Worrying news from China that the new bird flu strain H7N9 has managed to pass from human to human. A 32 year old woman, who had had no contact with birds, died after nursing her father, who was also killed by the disease.
So far there have been 133 cases and 43 deaths from the strain. Most victims had either had close contact with live poultry or had visited poultry markets. Researchers said there was no evidence of the virus being able to spread easily from person to person, but that there was ‘potential for pandemic spread’.
Dr James Rudge, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said limited transmission of this kind was not surprising and that it had also been seen with the H5N1 strain which has killed more than 370 people since 2003. There are worries that the world is due, indeed overdue, for a new pandemic.
The most devastating flu epidemic the world has ever seen came in 1918 when up to 70 million people died, while the ‘Asian flu’ outbreak of 1957 killed up to 4 million. (See also my blogs of 5 Feb; 14, 30 April; 13 May; 6, 11, July; 24 Oct, 13 Dec, 2009 and April 15, 2013.)