H7N9 Symptoms Testing: CDC Releases New Bird Flu Assessment Guidelines
Testing symptoms for H7N9, also known as the avian influenza virus or bird flu virus, should only be conducted if patients meet certain requirements, according to new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
H7N9 is currently confined to China, where 131 people have caught the bird flu. There have been 31 deaths resulting from H7N9.
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Since early April, when the bird flu emerged in China, the CDC has recommended that all people should be tested if they have flu-like symptoms and meet exposure criteria -- that is, they have been to areas with known H7N9 outbreaks, or have come in contact with someone who has H7N9.
In a June 7 Health Alert Network update, the CDC now says that patients who meet the exposure criteria, plus have a case of influenza serious enough to require hospitalization, should be tested. The change comes after officials have come to realize that H7N9 cases are almost always severe, so it's not likely that someone with mild influenza symptoms has the bird flu.
The Health Alert Network update also says that practitioners should only report only confirmed and probable cases of H7N9 to the CDC.
Health officials are not sure exactly how H7N9 spreads. The CDC says that "evidence suggests that most people have been infected with the virus after having contact with infected poultry or contaminated environments." Health officials haven't seen evidence so far that H7N9 spreads from person to person, but there is a fear that this could be the case.
"The first human case of H7N9 outside mainland China is perhaps only a matter of time," said Peter Horby in a column in the journal Nature. "Then the public-health and clinical community will need to assess, carefully and quickly, whether it represents a single imported case of animal-to-human transmission, an animal epidemic that has spread abroad, or the international spread of a partially or fully human-adapted virus."
The CDC guidance for investigating H7N9 follows. It comes from the document "Interim Guidance on Case Definitions to be Used for Novel Influenza A (H7N9) Case Investigations in the United States."
Illness compatible with influenza in a patient meeting any of the exposure criteria below and for whom laboratory confirmation is not known or pending or for whom test results do not provide a sufficient level of detail to confirm avian influenza A (H7N9) virus infection.
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