Virologists at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) are ready with antigens and primers to detect H7N9 cases if any surface in human population in India. The novel avian-origin influenza A strain has been infecting humans in China,with five deaths reported so far,raising concern among experts as the exact animal source of the new infection and its mode of transmission among host animals is not yet clear. No case has been reported outside China.
It seems to spread silently among host animals,suspected chickens or ducks,without seeming to affect them,and this,experts say,is the most dangerous aspect of the new disease as detection in host animals would be a problem. This is unlike bird flu virus (H5N1) that causes fatalities in birds making detection and the extent of spread clear.
Of the 11 people confirmed H7N9 infected in China,five have died since the first case,detected in late March,died on April 4. A 4-year-old child who was tested positive for H7N9 was declared cured a couple of days ago.
The symptoms to watch out for are severe pneumonia with fever,cough and shortness of breath.
They say another fact that is a matter of concern is its wide geographical spread in China. H7N9 has been detected in four Chinese provinces spread far,Jiangsu,Zhejiang,Anhui and the business capital Shanghai,which shows it has been spreading silently.
When contacted,Dr M S Chadda,Deputy Director of NIV,said they are prepared to detect cases if the virus surfaces in humans. Experts said the true extent of the threat is unclear.
India had reported outbreaks of the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 in poultry in Maharashtra,Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh in 2006,Manipur in 2007,West Bengal in 2008 and Tripura in 2008. H5N1 or bird flu has infected 622 people since 2003 killing 371 of them. It is highly fatal in birds,making it easier to identify than the new strain.