The Chinese Academy of Sciences in Mainland China has announced that the H7N9 bird flu virus has mutated, and it has a limited ability of transmitting through person-to-person communication.
The Shanghai municipal government has designated centralized management of live poultry trade, and announced that the live poultry trade will be closed for three months from the Lunar New Year (Jan. 31) to April 30.
Hong Kong announced on Jan. 11 the death of an infected 65-year-old man, according to Reuters, the second death due to H7N9 in the city, as well as two more deaths in China.
Last week, The World Health Organization said that seven more people in China had been infected with H7N9 bird flu in the previous week.
Since the virus’s emergence in humans in March 2013: “More than 140 human infections of H7N9 have been reported in 12 provinces and cities in China, including 46 deaths,” according to the latest report in China’s Southern Metropolis Weekly. Most of those cases are in the mainland, but it has also infected people in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The research team said that after undergoing genetic mutations, H7N9 become better able to bind to human cells in the upper respiratory tract, and can evolve into bird flu strains with the ability to transmit among humans. However, they emphasize that the ability of the virus to transmit between humans at the moment is very limited.
The avian flu strain H5N1, which was found in humans for the first time in 1997, has spread to more than 60 countries around the world. The mortality rate is as high as 60 percent.
Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, with the majority of cases resulting in severe respiratory illness.
People in China are advised to stay away from live poultry and poultry markets, and not to touch raw poultry meat, as well as not eat undercooked poultry or runny eggs.