Report: New bird flu deadlier than swine flu
June 23rd, 2013
06:35 PM ET

Report: New bird flu deadlier than swine flu

The H7N9 bird flu virus, first identified in humans earlier this year, kills about 36% of infected people admitted to hospitals in China, according to a new report published Sunday in the British medical journal The Lancet.

Far more difficult to estimate, according to the study, is how many die in the general population after becoming infected, as the most severe cases are also more likely to lead to hospitalization.

That estimate – a 0.16% to 2.8% overall fatality rate for those showing symptoms of infection – suggests that the H7N9 virus is less deadly than the H5N1 Bird Flu first appearing in 2003, and more deadly than the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic.

Others infected with the virus may never show symptoms.

“There’s almost always a large portion of asymptomatic (flu virus) cases, and cases where infected people don’t seek treatment,” says Dr. Gabriel Leung, one of the study's authors and head of the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health.

The rate of infections seen earlier this year has nearly stopped entirely at 132 total confirmed cases, almost all in China and one in Taiwan, according to the World Health Organization and the study. Thirty-seven people have died. Only one case has appeared since May 8 - a 6-year-old boy in Beijing.

Still, public health officials warn that number could significantly rise again during the autumn flu season.

In contrast to H1N1 swine flu, which is now part of the seasonal flu vaccine, H7N9 and H5N1 flu viruses most commonly occur after exposure to infected poultry, and do not appear to spread easily from person-to-person.

In April, the World Health Organization warned the H7N9 virus was "one of the most lethal" that doctors and medical investigators had faced in recent years.

“The preemptive closure of live poultry markets made a difference,” says Leung. “They were closed within weeks of the initial cluster of cases in and around the Yangtze delta. If those live poultry markets are reopened, we may expect to see cases again.”

Symptoms of H7N9 flu infection start with high fever and cough, and in severe cases progress to pneumonia and multi-organ failure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The risk to people in the United States is low, and no cases have been detected in the country, the CDC says.

New bird flu strain: 5 things to know 

soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. dupper

    We are dooooooooooooooommmmmmmmed!! But seriously none of these viruses or the MERS-Cov are spreading at a rate to cause a pandemic anytime soon.

    June 24, 2013 at 14:56 | Report abuse | Reply
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    June 24, 2013 at 18:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. sam

    The chinese eat dogs, cats, and everything insight. Serious disease always broke out in china.

    June 24, 2013 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bill

      Except when it doesn't. Cholera came from India (check your map), AIDS came from Africa (again, check your map), Typhus came from Italy (Hint – it's not China), Black Death – Central Asia – so you might be able to claim this one.Spanish Flu – the most lethal of all pandemics may have originated in Haskell County, Kansas or in France – they haven't been able to isolate it, but the first official cases were in Kansas. So, do us all a favor and don't include information you're not an actual expert on.

      June 24, 2013 at 22:14 | Report abuse |
  4. Helena

    Asia with the highest population growth brings the scariest diseases, whites are Doomed!

    June 25, 2013 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Kornatoski

    Can I still eat a McChicken sandwich???

    June 25, 2013 at 10:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Adam

      You shouldn't... not necessarily because the new bird-flu, McDonalds is just freaking gross.

      June 26, 2013 at 09:28 | Report abuse |
  6. Cindy

    Hear we go again. I guess it is time to give up eating meat.

    June 26, 2013 at 12:57 | Report abuse | Reply
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