The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released the results of its preliminary investigation into a new strain of avian influenza A (H7N9), which WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Security Keiji Fukuda reportedly described as “one of the most lethal influenza viruses we have seen so far.” First identified in China and linked to live poultry markets, the disease has sickened more than 100 people to date and caused at least 20 deaths, according to the latest WHO reports. Additional details about the global response to H7N9 appear in Issue 479 of this Update.
Speaking on behalf of the research team assessing the outbreak, Fukuda told reporters that WHO experts will continue to work closely with Chinese health officials to monitor the virus’s spread and to determine whether human-tohuman transmission has occurred. To this end, the assistant director-general has urged continued surveillance in both human and animal populations throughout China as well as international cooperation with the ongoing investigation. “The risks of such an outbreak situation are shared in a globalized world where we are all interconnected. This underlines the importance of the example set by China in following the International Health Regulations,” said Fukuda, praising the work of authorities in tracking the new virus. “The response reflects earlier and strong investments in health and preparedness made by China.” See WHO Press Release and Opening Statement by Dr. Keiji Fukuda, April 24, 2013.