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CDC urges doctors to watch for avian flu after deaths in China

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted May 6, 2013

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Physicians should consider influenza A(H7N9) virus, also known as avian flu, in patients who have acute febrile respiratory illness and who recently traveled to a country where the virus has been detected in humans or animals, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That recommendation was issued April 19 as part of the CDC’s interim physician guidance on using antiviral agents for treating H7N9 among humans.

The CDC said cases of the virus have not been reported outside of mainland China. But news reports indicate that at least one case of H7N9 was identified in Taiwan as of April 25.

Due to the severity of illness associated with H7N9, the CDC encourages physicians to provide antiviral treatment with a neuraminidase inhibitor to all patients with confirmed or potential cases of the virus. Such treatment should be started even if more than 48 hours have passed since the onset of illness, the CDC said (link).

The outbreak, which began in China in February, has led to at least 82 confirmed human cases of H7N9 infection in that country and 17 deaths, according to preliminary data posted online April 24 in The New England Journal of Medicine (link).

Sixty of the infected individuals remain critically ill, and four people who had clinically mild cases have been discharged from the hospital, the report said.

Many of those infected reported having contact with poultry, according to the CDC. Scientists have not yet identified any human-to-human transmission of the H7N9 virus.

An investigation by Chinese authorities into the outbreak is ongoing, the CDC said.

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