The World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced that influenza A (H7N9), a type of flu usually seen in birds, has been identified in a number of people in China. Cases have been confirmed in the following provinces: Shanghai, Jiangsu, Anhui, and Zhejiang. As of last Friday, there were 21 confirmed cases in China and seven people had died.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the first time H7N9 influenza has been seen in people. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Infection with the new virus has resulted in severe respiratory illness and, in some cases, death. Chinese health authorities are conducting investigations to learn the source of the infections with this virus and to find other cases.

Although the source for the infections has not yet been identified, Chinese health authorities are beginning to cull birds in live markets as a precautionary step.

CDC is following this situation closely and coordinating with domestic and international partners in a number of areas. More information will be posted as it becomes available.

There is no recommendation against travel to China at this time.

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent H7N9. The CDC website states: “At this time, we do not know the source of this virus.  CDC is repeating its standard advice to travelers and Americans living in China to follow good hand hygiene and food safety practices and to avoid contact with animals.”

It continues: “Although the majority of novel influenza A (H7N9) cases have resulted in severe respiratory illness in adults, infection with this virus may cause mild illness in some and may cause illness in children as well. Influenza diagnostic testing in patients with respiratory illness for whom an etiology has not been confirmed may identify human cases of avian influenza A virus infection or new cases of variant influenza in the United States. Patients with novel influenza A (H7N9) virus infections should have a positive test result for influenza. For more information, see the Health Alert Notice  issued April 5, 2013.