1. What is the concern about A(H7N9)?Many influenza viruses are animal – porcine, avian or other species – viruses which normally do not cross the species barrier. The cases of A(H7N9) are of concern because these are the first reported cases of this avian influenza virus in humans. See Disease Outbreak News for updates.
2. Can A(H7N9) avian influenza virus be transmitted from person to person?At this point in time, there has been no evidence of human to human transmission among contacts of or between the confirmed cases. The ongoing investigation is exploring all the possible sources of infection, including the possibility of human-to-human transmission.
It is very important to further investigate the extent of the outbreak, the source of infection, the mode of transmission, the best clinical treatment and necessary prevention and control measures and to be vigilant so as to be able to identify additional cases should they appear.
3. Is this infection related to more than 16,000 pig carcasses recently found dumped in rivers around Shanghai?While the dead pigs were part of the overall investigation, there was no evidence of any connection.
4. Is the general population at risk from the A(H7N9) avian influenza virus?At this point in time, there has been no evidence of human to human transmission among contacts of or between the confirmed cases. The risk associated with A(H7N9) avian influenza virus to the general population in China and beyond is being investigated and will be shared to the public when information becomes available.
5. What action has been taken? What support is WHO providing?The Chinese government is responding to the event and has taken the following actions and measures:
• Enhanced surveillance;
• Reinforced case management and treatment;
• Epidemiological investigation and close contact tracing;
• Laboratory strengthening;
• Training of health care professionals and issuing of guidelines; and
• Enhanced communications.
These are the first reported cases of A(H7N9) in humans. That makes it a unique event, which the World Health Organization is taking seriously. WHO is working closely with the national authorities to better understand the situation. and will communicate important updates as they become available.
6. How can individuals prevent A(H7N9) avian influenza infection?Basic hygiene practices and food safety measures are prerequisites to prevent the transmission of many infectious diseases, including A(H7N9).
• Wash your hands often, especially: before, during, and after you prepare food; before you eat; after you use the toilet; after handling animals or animal waste; when your hands are dirty; and, more frequently, when someone in your home is sick.
• Hand hygiene is also necessary to prevent transmission in clinical settings to other patients and health care workers. Pathogens are removed by the mechanical action of hand washing. Alcohol disinfects (kills the pathogens).
• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
• In environments where any highly pathogenic avian influenza virus may be present, hand hygiene, which includes hand washing and the use of alcohol-based hand rubs, is critical to prevent possible viral inoculation of the nose, mouth and conjunctiva by contaminated hands.