H7N9 Bird Flu Is Mutating, Sparks Pandemic Concerns

The H7N9 bird flu strain is mutating and is now reportedly being spread from chicken flocks to duck flocks. Agriculture researchers reportedly feel that the H7N9 mutation poses a “bigger threat” to “humanity” than the former strain. Recent avian flu concerns regarding chicken, duck, and turkey flocks have left some citizens with pandemic concerns.

The H7N9 bird flu strain first appeared in China in 2013. Researchers at the University of Hong Kong have stated that unless significant and drastic measures are taken to eradicate the bird flu strain, the virus will mutate further.

“H7N9 viruses have spread from eastern to southern China and become persistent in chickens,” researchers stated during a Journal Nature report.

Last January, a petition to ban Chinese chicken was widely circulated and garnered a multitude of signatures. The petition was created amid mounting concerns that Chinese chicken would make its way to American supermarket shelves and decrease food safety. Although the USDA did not ban chicken from China from being exported to the United States, the Philippines did ban Chinese chicken due to fears that the “highly pathogenic” H7N9 bird flu would be present in poultry arriving in the country.

The ban in the Philippines was also urged because food safety failures had occurred multiple times. The food security incidents involving Chinese exports reportedly included “dangerous levels” of mercury being found in baby formula, rat meat sold as lamb, and the discovery of thousands of diseased pig carcasses in the Huangpu River.

The H7N9 bird flu is also reportedly exchanging genes with other types of flu viruses, giving birth to new strains of each virus and increasing the likelihood of a pandemic. The closure of live poultry markets on a permanent basis in China has been recommended. Putting an end to “central slaughtering” facilities and the prevention of the inter-regional transport of poultry are also among the food safety and bird flu recommendations by health and agriculture experts. Some Americans have questioned the need for chicken imports from China because the United States has also been a leader in the agriculture industry and home to tens of thousands of acres of farm land.

“It is reasonable to expect the H7N9 and other viruses to persist and cause a substantial number of severe human infections,” the Chinese researchers added in the Journal Nature report.

There are now reportedly 48 different subtypes of the flu virus. H7N- bird flu has killed 227 people since 2013 and infected 622 others.

The H5N2 bird flu strain was among the first to cause increased concerns for health and agriculture experts. The flu strain has killed 429 people in 16 countries since 2003 and infected almost 800 more. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, the H5N2 strain of the bird flu has already killed 15,000 turkeys in Minnesota alone. The most recent pandemic caused by a flu strain was the H1N1 swine flu outbreak in 2009.

What do you think about the H7N9 bird flu mutation and the possibility of an avian flu pandemic hitting the United States?