Emergencies preparedness, response

Human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus – China

Disease outbreak news
19 October 2015

On 14 October 2015, the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) of China notified WHO of 2 additional laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A (H7N9) virus.

Details of the cases

The cases are a 55-year-old female and a 53-year-old male, with onset dates of 18 September and 21 September, respectively. Both cases had exposure to poultry and live poultry markets. No epidemiological link between the cases was reported. The cases were reported from 2 municipalities (Huzhou city and Jinhua city) in Zhejiang province.

Public health response

The Chinese Government has taken the following surveillance and control measures:

  • strengthen outbreak surveillance and situation analysis;
  • reinforce all efforts on medical treatment; and
  • conduct risk communication with the public and dissemination of information.

WHO is assessing the epidemiological situation and conducting further risk assessment based on the latest information. Based on the information received thus far, the overall public health risk from avian influenza A(H7N9) viruses has not changed.

As of June 2015, FAO reported continued AI A(H7N9) virus detections in the animal population in multiple provinces in China, indicating that the virus persists in the poultry population. If the pattern of human cases follows the trends seen in previous years, the human case number may rise over the coming months. Further sporadic cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus are expected in affected and possibly neighboring areas. Should human cases from affected areas travel internationally, their infection may be detected in another country during or after arrival. If this were to occur, community level spread is considered unlikely as the virus has not demonstrated the ability to transmit easily among humans.

WHO advice

WHO advises that travellers to countries with known outbreaks of avian influenza should avoid poultry farms, or contact with animals in live bird markets, or entering areas where poultry may be slaughtered, or contact with any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with faeces from poultry or other animals. Travellers should also wash their hands often with soap and water. Travellers should follow good food safety and good food hygiene practices.

WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event, nor does it currently recommend any travel or trade restrictions. As always, a diagnosis of infection with an avian influenza virus should be considered in individuals who develop severe acute respiratory symptoms while travelling or soon after returning from an area where avian influenza is a concern.

WHO encourages countries to continue strengthening influenza surveillance, including surveillance for severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) and to carefully review any unusual patterns, in order to ensure reporting of human infections under the IHR (2005), and continue national health preparedness actions.