Wildlife Health Specialist Group


Commissioned by the IUCN Species Survival Commission to serve as a first response for wildlife health concerns across the world.

H7N9 Update

H7N9 Update

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H7N9 Update as of January 2, 2014
The novel strain of avian influenza (H7N9) infecting birds and humans in China has been found in over 140 people in at least twelve provincial-level areas in the country and has caused more than 40 human deaths so far. At this time, the virus does not appear to be highly pathogenic in birds, hence, making it more challenging to monitor and control. It has been found in domestic chickens, domestic ducks, domestic pigeons and domestic quail and has led to the culling of poultry as a precautionary measure. To date, this particular strain of H7N9 has not been found in any wild bird populations (though one report in a free-ranging urban pigeon or dove has been made). Unrelated strains H7N9 have been found around the world for many years.

Initial analyses showed that the internal genes of this particular strain were most similar to AI viruses (N9H2) circulating in domestic poultry in the region over the last year, but recent analysis also suggests close similarity with an influenza virus found in a wild finch. (It must be noted that gene similarity analyses are limited to genetic sequences previously found and made available, thus other closely related viruses could be circulating in domestic or wild birds.) Other genetic components appear to be related to a number of different domestic and wild bird segments found over previous years

The continuing emergence of these new strains in this region is concerning and most probably relates to the recent rapid expansion in poultry industry and changing agroecology. Risks to people, livelihoods and biodiversity conservation are significant and need quantifying.

The IUCN SSC Wildlife Health Specialist Group encourages any collaboration to assist in understanding the origins, distribution, and potential spread of this new strain of influenza. Precautions to prevent the accidental spread of this new strain from domestic poultry to wild birds or the environment need to be implemented urgently, and attention to the safety of emerging livestock production systems in relationship to pathogen evolution is needed.

For additional information, please see http://www.offlu.net/fileadmin/home/en/publications/pdf/OFFLUsurveillanc....
Page 19 contains information on surveillance for avian influenza virus in wild birds.

Photo credit: EcoHealth Alliance (A. Chmura)