National media attention has been given to a new avian influenza A (H7N9) virus in China. Oakland County Health Division (OCHD), under the leadership of County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, wants to assure residents that there have been no continental U.S. or Oakland County cases detected.
“Although there is currently no reason for alarm, Public Health remains vigilant and continues to monitor the reports of the H7N9 virus,” said Kathy Forzley, OCHD manager/health officer. “There are no reports of human-to-human transmissions and no travel health warnings or precautions have been issued for those traveling to and from China at this time.”
Although media reports indicate higher numbers, as of April 4, 2013, 11 laboratory-confirmed cases have been detected in China and there are three confirmed deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO reported the first cases on April 1, 2013; this is the first time this strain has been detected in humans. The infections so far have resulted in severe respiratory illness and, in some cases, death. According to WHO, no human-to-human transmission has been identified at this time and the cases do not have a known link to one another. There is an ongoing investigation to determine the source of infection and detect any additional cases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is following this situation closely and coordinating with domestic and international partners to gather more information, make a knowledgeable public health risk assessment, and develop a candidate vaccine virus. All of these actions are routine preparedness measures taken whenever a new novel influenza virus is detected in humans.
Influenza A H7 viruses are a group of influenza viruses that normally circulate among birds. The influenza A (H7N9) virus is one subgroup among the larger group of H7 viruses. Although some H7 viruses (H7N2, H7N3 and H7N7) have occasionally been found to infect humans, no human infections with H7N9 viruses have been reported until recent reports from China.