Avian influenza A (H7N9), also known as Asian Bird Flu, is causing serious illness in people, primarily in China. Most people who have been infected with this bird flu have had contact with birds or environments that contain H7N9. Nearly 20 percent of the people who have become infected with this bird flu have died.
In January of 2015, the World Health Organization confirmed the first human case of H7N9 in Canada; this was the first reported human case outside of China. There have also been reports of birds in the United States that have contracted H7N9. Luckily, the virus is not currently spreading person-to-person like the seasonal flu.
Good news, right? You may be wondering why you should be concerned. Here’s why:
Flu viruses are constantly changing and scientists around the world are concerned that the H7N9 virus might eventually spread easily from person to person. And if this happens, people could have little to no immunity to the virus because it is very different from human viruses.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is keeping a close eye on H7N9. The CDC is doing things like developing test kits for detecting H7N9, testing to see if existing antiviral drugs will work to treat the virus, and preparing to develop a vaccine against the virus if needed.
What you can do:
Right now, the CDC does not have any new or special recommendations for the U.S. public associated with H7N9. But the CDC advises travelers to China to take the following precautions:
- Do not touch birds, pigs, or other animals.
- Only eat food that is fully cooked.
- Practice frequent hand hygiene and cleanliness.
- See a doctor if you become sick during or after your trip to China.
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