On both sides of the Pacific, health authorities are growing concerned about the evolution of two strains of influenza.
In the United States, the resurgence of H1N1 as the dominant strain this winter, has sent the CDC back to the drawing board. The CDC has also urged that people vaccinate themselves against the strain, since already a number of people have died in Texas of the swine flu H1N1. The widespread distribution of the flu in 35 states and the recent deaths have cause concern because it could signify a change in the virus.
In China, instead, the threat comes from the novel strain H7N9, which surfaced last spring in mainland China and is an avian flu strain.
In the past week, the number of case for the novel strain has increased rapidly, sending a wave of panic in Hong Kong, and the mainland.
Although H7N9 is a new strain that was believed to have low potential for human to human infection when it was identified last spring, it seems that, this winter, the pathogen has made significant gains in being able to infect people.
Just this week, seven new cases have been recorded.
What is different however, this time, is that the cases do not seem to derive from direct contact with poultry, even though the WHO asserts that human to human transmission is still not evident.
In the Taiwan newspaper, Focus Taiwan, however, there is a sense that Chinese authorities might not be forthcoming on the possible mutations in the strain.
According to the article of January 11, 2014, the pathogen has mutated significantly and has gained the ability to pass from human to human.
The research team that has made these discoveries has also published a study in September that identified mutations in four key amino acids sites of the strain that demonstrate a new ability to bind to specific cells in the respiratory tract of human beings.
Sources: Focus Taiwan/ 1.11.14 WHO/ 1.13.14