Scientists investigate new strain of flu


Scientists in Wellington are testing for a new strain of the influenza virus which has caused six deaths in China.

The World Health Organisation National Influenza Centre (WHO NIC) in Wellington is monitoring the spread of A (H7N9) and planning New Zealand's response.

``There is no sign of the strain in New Zealand, and following the work around the 2009 pandemic, New Zealand also has a very robust response plan in place for any such event in the future,'' said director of WHO NIC Dr Sue Huang.

``Being part of the WHO network, we are in contact with our international colleagues to learn more about this new strain as well as providing precautionary monitoring for any sign of the virus here,'' she said.

``As a precaution this laboratory will be investigating samples from any patients with Severe Acute Respiratory Infection that are positive for certain strands of influenza A.''

No vaccine is currently available for A (H7N9).

Latest updates show 21 cases of the virus have been laboratory confirmed in China, including six deaths, 12 severe cases and three mild cases.

The cases in China are the first known cases of A (H7N9) infecting humans. It normally circulates among wild birds and poultry.

There is no evidence of ongoing human-to-human transmission, the WHO said on Saturday (April 6).

It said more than 530 close contacts of the confirmed cases in China were being closely monitored.

``The Chinese government is actively investigating this event and has heightened disease surveillance. Retrospective testing of recently reported cases with severe respiratory infection may uncover additional cases that were previously unrecognised.''

The WHO said it did not advise special screening for A (H7N9) at border points of entry, and it did not recommend any travel or trade restrictions be applied.


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