December 17, 2017

WHO Updates H7N9 Outbreak in China

The World Health Organization updated the status of the avian influenza A (H7N9) virus in China yesterday. The National Health and Family Planning Commission of China notified WHO of an additional fifteen lab-confirmed cases of the virus. Three additional deaths were reported.

To date, there are 102 lab confirmed cases, including 20 deaths. Sixty-seven patients are hospitalized and seven have been discharged. There is no evidence of human-to-human transmission so far, even though 40% of the patients had no contact with live poultry. Wild bird sales have been suspended in the country, and a ban on live poultry trading where the illnesses have occurred is in place.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations released an FAQ on the illness last week. They recommend that good farm hygiene practices should be followed, including reporting any cases of sick or dead birds to veterinarians.

That FAQ also says that “influenza viruses are not transmitted thorugh consumption of well-cooked food. Influenza viruses are inactivated by normal temperatures used for cooking (so that food reaches 70 degrees C in all parts “piping” hot), it is safe to eat properly prepared and cooked meat, including from poultry and game birds.” [Editor’s note: Unfortunately, 70 degrees C is not hot enough; chicken should be cooked to 165 degrees F, which is 74 degrees C. “Piping hot” is not a good term either; temperatures should be checked with a food thermometer.] They also state that egg and egg-containing dishes should be fully cooked and no one should eat raw chicken.

WHO is planning to send a team of investigators to areas affected by the virus to provide recommendations on the prevention and control of the disease. Most of the illnesses are in eastern China. Four people in Beijing in the northern part of the country and three in Henan Province in central China have been infected.

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