The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a global alert and response update on a new strain of novel avian influenza A (H7N9) virus identified by Chinese health officials, who have apparently confirmed 38 cases resulting in 10 fatalities. According to WHO, which has not yet recommended any trade or travel restrictions, there is no evidence to date of “of ongoing humanto- human transmission,” although the agency is working with Chinese authorities to monitor those with close contacts to infected patients and to determine potential disease reservoirs in domestic and wild poultry.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reportedly activated its Emergency Operations Center in Atlanta, Georgia, in response to the outbreak, in addition to publishing interim guidance for U.S. clinicians, public health departments and health care workers outlining virus testing and control methods. “Ongoing (sustained) person-to-person spread is necessary for a pandemic to occur,” states a recent CDC press release. “This is a ‘novel’ (non-human) virus and therefore has the potential to cause a pandemic if it were to change to become easily and sustainably spread from person-to-person . . . CDC takes routine preparedness actions whenever a new virus with pandemic potential is identified, including developing a candidate vaccine virus to make a vaccine if it were to be needed.” See CIDRAP News, April 9, 2013; CDC Press Release, April 11, 2013.