Despite scary headlines, experts have said that people don’t need to be alarmed about the potential for bird flu, although the potential is still there. A new study that was published last week have found that the H7N9 bird flu has been found to pass by person to person contact. This is the first time it has happened, and it’s been the source of frightening headlines. However, what people aren’t seeing as clearly is that the authors of the study have made it a point to make sure that people understand that they shouldn’t become too alarmed, but it is a possibility.
First noticed at the beginning of April in China, the new strain of “bird flu,” H7N9 has caused 134 illnesses, and 43 fatalities. It causes respiratory issues and severe cases of pneumonia.
In order to establish whether the virus had managed to spread between people, the study, done by the British Medical Journal, looked at a man who was 60 years old. He was in Wuzi, China, which is close to Shanghai, and had contracted the bird flu after he had been shopping at live poultry markets. His daughter, who is 32, had not been exposed to poultry at all, but also contracted the virus after she had been taking care of her father while he was in the hospital.
Researchers analyzed the strains of the virus in both father and daughter and discovered that they were almost genetically identical, which offered further proof that H7N9 had been passed between them.
Essentially, a virus that is potentially deadly appears to have mutated so it can spread among people, but it may not be as terrible as the headlines have said. When the whole study is looked into, it appears that the daughter spent six to eight hours each day with her father while he was sick. She also had to clean up after him when he would cough up mucus, and had no protective mask or other equipment. Researchers went so far as to test all of the 43 other people that had come into close contact with the man at least once daily, and none of them became ill.
The reason wasn’t just because of being exceedingly careful and knowing safe medical procedures because not all of them used top of the line protective measures. The son in law of the man also provided care at the man’s bedside, sans protection and managed not to contract the virus. This has some wondering if having some type of genetic connection to a person that has the virus might have something to do with the way the virus spreads.
In other words, it appears that while it is possible to contract H7N9, researchers still don’t know exactly how it is spread, and most likely believe that it takes more than just breathing the same air as a person that is ill with the virus. So, while it’s necessary to be aware of the threat of the virus’ new ability to pass from person to person, it’s not anything that people should be alarmed about just now.