Health authorities on alert over new bird flu strains

Australian health authorities are on alert over the spread of new strains of bird flu in China.

Health authorities on alert over new bird flu strains

Health authorities on alert over new bird flu strains

H7N9 is a flu currently spread only from poultry to humans with 300 cases in China so far.

While it is not a large number of infections, the alarming statistic is the death rate of one in five.

Australian Medical Association President Dr Steve Hambleton said: “It if mutates and it’s able to actually go from person to person, it’s been causing serious harm.”

It comes as China confirms the first human death from yet another bird flu - called H10N8.

Chinese New Year means a lot of travel between Australian anbd China and general practitioners have been alerted that with the increase in incoming passengers and confirmed H7N9 cases, there is a possibility of it presenting in Australia.

“If you are travelling to China sensible advice is to avoid those live bird markets,” Dr Jeremy McAnulty from NSW Health warned.

Health experts working on plans to fight future pandemics were told last year of the ‘potential for unexpected increase in demand for drugs associated with disease outbreaks - such as H7N9".

They were alerted to ‘Australia's reliance on drugs from overseas’ and the growing number of ‘protein-based drugs with a shorter shelf-life’, which makes stock-piling harder, but still essential.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has reassured the public there is enough medicine available.

“We protect our national security by having the appropriate reserves of vital medicines,” he said.

While these flu strains in China are keeping world health officials on their toes, Australian authorities are preparing for the regular flu season which last year saw thousands of Australians in hospital and dozens of deaths.

This season's vaccine will be ready in the coming weeks.

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