What is H7N9?
Some influenza A viruses occur naturally in birds and can cause illness in those animals—these viruses are called “avian flu viruses”. While avian flu viruses do not always infect humans, occasional human infections have occurred. Human infections usually occur after close contact with infected birds (either live or dead) or areas contaminated with an avian flu virus.
Like many influenza viruses, there are different strains of the influenza A (H7N9) virus, or H7N9. Beginning in March 2013, China reported human and bird infections with a new strain of H7N9 that is very different from the H7N9 viruses that were seen previously.
How can a person get H7N9?
No cases of human or bird infections with this virus have been seen in the United States at this time. In China, the virus has been found in birds (poultry) and people; over one hundred cases of human infection with H7N9 have also been reported. Investigators believe that people became infected with the virus after having direct contact with infected birds or contact with areas contaminated by infected birds. Birds can contaminate an area/environment through their droppings or mucus.
How is H7N9 spread?
Most of the human cases of H7N9 in China had exposure to poultry. Some limited spread from person-to-person has likely taken place in China; however, ongoing (sustained) transmission has not occurred.
What are the symptoms of H7N9 infection?
The symptoms of H7N9 infection generally start with high fever and cough. Many of the cases have progressed to very serious illness, including severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), septic shock, and multi-organ failure leading to death.
Is there a vaccine for H7N9 infection?
Currently, there is no vaccine for H7N9 infection. Scientists have taken early steps to identify a strain of the virus that could be used to make a vaccine if it is needed. The seasonal flu vaccine will not protect against H7N9. Seasonal flu vaccines protect against seasonal influenza viruses. CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a seasonal flu vaccine each year.
What is the treatment for H7N9 infection?
The same influenza antiviral drugs that are used to treat seasonal flu are used to treat H7N9 infection. However, there is some evidence that the H7N9 viruses might be less susceptible (sensitive) to the currently recommended drugs (oseltamivir and zanamivir).
How can I reduce the likelihood of getting H7N9 infection?