In late March 2013, China notified the World Health Organization (WHO), that it had identified a new flu virus in patients who had become ill. The new virus, avian influenza A (H7N9) virus, had not been found in humans until this time. This has resulted in severe illness for more than 128 patients who contracted the virus. There have been 24 deaths.
The virus has been found in chickens, ducks and captive-bred pigeons at live markets near where cases have been reported. Although it may have evolved in birds, it may infect mammals more easily than other avian viruses. The source for human transmission is not yet known. Chinese authorities are conducting animal and human health investigations to learn more about this situation.
At this time, there is no evidence of sustained, ongoing human-to-human transmission, which would be necessary to cause wide-spread illness. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Infection with the new virus has resulted in severe respiratory illness and, in some cases, death.
At the current time, there are no travel restrictions or point of entry screening recommendations for travelers to and from China. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued recommendations for China travel which can be found at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/watch/avian-flu-h7n9.htm.
Penn State Infectious Hazards Planning Group, which coordinates the University's response to potential and real public health threats, advises anyone in the Penn State community who is travelling to or from the affected regions of China to check the CDC and World Health Organization websites frequently to stay well-informed about this evolving situation.
For additional information on the avian influenza A (H7N9) virus, go online to World Health Organization: www.who.int/influenza/human_animal_interface/faq_H7N9/en/ or