Since the first human case of avian influenza A(H7N9) four years ago in Shanghai, the closest “official” tally of human cases now stand at 1160, according to the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection (CHP) as of Feb. 13.

H7N9 avian influenza/ Cynthia S. Goldsmith and Thomas Rowe-CDC
H7N9 avian influenza/ Cynthia S. Goldsmith and Thomas Rowe-CDC

In fact, since November 2016, at least 362 human cases have been reported in this most current “wave” of the disease.

According to a report today in the South China Morning Post, the Beijing Food and Drug Administration has approved human trials of four vaccines for the H7N9 bird flu virus. The trials would comprise several phases. Scientists began testing potential H7N9 vaccines on animals soon after the first human case was reported in March 2013.

Researchers were initially hopeful that a human vaccine would be available “soon” but success has been hampered by technical, business and regulatory hurdles.

Hong Kong health authorities issued a letter to physicians this week concerning awareness of the avian flu virus and case criteria.

In this regard, we would like to urge you to pay special attention to patients who presented with fever or influenza-like illness (ILI). Travel history and relevant exposure history during travel should be obtained from them. Please note that the history of possible exposure to poultry or contaminated environments may not be voluntarily told by the patients in the beginning. If patients report seeing any live poultry during their travel in the Mainland, detailed information on possible exposure to environments contaminated by poultry should be solicited from them. Any patients with acute respiratory illness or pneumonia, and with at-risk exposure (including live poultry – 3 – workers, history of visiting market with live poultry, contact with poultry, etc.) in affected areas within the incubation period (i.e. 10 days before onset of symptoms) should be managed as suspected cases and immediately reported to the Central Notification Office of the Centre for Health Protection (CHP)

Lastly, Avian Flu Diary reports on the discovery of virus mutation affecting the pathogenicity of the virus.