Human to Human Transmission of H7N9

In the past we have reported on the measures taken to manage the outbreak and develop treatments for the H7N9 virus, which originated in China. One aspect that was particularly reassuring was the fact that the virus appeared to be transmitted from poultry to humans, but that there had been no transmissions between humans. However, recently a case study exploring the first human-to-human transmission of the virus came out. Here we consider its findings.

The individual who had initially contained the virus was a 62-year-old man that often visited the local poultry market. He became symptomatic in March and presented with fever and shortness of breath. He was admitted for intensive care, but died of organ failure in May. Before his admission, his 32-year-old daughter had looked after him. When she contracted the virus, it developed rapidly and she died at the end of April.

The researchers found that both the father and daughter had nearly genetically identical virus, which was indicative of person-to-person transmission. This was further corroborated by the fact that the daughter did not have any other viruses that could have been seen similar to the H7N9. In addition to that, 43 other individuals who had been in contact with the family were tested and none of those individuals had gotten the virus. This of course, led some researchers to suggest that there could have been a genetic vulnerability worth exploring.

Although the study does not offer the most uplifting reading experience, the case itself is not very alarming to public health. Instead, the findings are suggesting that the transmission was very limited - which is a rather common occurrence when it comes to viruses.