After saying that they couldn’t find any evidence of the deadly H7N9 bird flu strain that appeared in Shanghai earlier this month being transmitted human-to-human, Chinese health officials are changing their tune.
They are now saying that human-to-human transmission of the virus, which has caused 82 reported infections, is at least possible.
"Human-to-human transmission, in theory, is possible, but is highly sporadic," said Feng Zijian, the director of the health emergency center of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. "Further investigations are still under way to figure out whether the family cluster involved human-to-human transmission.”
The "family cluster" he referenced is a case in which two sons possibly contracted the deadly virus from their 87-year-old father. He was reportedly the first case of China's H7N9 virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that there are other humans who have gotten the disease without any contact with poultry, according to The Atlantic. WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said, "It might be because of dust at the wet markets, it could be another animal source beside poultry, it could also be human-to-human transmission."
Chinese health officials did say that if H729 is being transmitted human-to-human, it is only happening on a small scale. A report from China Daily reads: “Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist with China CDC, said people infected with H7N9 can transmit the virus within a period of time, in which they could possibly infect others."
Feng said that “people don't need to panic, because such limited human-to-human transmission won't prompt a pandemic."
Seventeen of the 82 infected people have died.