellent hospital care. Of course, if, as seems rather likely, there are a lot of milder undiagnosed cases then the CFR will come down markedly.
What is somewhat concerning is the possibility that other severe cases may be not being reported. Saudi seem to be rather defensive, saying that they are not the focus of the disease outbreak (which reported numbers wise they are with around 80% of the cases) and cases only seem to be being concentrated there because other countries arent bothering to look for it - which frankly I dont think is the case.
Ramadan is in July and the estimated number of pilgrims to visit Saudi then is one-two million people. So we have to hope that Saudi are really being completely transparent about this.
It may well die out completely, viruses can be very unpredictable and can vanish as quickly as they first appeared. This is a novel virus in humans, we just dont know what will happen, so we have to be optimistic that this is another storm in a tea cup.
It suggests theyve found 10 aysmptomatic cases who are contacts of the above chap from Florence. Big departure from what has been found officially so far. It could perhaps mean one of a few things:
1)They've not developed symptoms yet (WHO are revising the expected incubation to be up to 12 days and this chap was only hospitalised Saturday) but it seems bizarre as it says they arent being isolated!?
2)It has mutated to a much less deadly form
3)It is spreading silently in most cases and and for some reason just a few are susceptible.
If it's 1)Its bad news. Signs of a superspreader perhaps. If it is 2) That is splendid if it is 3) then who knows what will happen?
Of course the report could be entirely wrong and it's none of the above! It doesnt appear to have made it out into the press widely yet. If its true, then it is a very very interesting development.