This photo shows chicken that were dyed blue and will be destroyed in New Taipei, yesterday. New Taipei City government yesterday conducted an inspection in traditional markets and seized 150 chickens from some vendors that did not have certificates to show that the poultry is from a government-certified slaughterhouses. (CNA)
May 18, 2013, 12:00 am
TAIPEI, Taiwan — The only H7N9 patient so far in Taiwan was carrying two strains of the same virus, with one being drug resistant and the other not, making it tricky to treat to him, doctors said yesterday.
Huang Li-min, a doctor from National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH), explained that it was possible the avian flu virus was not drug resistant when the patient was first infected, but mutated later to become resistant to Tamiflu.
With Tamiflu failing, NTUH later switched to another intravenous drug, Huang said. Because of the presence of the two strains simultaneously, it was difficult for doctors to determine how much the virus’ drug resistance had undermined the therapy.
The New Bird Flu: How Dangerous Is Avian Flu H7N9?
Until a few days ago, most of us had never heard of influenza A (H7N9), the new bird flu virus that’s suddenly killing people in China. Then on April 1st the death reports started to come in, and all of a sudden health experts began to sound awfully nervous.
That’s because although the virus has infected a very small number of people, it’s killed or critically sickened a high proportion of them.
The toll is rising daily, with new cases and deaths reported on the World Health Organization’s Disease Outbreak News site. As of today, 18 cases were laboratory confirmed, but of those infected, six have died and four are in critical condition.
I don’t have to tell you that a flu that kills or critically sickens more than half of those who contract it must be taken very seriously.
A Genetic Threat
The virulence of the H7N9 virus is not the only reason health officials around the world are scurrying to figure out the scope of the danger it poses. Genetic evaluation of the H7N9 virus shows it has the ability to mutate readily. Here’s how the World Health Organization (WHO) put it in a statement released yesterday: “analysis of the genes of these viruses suggests that although they have evolved from avian (bird) viruses, they show signs of adaptation to growth in mammalian species.”
Should We Worry About Catching the H7N9 Avian Flu Here in the U.S.?
Right now, you’d be borrowing trouble. All the cases have been in China, either in Shanghai or the nearby provinces of Jiangsu and Anhui. And so far, H7N9 has not been found to be transmissable from human to human. All those who’ve contracted it have had contact with poultry. Both pigeons and chickens have tested positive for the virus.
As Forbes.com’s Russell Flannery reported yesterday, all poultry markets in Shanghai were closed yesterday as Chinese officials try to stop the spread of infection. Poultry dealers also began killing chickens from markets where birds had tested positive for the virus.
However, that could change. According to the CDC, however, this type of virus has “the potential to become a pandemic if it changed to become easily and sustainably spread from person to person.” Yesterday the CDC issued an official public health advisory on H7N9 under the auspices of emergency preparedness and response.
The CDC advises clinicians to be on the lookout for H7N9 in “patients with respiratory illness and an appropriate travel or exposure history.” In other words, if you come down with severe flu symptoms and you’ve recently been to China, let your doctor know right away.
There’s also the issue of the virus travelling with people who are already infected. Yesterday, six possible cases of H7N9 were reported in Taiwan. All were tested; four were found not to be H7N9 and two have yet to be confirmed.
- Taiwan: H7N9 case has drug- and non-resistant strains (crofsblogs.typepad.com)
- Evolving: Deadly H7N9 virus develops drug-resistance to Tamiflu (thedailysheeple.com)
- H7N9: A moving target (crofsblogs.typepad.com)
- Tamiflu fails to work in an H7N9 case (crofsblogs.typepad.com)
- Tamiflu-Resistance Gene in H7N9 Bird Flu Spurs Drug Tests (bloomberg.com)
- US invokes emergency act to keep H7N9 flu at bay (familysurvivalprotocol.com)
- H7N9 wild virus strain from China arrives in Taiwan (wantchinatimes.com)
- Tamiflu-Resistence Gene Found In H7N9 Bird Flu (amresolution.com)
- Efficacy of Influenza Vaccination and Tamiflu Treatment – Comparative Studies with Eurasian Swine Influenza Viruses in Pigs (plosone.org)
- Taiwanese H7N9 patient making good recovery: hospital (crofsblogs.typepad.com)