Statement on H7N9 Avian Influenza in China: April 15th 2013

Statement on H7N9 Avian Influenza in China: April 15th 2013

The following statement was shared with IUCN/SSC/WHSG members earlier today. Please feel free to use or distribute if helpful.

H7N9 Update as of April 10, 2013

The novel strain of avian influenza (H7N9) infecting birds and humans in China has been found in over 20 people in four provinces of the country and has caused 8 human deaths so far. So far, the virus does not appear to be highly pathogenic in birds, hence, making it more challenging to monitor and control. It has been found in domestic chickens, domestic ducks, domestic pigeons and domestic quail and has led to the culling of poultry as a precautionary measure. To date, H7N9 has not been found in any wild birds. Currently, it appears that the internal genes of this strain are most similar to AI virus circulating in domestic poultry, and as well, the N9 segment appears most closely related to virus found in domestic poultry. Only the H7 segment appears to be closely related to virus found in wild waterfowl. The continuing emergence of these new strains in this region is concerning and most probably relates to the recent rapid expansion in poultry industry and changing agroecology. Risks to people, livelihoods and biodiversity conservation are significant and need quantifying.

The IUCN SSC Wildlife Health Specialist Group encourages any collaboration to assist in understanding the origins, distribution, and potential spread of this new strain of influenza. Precautions to prevent the accidental spread of this new strain from domestic poultry to wild birds or the environment need to be implemented urgently, and attention to the safety of emerging livestock production systems in relationship to pathogen evolution is needed.

Billy Karesh and Richard Kock, Co-Chairs
Catherine Machalaba and Lisa Starr, Program Officers
IUCN Wildlife Health Specialist Group
Twitter: @IUCNWildHealth
Facebook: IUCN SSC Wildlife Health Specialist Group

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