Over the next few weeks you are more than likely going to be hearing a lot more about H7N9, the virus that is now recognized to be associated with the death of several individuals in China.
What is interesting about H7N9, a form of bird flu is that, until now, it has previously not infected humans, and has been limited to avian populations. However, H7N9 is a similar virus to H5N1, which is commonly called “bird flu” and is responsible for over 300 human deaths.
H5N1 virus (By Cynthia Goldsmith/ Jackie Katz [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
This represents the first reported cases of H7N9 jumping into humans. Not many details are yet available on this virus, or how the virus has made the jump to humans. Health officials are watching this one closely, since any new form of influenza has the potential to cause problems in humans. It is not known at this time what the source is of the H7N9 virus, or whether the virus has the ability to be transmitted between humans.
Since the topic does represent a great chance to get current events into your discussion of viruses, or as an in-class topic for a “flipped” class, we have compiled a list of a few quick resources on influenza viruses and H7N9:
To better explain how influenza viruses, such as H5N1 and H7N9, are named
- Ricochet Science article “Naming an Influenza Virus“
Videos to explain the viral life cycle
- Ricochet Science video “The Viral Life Cycle”
Media resources on H7N9:
- NY Times: Information on H7N9 deaths in China
- NewsNow: continuously updated news feed on bird flu
- CDC information on influenza subtypes