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H7N9 ia a virus worth worrying about

By P. Horby, A.J. Tatem, Z. Huang, M. Gilbert, T.P. Robinson, G.R.W. Wint, F.G. Hayden, N. van Vinh Chau, N. Shindo, G. Carson, Z. Gao, Y. Hongjie, S.I. Hay, J. Farrar

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Once again an animal influenza A virus has crossed the species barrier to cause an appreciable number of human cases. Now, two months after the first known human infections with the H7N9 virus, the question is: which of the paths set by previous emerging influenza viruses will it follow? One predecessor, H5N1, generated alarm owing to its high pathogenicity in humans. It has proved to be a tenacious adversary, remaining endemic in poultry across large parts of Asia, but thankfully it has not adapted to humans and person-to-person transmission remains rare. A second, H7N7, caused a number of mostly mild human infections in the Netherlands in 2003, with some evidence of limited person-to-person spread, but extensive poultry culling controlled it. A third, the H1N1 swine influenza virus that emerged in 2009, successfully adapted to humans and caused a pandemic. So will H7N9 prove to be controllable? Will it remain entrenched in animals? Or will it, like the H1N1 virus, stably adapt to humans and cause a pandemic? The fine line between foresight and alarmism can only be drawn in retrospect. Nevertheless, my colleagues and I consider that H7N9 has many of the traits that make a new flu virus worrisome.


Angel Tobey

Purdue University

Date 2013
Publication Title Nature
Volume 496
Pages 2
Publisher Macmillan Publishers
URL http://cgspace.cgiar.org/handle/10568/33541
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal diseases
  2. Animal welfare
  3. Diseases
  4. human-animal contact
  5. Human diseases and injuries
  6. Human influenza
  7. Risk Assessment
  8. Spreading
  9. transmission
  10. Virus diseases