An overview of the characteristics of the novel avian influenza A H7N9 virus in humans

Kei Xian Tan, Sabrina A. Jacob, Kok Gan Chan, Learn Han Lee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
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The novel avian influenza A H7N9 virus which caused the first human infection in Shanghai, China; was reported on the 31st of March 2013 before spreading rapidly to other Chinese provinces and municipal cities. This is the first time the low pathogenic avian influenza A virus has caused human infections and deaths; with cases of severe respiratory disease with pneumonia being reported. There were 440 confirmed cases with 122 fatalities by 16 May 2014; with a fatality risk of ~28%. The median age of patients was 61 years with a male-to-female ratio of 2.4:1. The main source of infection was identified as exposure to poultry and there is so far no definitive evidence of sustained person-to-person transmission. The neuraminidase inhibitors, namely oseltamivir, zanamivir, and peramivir; have shown good efficacy in the management of the novel H7N9 virus. Treatment is recommended for all hospitalized patients, and for confirmed and probable outpatient cases; and should ideally be initiated within 48 h of the onset of illness for the best outcome. Phylogenetic analysis found that the novel H7N9 virus is avian in origin and evolved from multiple reassortments of at least four origins. Indeed the novel H7N9 virus acquired human adaptation via mutations in its eight RNA gene segments. Enhanced surveillance and effective global control are essential to prevent pandemic outbreaks of the novel H7N9 virus.

Original languageEnglish
Article number140
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberMAR
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2015


  • avian influenza A
  • H7N9
  • virus


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