For the second day in a row Guangdong Province is reporting a fresh H7N9 infection, this time in Dongguan, about 50 miles from Hong Kong. Details provided, as you will see, are scant.
2015-01-06 16:22:40 Ministry of Health and Family Planning | Health and Family Planning Commission of Guangdong Province January 6 briefing, Dongguan City, reported one case of H7N9 flu confirmed cases.
Daimou patient, male, 36 years old, currently living Town, Dongguan City. January 6 diagnosed with H7N9 flu, the current patient in critical condition, in Dongguan City, admitted to inpatient hospitals
Hong Kong, which as already seen one imported case from neighboring Guangdong Province this winter, watches these cases carefully, and released the following statement on their CHP website.
The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) is today (January 6) closely monitoring an additional human case of avian influenza A(H7N9) in Dongguan notified by the Health and Family Planning Commission of Guangdong Province (GDHFPC), and again urged the public to maintain strict personal, food and environmental hygiene both locally and during travel.
According to the GDHFPC, the male patient, aged 36, was hospitalised for isolation and management and was in critical condition.
To date, 457 human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) have been reported by the Mainland health authorities, respectively in Zhejiang (141 cases), Guangdong (114 cases), Jiangsu (59 cases), Shanghai (42 cases), Hunan (24 cases), Fujian (23 cases), Anhui (17 cases), Jiangxi (eight cases), Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (eight cases), Beijing (five cases), Shandong (five cases), Henan (four cases), Guangxi (three cases), Jilin (two cases), Guizhou (one case) and Hebei (one case).
While we count and catalog these cases assiduously, we do so with the full knowledge that surveillance and reporting are far from perfect, and we are probably only picking up a subset of the actual number of human infections.
As we discussed on Sunday (see Egypt: The Bird Flu Beat Goes On . . .), many researchers believe the real incidence of H7N9 (or H5N1) infection to be much higher than the `official’ numbers suggest.
But the point really isn’t to keep absolute track of how many cases there are, or have been. It is to keep watch to see if these cases suddenly increase, their geographic range expands, or if the behavior of the virus changes.
All potential warning signs that the virus may be becoming more of a threat.
For now, H7N9 and H5N1 both appear to only sporadically jump from birds to humans, and human-to-human transmission remains a rare event. They remain primarily a threat to people who have direct contact with live birds, and then, only in regions (like China and Egypt) where they are endemic.
That said, we are moving into the `high season’ for avian flu, and should not be surprised if we see hundreds of cases reported over the next few months, particularly out of China. Stay tuned.