H7N9 Flu Virus Less Deadly Than Originally Theorized, Researchers Say

“The H7N9 strain of bird flu that has killed 38 people in China since March is less deadly than had been supposed, according to the most detailed analysis of the outbreak so far,” conducted by researchers at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Hong Kong and published in The Lancet on Sunday, Bloomberg reports. The study “found only one human case of the H7N9 bird flu strain has been identified since early May,” according to Reuters, which adds the “deadly strain of bird flu that emerged in China in February but seems to have petered out in recent months could reappear later this year when the warm season comes to an end — and could spread internationally, scientists said” (Kelland, 6/24). The researchers “found that H7N9 proved fatal in 36 percent of patients admitted to hospital in mainland China,” Agence France-Presse writes, adding, “This was a lower fatality rate than H5N1-type bird flu which emerged in 2003 and killed about 60 percent of hospitalized patients” (6/24). “Still, H7N9 is more lethal than the swine flu that caused a 2009 global epidemic,” which “had a death rate of less than one percent,” according to the Associated Press (6/23). “In contrast to H1N1 swine flu, which is now part of the seasonal flu vaccine, H7N9 and H5N1 flu viruses most commonly occur after exposure to infected poultry, and do not appear to spread easily from person-to-person,” CNN’s “The Chart” blog notes (6/23).

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