KANSAS CITY, Kan., April 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling the new strain of H7H9 influenza virus "lethal" and The University of Kansas Hospital is preparing now for any potential cases. Although the H7N9 flu strain – or "bird flu" – has not resulted in any confirmed cases in the U.S., authorities want the public to be aware and vigilant about this new strain of flu that is spreading in China and now Taiwan that poses a pandemic threat. Lee Norman, MD, chief medical officer for The University of Kansas Hospital, was briefed on the virus during a recent regional Homeland Security committee meeting.
"This is a brand new strain of flu," said Dr. Lee Norman. "This is not the H5N1 bird flu that we've known about for 15 or 16 years, nor is it associated with the SARS epidemic. This is brand new, just recently genetically typed out for the first time and there's a whole lot we don't know about it."
Dr. Norman says it is most likely an airborne transmitted disease, but researchers don't fully yet know how it spreads. In a video interview, Dr. Norman answers several questions that will help the public understand the virus and be more vigilant, including:
- Fatality Rates – currently fatality rates are at about 20 percent, which makes this a very dangerous virus
- Most Impacted – fatalities are following the same general patterns as other flu virus outbreaks, which means that older and younger populations, as well as those with immune issues are more at risk.
- Vaccines – while there are no vaccines at this time, the CDC is working on investigating this further. Vaccines for other flu strains do not seem to prevent this particular strain.
- Medical Response – Staff at The University of Kansas Hospital has been briefed on the H7H9 symptoms (which are similar to other flu strains), to be on the lookout for a patient's previous travel to affected areas, and to follow the CDC guidelines for anti-viral treatment
Dr. Norman advises people traveling to and from China who experience flu-like symptoms should seek immediate healthcare for observation, testing and perhaps isolation.
"We are past the peak seasonal flu and so a person showing symptoms who is associated with travel should drive a higher suspicion," Dr. Norman said. The video interview is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gM6YZVe-NFA.
SOURCE The University of Kansas Hospital