New Bird Flu, are you at risk?

A new strain of bird flu has broken out in China H7N9. Is the new bird flu strain likely to reach New Zealand or is this just another health scare? The Chinese H7N9 outbreak started just a few weeks ago, and so far authorities have reported upwards of 82 individuals infected with this strain of flu, with most of the cases originating in the Shanghai area. The most recent outbreak is the first time that the particular H7N9 strain has been seen in humans, joining a number of other flu variants that have crossed the species boundary, as you can see in this infographic from

So far, no concrete evidence of human-to-human transmission of H7N9 has been found. That said, there are a few other options – as seen in the infographic, this particular flu can infect pigs, and may have also mutated to infect other animals with which humans might have contact. Alternatively, the virus may be able to survive outside the bodies of birds, which could result in contraction of the strain even without physically touching or being close to a bird.

If H7N9 turns out to be transmissible by human-to-human contact, there is the risk, as with any new flu strain, that it could turn into a pandemic. As of yet, H7N9 infections have stayed within China, – however, this could change at any time, so vigilance and flu-prevention techniques are always good practice.

For those traveling to China, avoiding poultry markets or any other areas where you might come into contact with birds is extremely wise, as are frequent hand washing and covering the face when coughing or sneezing.

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