CDC: 1 in 5 Death Rate for New Chinese Bird Flu

Fred Lucas | May 9, 2013 | 4:24pm EDT
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(AP Photo)

( – About one in five people who have contracted a new strain of bird flu in China (H7N9) have died, according to a report released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

So far, the virus has mostly struck older people, a majority of whom were male, and the evidence shows that transmission of the virus occurs largely from birds to people--although researchers suspect there have been a few cases of human-to-human transmission within families.

“As of April 29, 2013, China had reported 126 confirmed H7N9 infections in humans, among whom 24 (19%) died,” said the May 10 edition of the CDC’s “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report."

H7N9 is also referred to as Avian Influenza and is spread mostly through chickens, ducks, and pigeons, according to the report.

“The median age of patients with confirmed infection is 61 years" and "58 (71%) of the cases are among males,” the report said.  “Only four cases have been confirmed among children."

"Most of the confirmed cases involved severe respiratory illness," reported the CDC. "Of 82 confirmed cases for which data were available as of April 17, 81 (99%) required hospitalization. Among those patients hospitalized, 17 (21%) died of ARDS [Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome] or multi-organ failure, 60 (74%) remained hospitalized, and only four (5%) had been discharged.”

The report said the CDC is coordinating with state and local health departments, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture to closely monitor animals and the potential spread, but has found no evidence of the Chinese bird flu in the United States.

H7N9 virus as seen through an electron microscope. (AP)

Meanwhile, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture reported that 68,060 bird and environmental specimens were tested and 46 – 0.07 percent – tested positive for H7N9.

From April 5 through April 29, state and local health departments from 18 states reported evaluating 37 travelers from China to the United States and found no cases of infection.

“Although no evidence of sustained (ongoing) human-to-human spread of this virus has been identified; small family clusters have occurred where human-to-human spread cannot be conclusively ruled out,” the report says.

The report states that almost all cases are presumed to have come from exposure to infected birds.

“Among 82 confirmed cases for which exposure information is available, 63 (77%) involved reported exposure to live animals, primarily chickens (76%) and ducks (20%),” the CDC report says. “However, at least three family clusters of two or three confirmed cases have been reported where limited human-to-human transmission might have occurred.”

Testing for the virus is available for U.S. public health laboratories, the U.S. Department of Defense laboratories, and World Health Organization-recognized National Influenza Centers.

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