US issues advisory to doctors to help identify bird flu
CHICAGO - The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday it has issued an advisory to U.S. doctors that may help them identify any cases of the new bird flu virus known as H7N9, but stressed that no cases have been found in the United States.
So far, the new strain of bird flu that has infected 16 people in China and killed six has not been shown to be capable of transmission from person to person, CDC's Dr. Thomas Frieden told reporters on a teleconference.
Frieden said the CDC has not issued any formal travel advisories and said there are no steps U.S. citizens need to be taking to protect themselves.
Of the 16 confirmed cases so far, all appear to be isolated, with no links between the flu strains that would suggest they were being passed from person to person, Frieden said.
"Today, we issued a health advisory to inform clinicians and public health specialists throughout the U.S. of what is happening and what they should do if they have a suspected case in a traveler who is returning from China in terms of testing, infection control and care," he said.
Frieden said Chinese authorities are studying two cases to determine if there was human to human transmission, but he stressed there have been "no human to human transmissions as of now."
Frieden said the CDC has developed a test that could be used on travelers returning from China to screen for the new bird flu strain and said the United States is developing diagnostic test kits that it will distribute to China and other countries to ensure there is rapid diagnosis of the flu, which could help contain the spread of the virus if it does learn to easily pass from person to person.
The CDC said it is working with vaccine makers to develop a candidate virus that could be used for a vaccine should it be needed.
Because of recent advances in U.S. vaccine manufacturing capabilities, including the recent approval of newer cell-based manufacturing, Frieden said development of a bird flu vaccine should not disrupt supply of seasonal flu vaccine in the United States.