Bad news: H7N9 bird flu has mutated and now spreads person-to-person
News out of China today is not only that a 5th person there has died from the new H7N9 bird flu (and the number of deaths and cases is always higher than China officially reports) but that at least one new patient has contracted the flu not from contact with an infected chicken but solely via contact with one of the other now-dead infected persons. In other words, the virus has mutated so that it can pass person-to-person. This seems to indicate that the virus now has the ability to spread between humans directly, making it much deadlier, especially because humans don’t have a natural immunity to this strain of virus. Reports are that it is a far deadlier strain than SARS. If it can jump person to person it has the real possibility of turning into a pandemic. The news is already sending ripples across the business world (see Business World for example).
This flu has manifested in early spring (last month the first case was reported) and viruses with these particular characteristics generally do mutate and come in waves, each wave more deadly than the last. If we look back to the 1918 influenza pandemic we can now see that the first wave actually began in 1916 and infected only a couple hundred people (with deadly effect), mutated and hit with a somewhat wider effect in 1917 and then again in the spring of 1918 and then mutated further into a much deadlier strain in the summer of 1918 and the fall of 1918. It isn’t conclusive but the ‘sleepy sickness’ (leaving victims in a statue-like condition, speechless and motionless) and that permanently incapacitated tens of thousands in the years following (through 1926) may have been the final wave of the ‘Spanish flu’ as nearly all the victims had been in extremely close proximity to family members who suffered the most severe bout in the fall of 1918 (so not only sleepy but sleeper). Definitely something to watch.