Epidemiological and risk analysis of the H7N9 subtype influenza outbreak in China at its early stage
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Dozens of human cases infected with H7N9 subtype avian influenza virus (AIV) have been confirmed in China since March, 2013. Distribution data of sexes, ages, professions and regions of the cases were analyzed in this report. The results showed that the elderly cases, especially the male elderly, were significantly more than expected, which is different from human cases of H5N1 avian influenza and human cases of the pandemic H1N1 influenza. The outbreak was rated as a Grade III (severe) outbreak, and it would evolve into a Grade IV (very severe) outbreak soon, using a method reported previously. The H7N9 AIV will probably circulate in humans, birds and pigs for years. Moreover, with the driving force of natural selection, the virus will probably evolve into highly pathogenic AIV in birds, and into a deadly pandemic influenza virus in humans. Therefore, the H7N9 outbreak has been assumed severe, and it is likely to become very or extremely severe in the future, highlighting the emergent need of forceful scientific measures to eliminate any infected animal flocks. We also described two possible mild scenarios of the future evolution of the outbreak.