ABC reported that over one third of patients that were infected with a new strain of bird flu have died. They were admitted to the hospital earlier in the year, and a new study from Chinese researchers is indicating more and more revelations.
The new H7N9 bird flu broke out in China in late March. Since then, the newly identified strain has infected more than 130 people, killing 37. The World Health Organization had described H7N9 as one of the most lethal influenza viruses ever recorded. WHO even stated that the virus has appeared to spread much faster than the last bird flu strain, H5N1. Fortunately, this threat is being contained well enough to avoid unleashing a pandemic.
Chinese scientists estimated the cumulative death rate to be 36%. First, the team had to make several adjustments, on account of missing data. The outbreak was contained after China closed a majority of its live animal markets. Until then, scientists were assuming the virus was infecting people through direct exposure to live birds.
Nevertheless, the death rate has qualified the new strain as less deadly than H5N1, but still more contagious. H5N1 has a mortality rate of 70%. H7N9 is still more lethal than the strain of swine flu that caused the global epidemic in 2009. Despite the variation in infected populations, the death rate for H1N1 was less than one percent.
Two papers were published Monday in the journal, Lancet, each indicating similar rates for the H7N9 strain. Given the rigorous nationwide efforts, numbers of H7N9 cases have dithered. The U.S. National Institutes of Health wrote a commentary to accompany the papers released on the virus. China is keen on staying mindful of the threat. Technically, it still persists, and scientists are predicting that the strain could return in the winter. Colder weather is when flu viruses are usually most active.
The assessment mirrors what the World Health Organization has assessed about the virus. As with any flu virus, a risk of it adapting over time is always inherent. If we have learned anything about the plagues of history, it is that nothing is ever completely certain. WHO publicly warned of the virus’s potential to adapt earlier this month.