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BACKGROUND: A total of 453 laboratory-confirmed cases infected with avian influenza A (H7N9) virus (including 175 deaths) have been reported till October 2,2014, of which 30.68% (139/453) of the cases were identified from Zhejiang Province. We describe the largest reported cluster of virologically confirmed H7N9 cases, comprised by a fatal Index case and two mild secondary cases. METHODS: A retrospective investigation was conducted in January of 2014. Three confirmed cases, their close contacts, and relevant environments samples were tested by real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), viral culture, and sequencing. Serum samples were tested by haemagglutination inhibition (HI) assay. RESULTS: The Index case, a 49-year-old farmer with type II diabetes, who lived with his daughter (Case 2, aged 24) and wife (Case 3, aged 43) and his son-in-law (H7N9 negative). The Index case and Case 3 worked daily in a live bird market. Onset of illness in Index case occurred in January 13, 2014 and subsequently, he died of multi-organ failure on January 20. Case 2 presented with mild symptoms on January 20 following frequent unprotected bed-side care of the Index case between January 14 to 19, and exposed to live bird market on January 17. Case 3 became unwell on January 23 after providing bedside care to the Index case on January 17 to 18, and following the contact with Case 2 during January 21 to 22 at the funeral of the Index case. The two secondary cases were discharged on February 2 and 5 separately after early treatment with antiviral medication. Four virus strains were isolated and genome analyses showed 99.6 ~100% genetic homology, with two amino mutations (V192I in NS and V280A in NP). 42% (11/26) of environmental samples collected in January were H7N9 positive. Twenty-five close contacts remained well and were negative for H7N9 infection by RT-PCR and HI assay. CONCLUSIONS: In the present study, the Index case was infected from a live bird market while the two secondary cases were infected by the Index case during unprotected exposure. This family cluster is, therefore, compatible with non-sustained person-to-person transmission of avian influenza A/H7N9.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Infect Dis

Publication Date





Adult, Animals, Birds, China, Cluster Analysis, Contact Tracing, Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2, Family, Farmers, Female, Humans, Influenza A Virus, H7N9 Subtype, Influenza in Birds, Influenza, Human, Male, Middle Aged, Occupational Exposure, Retrospective Studies, Young Adult