CDC Issues Bird Flu Warning Following Reports of Human Infections in China

By on 6:43 AM

With Chinese health authorities confirming more than 100 new human cases of avian influenza, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a travel alert for visitors to China.

As of January 16, 120 new human cases of avian influenza A (H7N9) have been confirmed since September 2016. The H7N9 virus found in birds does not normally infect humans. However, in the spring of 2013, the first human cases of H7N9 virus infection were reported in China. Since then, more than 900 laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with H7N9 virus have been reported. About one-third of cases have resulted in death.

While there are no recommendations against travel to China, CDC is advising people traveling to the country to avoid contact with poultry, birds and their droppings and to avoid eating undercooked poultry. CDC notes that evidence suggests that most people have been infected with the virus after having contact with infected poultry or contaminated environments. Infected birds appearing healthy may still be able to transmit the virus to people.

No ongoing person-to-person spread of this virus has been found, although the CDC states that it is possible and even likely that there will be some limited person-to-person spread with this virus. There is no vaccine available to prevent H7N9 infection at this time.

Hygiene guidance includes the following
  • Wash hands often.
  • If soap and water is not available, clean hands with hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Do not touch one's eyes, nose or mouth. If it is necessary to touch the face, ensure hands are clean.
  • Cover one's mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Symptoms generally start with high fever and cough. Many cases progressed to very serious illness, including severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, septic shock and multi-organ failure leading to death.

No cases of human or bird infection with this H7N9 virus have been detected in the United States, and the risk to people in the United States is considered low.

Phenelle Segal, RN, CIC, FAPIC

Phenelle Segal, RN, CIC, FAPIC, is the founder and president of Infection Control Consulting Services LLC (ICCS). Phenelle has more than 30 years' experience providing customized comprehensive infection control and prevention services to healthcare facilities nationwide. Her services focus on assisting hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, dental office and oral surgery practices, doctor's offices, nursing homes and other organizations with implementing and maintaining an infection control program that: complies with The Joint Commission, AAAHC, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) and other regulatory agencies; respond to situations of noncompliance; and improve the processes for reducing risk.