A study recently reported that chickens were the cause of the second wave of H7H9 avian flu in China. During the initial outbreak the virus spread from Zhejiang province in Eastern China to the South, where it struck down in about 3 different communities. H7N9 avian flu was established a serious public health concern in 2013 when it infected about 136 people and killed about 40 people. The virus later appeared in the fall infecting 318 individuals and killing over 100 people. The second wave of the outbreak ended in 2014, but a third wave began last October. Currently over 640 people have become infected.
Researchers looking at the disease distribution and different epidemiological factors are trying to pinpoint the cause of the outbreak, hoping to end the third wave before it turns into a pandemic. Researchers at the University of Hong Kong were particularly interested in identifying the reservoir of this new strain. Samples taken from chickens in live poultry markets showed that over 3% of chickens carry the virus, and further analysis suggests that these poultry merchants most likely spread the virus. These findings also show that if the live poultry markets aren’t closed immediately “it will only be a matter of time before poultry movement spreads the virus beyond China,” says Tommy Tsan-Yuk Lam, a researchers at the University of Hong Kong. He is also worried because the flu virus has the ability to pick up other genes from other strains and become more virulent and infectious.
- Nalani Wakinekona