The H7N9 avian influenza virus, as the name suggests, is common among avian creatures but is also known to have infected humans. The virus was described by Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general for health, security and the environment of the World Health Organization as “an unusually dangerous virus for humans.” Now scientists fear possible pandemic influenza in Japan because of its people’s lack of immunity from the virus.
A group of researchers from the University of Tokyo through the Institute of Medical Science made a study of the strain. Blood samples taken from 500 subjects from 2010 until 2012 were found to have no H7N9 antibodies. “Only a limited number of people fell seriously ill during the worldwide outbreak of the H1N1 virus in 2009 because adults were immune to a certain level of that strain of influenza virus,” research leader Yoshihiro Kawaoka said. The virology professor at the university also admitted, “Nobody is immune to H7N9, which means it could have serious ramifications in humans.”
The virus originated from China and has also reached the island of Taiwan, where many tourists visiting Japan come from. Japan was also warned of H7N9-infected chickens that may have been served in the country’s fast food industry. “Infections to humans could occur again in autumn or later, so there is a need to watch the situation carefully,” Kawaoka reminded. The team of Kawaoka published their findings in the British journal Nature on Thursday. A lab test on mice was also performed to identify which drug is effective against the virus. One of the drugs used has not yet been approved for human administration, but has yielded better results.
[via Asahi Shimbun]