Chinese health authorities issued a press release on Monday, June 12, reporting 37 human fatalities (out of 72 confirmed cases) from the H7N9 avian flu across the country in May 2017. The number represented an increase in fatal cases compared to April 2017, when 24 deaths were reported.
China is working to assess the prevalence of a new strain of H7N9 bird flu after global health authorities said the strain found in birds had evolved into a more severe form.
H7N9 is a bird flu strain first reported to have infected humans in March 2013 in China. It is most likely to spread in winter and spring. The H7N9 strain is highly pathogenic in humans, causing severe respiratory disease, but is not virulent among birds, making it nearly impossible for farmers to detect. Symptoms usually start with high fever and cough and can be followed by severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), septic shock, and multi-organ failure leading to death. There is currently no vaccine.
Individuals experiencing the aforementioned symptoms are advised to seek medical attention. As most cases can be traced to direct or close contact with infected or dead poultry, all those present in China are advised to avoid poultry farms, contact with animals in live food markets, and surfaces that appear contaminated with byproducts from poultry or other animals. Practice good personal hygiene (wash hands frequently, etc.) and ensure that all poultry or poultry products are properly prepared and thoroughly cooked prior to consumption.