Sunday, May 12, 2013

Bird flu: US safe from two new viruses - so far

More than 50 travelers just back in the United States from China who had flu-like symptoms have been tested for the H7N9 bird flu virus, federal health officials say. So far, none has tested positive.

But the fact that they’re being tested at all shows just how worried the U.S. government is about this new strain of bird flu, which threatens at the same time as a still-mysterious coronavirus from the Middle East. The test kits had to be specially made up and distributed under an emergency provision.

“While no cases of H7N9 have been detected at this time in the U.S., 54 people with flu-like symptoms after travel to China have been tested. All have 54 tested negative for H7N9; while six tested positive for seasonal influenza A, and three tested positive for seasonal influenza B,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in its latest update on the virus.


The H7N9 flu can spread silently, as people transmit influenza before they’re sick themselves. If the flu did mutate into a pandemic form, it would probably take at least six months to make enough vaccines to protect large numbers of people.
“It may take longer than it takes the virus to spread,” says Dr. John Treanor, a flu vaccine expert at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “The technology that we have today is such that the bulk of the pandemic disease may have already taken place before a vaccine is in place and can be used,” he added.
“The virus can spread very, very quickly. You are in a race against time.”


The coronavirus, which some are dubbing Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus, or MERS, is a little different story. WHO says 33 infections have been reported, with 18 deaths. Experts are watching cases in France, where one patient who traveled from Dubai was confirmed to have the virus.
A man who shared a hospital room with the 65-year-old man also has the virus, French officials said Sunday -- something that shows the virus and and does spread in hospitals. 
Officials were relieved that three health care workers who cared for the 65-year-old patient and who got sick have tested negative for the virus.
Also Sunday, WHO Assistant Director-General Keiji Fukuda could probably be passed between people in close contact, but there was no evidence of sustained "generalized transmission in communities."
Some reports suggest an outbreak in Saudi Arabia also affected people in the same hospital.
This worries Dr. Eric Toner of the Center for Health Security at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. SARS – severe acute respiratory syndrome – also spread mostly in hospitals. SARS spread to 29 countries in 2003, killing 775 people and making 8,000 sick before it was stopped.
“These cases, whether confirmed or not, should be a wake-up call,” Toner writes in his blog.

Full article:

No comments: