NY Travel Clinic

Avian Flu (H7N9) outbreak in China

The World Health Organization reports 665 cases of H7N9 flu globally from March 2013 to May 9, 2015, mostly from China.

Avian influenza A (H7N9) is a flu virus found in birds that usually does not infect humans.  But 2 years ago, China reported the first cases of infected humans. Most of these infections have been caused by contact with infected poultry or poultry markets in China.  Some cases are from limited person to person transmission.  The CDC advises people traveling to China to avoid contact with birds, poultry, and their droppings, and poultry markets and farms.

Prevention

There’s no vaccine against the H7N9 flu, and as the disease can be lethal, it’s essential to prevent infection.

Don’t touch birds, pigs, and animals.  When you shop, avoid markets with live poultry or birds, and avoid “wet markets”, markets and farms with animals.   It’s safe to eat fully cooked poultry and meat, but don’t buy it from street vendors.  The meat must not be pink.  Don’t eat runny eggs, but hard-cooked eggs are safe.  Avoid dishes and drinks that have animal blood.

You need to wash your hands often with soap, or an alcohol based sanitizer.  Don’t touch your nose, mouth, or eyes with unwashed hands.  Cough or sneeze into tissues or your sleeve.  Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and don’t share their eating utensils, or drink from their glasses or cups.

Symptoms

The early symptomsinclude fever, shortness of breath, stuffy nose, cough, sore throat, fatigue, and muscle aches.  The WHO reports that most patients with H7N9 fluhave had severe pneumonia.

Treatment

If you have symptoms that suggest you might have the H7N9 flu, go to a doctor immediately while you’re in China, or if you feel sick after you return from China.  Oseltamivir or zanamivir can be used against H7N9. You could have the Avian influenza A if you show signs of respiratory illness within 10 days of travelling to China.  If you have the above symptoms, and have travelled to China, tell your doctor about your travels, especially if you have been exposed to birds and poultry.  Wear a mask to prevent infecting others if you suspect you might have the disuse.

There are confirmed cases in Beijing, Shanghai, and other regions in China. A lower numbers of cases has occurred in travelers from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Canada.

Good hygiene, and avoidance of birds, poultry, and farms is essential to prevent infection. Seek IMMEDIATE medical help if have symptoms of the disease.