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CDC airs worries over new avian flu

April 12, 2013

WASHINGTON — U.S. health officials are voicing concern about the emerging H7N9 influenza virus in China as a report in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) described the severe illnesses that killed three of the first patients identified, according to a press release.

The article offered a sobering list of complications in the three patients, including respiratory failure, septic shock, multiple organ failure and more, the release stated.

According to the release, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) experts are suggesting that the development of a vaccine for H7N9 may be a tough challenge, because vaccines previously developed for H7 subtype viruses as part of pandemic preparedness efforts induced poor immune responses in humans.

"Our information is incomplete, but our understanding is that at least one patient has recovered and been discharged, and the good news is that it appears that from the illness onset data provided, our Chinese colleagues are identifying cases earlier and getting them treated earlier," said Nancy Cox, PhD, director of the CDC's Influenza Division.

“One worry is that genetic sequences of the viruses show they may have adapted to infect mammals more easily than other avian flu viruses can. This virus doesn't cause notable illness among birds and poultry, which increases the potential for wide geographic spread in bird populations," Cox added.

Click here to read the release in its entirety.