China confirms world’s first human case of H7N4 bird flu during major travelling season

China yesterday confirmed the first human case of H7N4 bird flu, a new type of avian influenza virus.

The strain was identified in a 68-year-old woman from a city of five million residents in eastern China, according to China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission.  

Bird flu is an infectious disease of birds caused by a variant of the standard influenza A virus.

A new type of bird flu H7N4 has been found in a woman in China, said the country's health authority. Pictured, an employee wearing a protection suit sprays disinfectant on chickens at a poultry market in Hefei on April 5, 2013

A new type of bird flu H7N4 has been found in a woman in China, said the country's health authority. Pictured, an employee wearing a protection suit sprays disinfectant on chickens at a poultry market in Hefei on April 5, 2013

A new type of bird flu H7N4 has been found in a woman in China, said the country’s health authority. Pictured, an employee wearing a protection suit sprays disinfectant on chickens at a poultry market in Hefei on April 5, 2013

China is prone to outbreaks of the avian flu virus among humans because people buy and sell live poultry in the market. Pictured, a worker unloads ducks from a truck in a market in Hefei

China is prone to outbreaks of the avian flu virus among humans because people buy and sell live poultry in the market. Pictured, a worker unloads ducks from a truck in a market in Hefei

China is prone to outbreaks of the avian flu virus among humans because people buy and sell live poultry in the market. Pictured, a worker unloads ducks from a truck in a market in Hefei

Bird flu is unique in that it can be transmitted directly from birds to humans. 

There are 15 different strains of known bird flu virus. Three particular strains have caused serious concerns so far: H5N1, H7N9, H5N6. 

According to the statement from the Chinese authority, the patient, known by the surname Tang, lives in the city of Changzhou in Jiangsu Province. She was admitted to hospital after falling ill on December 25.

The statement said the patient had had contact with live poultry before getting sick, and that she was discharged from the hospital on January 22 after ‘recovering from her illness’.

There are 15 different strains of known bird flu virus. Three particular strains have caused serious concerns so far: H5N1, H7N9, H5N6. Pictured is a computer artwork of the H5N1 virus

There are 15 different strains of known bird flu virus. Three particular strains have caused serious concerns so far: H5N1, H7N9, H5N6. Pictured is a computer artwork of the H5N1 virus

There are 15 different strains of known bird flu virus. Three particular strains have caused serious concerns so far: H5N1, H7N9, H5N6. Pictured is a computer artwork of the H5N1 virus

The H7N4 bird flu patient has been found in a 68-year-old woman from Changzhou city (pictured), which is situated in eastern China and has about five million residents 

The H7N4 bird flu patient has been found in a 68-year-old woman from Changzhou city (pictured), which is situated in eastern China and has about five million residents 

The H7N4 bird flu patient has been found in a 68-year-old woman from Changzhou city (pictured), which is situated in eastern China and has about five million residents 

Doctors had diagnosed the patient’s condition to be severe pneumonia and treated her accordingly, but follow-up examination by Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the woman had been infected with the H7N4 bird flu virus.

WHAT IS BIRD FLU?

Also known as avian influenza, bird flu is an infectious disease of birds caused by a variant of the standard influenza A virus. 

Bird flu is unique in that it can be transmitted directly from birds to humans. 

There are 15 different strains of the virus. It is the H5N1 strain which is infecting humans and causing high death rates. 

Humans can catch bird flu directly through close contact with live infected birds and those who work with infected chickens are most at risk. 

The authority said 28 people who had had close contact with the patient were under observation and have been discharged. No symptoms were found in them.

The case was confirmed amid a major travelling season in China. Millions of people are travelling by bus, train and air to go home for the Lunar New Year, which falls on February 16.  

The world’s first human cases of bird flu were reported in Hong Kong in 1997, when six people were killed by the H5N1 strain of the virus. 

Hundreds more have died worldwide in subsequent outbreaks, especially of highly-virulent strains like H7N9.

Cases of person-to-person bird flue transmission are rare, but have occurred in the past. The first suspected case of person-to-person transmission of H5N1 bird flu happened in Thailand in 2004 when a mother died after caring for her sick daughter, according to nature.com 

A man stands among caged chickens at a poultry wholesale market March 29, 2007 in Nanjing of Jiangsu Province, China. It's common to see live animals on sale in the market in China

A man stands among caged chickens at a poultry wholesale market March 29, 2007 in Nanjing of Jiangsu Province, China. It's common to see live animals on sale in the market in China

A man stands among caged chickens at a poultry wholesale market March 29, 2007 in Nanjing of Jiangsu Province, China. It’s common to see live animals on sale in the market in China

Hong Kong is warning travellers to avoid any contact with poultry in China after a woman was confirmed with the first human case of the H7N4 strain of bird flu

Hong Kong is warning travellers to avoid any contact with poultry in China after a woman was confirmed with the first human case of the H7N4 strain of bird flu

Hong Kong is warning travellers to avoid any contact with poultry in China after a woman was confirmed with the first human case of the H7N4 strain of bird flu

China is prone to outbreaks of avian flu among humans because people buy and sell live poultry at farmers’ markets across the nation. 

Hong Kong, which saw the first ever outbreak of human cases of bird flu, has issued a health warning for those travelling to the mainland.

The semi-autonomous southern Chinese city is a high-risk area for the spread of communicable diseases because of its high population density and busy regional and international transport links. 

‘Travellers to the mainland or other affected areas must avoid visiting wet markets, live poultry markets or farms,’ the Centre for Health Protection warned after the H7N4 strain was reported by China.

Authorities in China and Hong Kong did not provide further details on the H7N4 strain found in the woman, such as its virulence. An outbreak of this type of bird flu hit chickens in New South Wales, Australia, in 1997, according to World Health Organization records. 

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