H7N9 bird flu cannot be spread from human to human, HKU public health expert says

H7N9 bird flu cannot be spread from human to human, HKU public health expert says

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Avoid live poultry markets, says public health expert Ben Cowling.
Photo: David Wong/SCMP

There is no evidence so far of H7N9 bird flu being being spread from humans to humans, a public health expert says. 

Professor Ben Cowling, Professor and Division Head of the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at The University of Hong Kong's School of Public Health says this outbreak of avian influenza is another wave of outbreaks of the virus. "Outbreaks generally appear in southern China in the winter. This outbreak is expected to be similar to previous ones."


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To pass from human to human would require mutation though a process known as assortment, which Cowling notes has not happened and there is no evidence of change, "But we never know about the future, which is why we always watch these viruses in case there is one [new strain] which can spread [from humans to humans]." he says.

While H7N9 has a mortality rate of 40-50%, Cowling comments that is among lab confirmed cases. "There are possibly some milder cases in the general population that never get detected." he says. "So there may be confimation bias there. You have no reason to worry if you are relatively healthy,"

He suggests avoiding live poultry markets and places with a high concentration of birds as they are places of major risk.

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