Yesterday I mentioned unsubstantiated media reports of an H7N9 case in Anhui Province. Today we have an ever-so-brief announcement by the Health and Family Planning Commission of Anhui Province reporting 5 recent cases and 2 deaths.
Report of five cases of H7N9 cases in our province
Anhui Provincial Health and Family Planning Commission December 21 briefing, since December 8, the province reported a total of five cases of H7N9 confirmed cases, respectively, in Hefei 3 cases (1 case of remote onset), 1 death; Xuancheng City in 1 case, death; Lu'an 1 case.
Cities and counties have been cases where the epidemic prevention and control and medical treatment carried out in accordance with the relevant plan.
Anhui Province only reported a total of 6 cases during the previous year's epidemic wave of H7N9, so 5 cases in the past couple weeks suggests the virus may be getting off to an aggressive start.
Three of the cases are listed as from Hefei, the capital and largest city of Anhui Province, which has a population of nearly 8 million. There is no information provided as to whether any of these cases are epidemiologically linked.
Up until two winters ago, Chinese authorities had been very open and timely in their reporting of H7N9 cases. Daily updates were not uncommon, and generally contained both demographic and epidemiological details on the cases.
For reasons that have never been explained, real-time reporting all but ceased in February of 2015, and since then most of the reporting has been both cryptic and belated (by weeks or even months).
H7N9 can produce a wide spectrum of symptoms, ranging from mild or asymptomatic, to severe and/or life threatening. Severe cases - those that require hospitalization - are more likely to be picked up by surveillance than milder cases.
We've seen estimates (see Lancet: Clinical Severity Of Human H7N9 Infection) that the actual number of H7N9 cases in China may be many times greater than reported.
While the virus continues to evolve, so far we've not seen any signs that it has learned how to spread efficiently from human to human. Last week's MMWR: Assessing The 4th Epidemic Wave Of H7N9 In China, however, reminded us that `using the Influenza Risk Assessment Tool (10), CDC found that A(H7N9) virus has the highest potential pandemic risk of any novel influenza A viruses that have been assessed.'
So we watch it, and a short list of other up-and-coming novel viruses, very closely.