In light of the resurgence of Avian Influenza A in China, the Ministry of Health is urging local medical practitioners to refer any cases of severe respiratory illnesses to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
“The main clinical presentation among most patients is respiratory disease resulting in severe pneumonia. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath,” ministry officials stated in a recent bulletin.
As of April 13, this year, there were 49 confirmed cases and 11 deaths from human infection with the avian influenza A (H7N9) virus in China. The cases have been reported from three provinces: Anhui, Jiangsu and Zhejiang, and two municipalities, Beijing and Shanghai. All locations are in Eastern and Northern China. There is currently no evidence of human-to-human transmission.
The ministry has recommended that all of the following cases be referred to the QEH where nasal pharyngeal swabs will be taken: a severe acute respiratory infection case of unknown etiology that is detected in a health facility; the detection of a SARI cluster with unexplained etiology; or an unusual or unexpected SARI case of unknown etiology in the community or in a health care worker.
All specimens that cannot be subtyped for influenza A and those with inconclusive or unexpected subtyping results at the Ladymeade Reference Unit laboratory will be forwarded immediately to the Caribbean Public Health Agency’s laboratory.
The Ministry of Health has also recommended that the following information be documented in the records of patients: Clinical signs and symptoms; date of onset of symptoms; underlying clinical conditions; history of influenza vaccination; history of treatment with oseltamivir or zanamivir; contact with animals and; history of travel.
Information is still limited about the full spectrum of diseases that this infection might cause patients, who so far, have required intensive care and mechanical ventilation.