Girl CoughingDespite the Chinese government claiming it was contained, avian flu (strain H7N9) has continued to spread, with over 20 dead and over a hundred infected. And some are estimating that the number infected could actually be double, as those with mild bird flu symptoms may not be seeing doctors or having doctors find their illness noteworthy.

What’s scary is that is might actually be spreading person-to-person. Many of those infected have not had contact with poultry, which is the usual transmission route of bird flu. Testing has already turned up a 4 year old who was asymptomatic. If H7N9 is capable of human-to-human transmission (and given how far and fast it’s spreading, there’s a strong chance it is) we need to be prepared for a worldwide pandemic.

Experts have been waiting for an avian flu pandemic for years. It’s been almost 100 years since the last major flu pandemic, and several lines of research last summer found that we were close to a mutation in any number of strains that would contribute to the right conditions.

H7N9 bird flu symptoms target the elderly more than other strains. Paired with the fact carriers have already been found, the next step in the possible 2013 Avian Flu Pandemic is for H7N9 to be found in another country.

Flu symptoms are generally the same for every strain: coughing, fever, malaise… but since some people may be carrying without symptoms, you should always take precautions anyway. Cough into your elbow, even if it’s just a tickle, wash your hands frequently, cook food to “safe” temperatures (not pink), and rest as soon as you feel sick. One person who only feels a little bad can easily pass the disease to someone who will get symptoms that are ten times worse, so be careful out there!

What do you think of the possibility of a bird flu outbreak this year?


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