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Chinese Health Officials Warn of Another Possible Outbreak of Bird Flu

Update Date: Jun 24, 2013 01:59 PM EDT

Since the outbreak of a new bird flu known as H7N9, researchers have studied the effects and potential dangers of this strain that has managed to be constrained in China. The World Health Organization (WHO) has repeatedly found that this strain of avian influenza is not transmissible via human-to-human contact. On top of that, there has not been a confirmed case since May 8, a good sign that the flu threat might be over. Despite no new cases for over a month, Chinese health officials warn health care workers to prepare for the possibility of another outbreak due to weather changes that could prompt the virus to come back.

"The warm season has now begun in China, and only one new laboratory-confirmed case of H7N9 in human beings has been identified since May 8, 2013," researchers from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Hong Kong said according to HealthDay. "If H7N9 follows a similar pattern to H5N1, the epidemic could reappear in the autumn." The H5N1 bird virus affected the country back in 2003.

So far, H7N9 has killed one-third of the people it infected late last year and earlier this year. The reports state that there have been over 130 people infected with 37-recorded deaths.  According to the researchers, this strain of bird flu appears to be less lethal than the H5N1 flu, which killed 60 to 70 percent of the infected people who were hospitalized. Based on the medical data on the confirmed cases, H7N9 is reportedly more dangerous than the 2009 H1N1 swine flu, which killed 21 percent of the hospitalized patients. The research team found that people who get H7N9 and develop symptoms have a rate of dying between 0.16 to 2.8 percent. The researchers explained that even more cases could have occurred that were not severe enough to require hospitalization and thus, might not have been recorded.

"Assessing the severity profile of human infections is vitally important in the management and treatment of any infection disease outbreak," the research team wrote. "Although previous clinical cases series have focused on the potential for avian influence H7N9 virus infection to cause severe illness, we have estimated that mild cases might have occurred."

The report was published in The Lancet

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