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Flu mutating 8 times faster than any flu virus known: The new bird flu could be mutating up to eight times faster than an average flu virus around a protein that binds it to humans, a team of research scientists in Shenzhen says. Dr .He Jiankui, an associate professor at South University of Science and Technology of China, said yesterday that the authorities should be alarmed by the results of their research and step up monitoring and control efforts to prevent a possible pandemic. With genetic code of the virus obtained from mainland authorities, the team scrutinized haemagglutinin, a protein that plays a crucial rule in the process of infection. The protein binds the virus to an animal cell, such as respiratory cells in humans, and bores a hole in the cell’s membrane to allow entry by the virus. The researchers found dramatic mutation of haemagglutinin in one of the four flu strains released for study by the central government. Nine of the protein’s 560 amino acids had changed. In a typical flu virus, only one or two amino acids could change in such a short period of time, He said. “It happened in just one or two weeks. The speed may not have caught up with the HIV, but it’s quite unusual for a flu.” The fast mutation makes the virus’ evolutionary development very hard to predict
H7N9, however, seems to have an R0 of zero, at least between humans. Scientists call this “stuttering transmission,” in which an animal virus infects a person, but further human-to-human transmission does not occur. One case, of a Chinese son contracting the disease while caring for his flu-stricken eighty-seven-year-old father, seems to be an exception. As Michael O’Leary, a W.H.O. representative in China, explained, “It’s not unexpected that if a person is sick and maybe receiving very close care, from a very close contact, that once in a while, [the disease] will pass to the other person.” The C.D.C.’s Frieden concurred: “At this point, it looks like direct contact with live poultry in China is the main risk factor.”
If there is one thing that is worrying scientists about H7N9, it’s that there is probably little preëxisting immunity to it. We’ve never had this variant before, so our bodies don’t know how to fight it. The Chinese government has made available the full genetic sequence for H7N9, and it looks as though some of H7N9’s genes are adapted to mammals, which suggests that the virus may have spent some time living and mutating in pigs before moving back to birds. (Since influenza viruses mutate pretty easily, certain genetic and antigenic properties from last year’s flu can be distinct from this year’s flu, which is why it makes sense to get a flu shot every year.) Michael O’Leary, of the W.H.O., explained that right now, H7N9 is an animal virus that occasionally infects humans. But, he said, the virus could change to make human-to-human transmission possible—though he added that there’s no evidence that it is happening so far.
Originally posted by madmac5150
Why is no one asking why these flu strains keep popping up in China. The Chinese government would NEVER test bio-weapons on its own people, would they?
An annual two million cases of dengue fever were reported over the last two years by 100 countries, with between 5,000 to 6,000 of them resulting in death.
The H7N9 bird flu strain is on the rise, having already killed 22 people in China while infecting 108. That’s a kill rate of 20% — among the highest ever witnessed in a bird flu strain. It has also spread outside of China, infecting a Taiwan national who brought the infection back to Taiwan and now rests in critical condition in a Taiwan hospital.
Health authorities in the region haven’t yet said this strain of bird flu has achieved human-to-human transmission, but it seems increasingly likely that such a trait either already exists or will develop very quickly. That’s because the virus has been spreading among chickens without any symptoms showing. It doesn’t make the chickens sick, in other words, allowing chickens to be “stealth carriers” of a virus that can easily leap to unsuspecting humans.