H7N9 Avian Influenza Virus

You may have heard about H7N9 recently in the news. H7N9 is a specific strain of the flu virus that is responsible for a bird flu outbreak beginning in China. So far, there has been no evidence of humans being able to pass it to each other. In other words, you cannot catch this strain of flu virus from another human. This virus is, however, dangerous and deadly to humans.

There is still a lot about this virus that we do not know. What we DO know is that, since the virus is transmitted through poultry, in normal cooking temperatures the virus is inactivated. That means if you cook poultry to the point there is no "pink", the virus will not be infectious.

The virus is not in the United States presently and there are no travel restrictions. OCCHD, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), and other partners listed below are continually monitoring the situation. If you would like more information about H7N9, please download our fact sheet. We will continually update the fact sheet and our website as the situation warrants.

Being Ready Should Pandemic Influenza Strike

OCCHD is continually building the county's capacity to respond to large-scale public health emergencies. We are working cooperatively with OSDH, Oklahoma City Emergency Management, the Metropolitan Medical Response System, Medical Emergency Response Center, the Medical Reserve Corps and other local entities.

The severity of the human influenza pandemic cannot be predicted, but modeling studies suggest that the impact of a pandemic on the United States could be substantial. In the absence of any control measures (vaccination or drugs), it has been estimated that in the United States a "medium-level" pandemic could cause 89,000 to 207,000 deaths, 314,000 to 734,000 hospitalizations, 18 to 42 million outpatient visits, and another 20 to 47 million people being sick. Over an expected period of two years, between 15% and 35% of the U.S. population could be affected by an influenza pandemic, and the economic impact could range between $71.3 and $166.5 billion. This effect does not include members of the general population that may have to miss work to care for ill family members, potentially raising the population affected by an influenza pandemic to 55% during the peak weeks of community outbreak (Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pandemic Flu: Key Facts, January 17, 2006).

Three conditions must be met for a pandemic to begin

  • A new influenza virus subtype must emerge for which there is little or no human immunity. For example, the H5N1 virus (bird flu) is a new virus for humans. It has never circulated widely among people, infecting only around 200 humans, but has killed over half of the people it infects.
  • It must infect humans and cause illness.
  • It must spread easily and sustainably (continue without interruption) among humans.

An influenza pandemic differs from other public health threats, in that:

  • A pandemic will last much longer than most public health emergencies, and may include "waves" of influenza activity separated by months (in 20th century pandemics, a second wave of influenza activity occurred 3 to 12 months after the first wave).
  • The numbers of health-care workers and first responders available to work is expected to be reduced. This population will be at high risk of illness through exposure in the community and in health-care settings.
  • Resources in many locations could be limited, depending on the severity and spread of an influenza pandemic.
  • There will be large surges in the number of people requiring or seeking medical or hospital treatment, which could overwhelm health services.
  • High rates of worker absenteeism will interrupt other essential services, such as emergency response, communications, fire and law enforcement, and transportation, even with Continuity of Operations Plans in place.
  • Rates of illness are expected to peak fairly rapidly within a given community, because all populations will be fully susceptible to an H5N1-like virus.
  • Local social and economic disruptions may be temporary, yet have amplified effects due to today's closely interrelated and interdependent systems of trade and commerce.
  • A second wave of global spread should be anticipated within a year, based on past experience.
  • All countries are likely to experience emergency conditions during a pandemic, leaving few opportunities for international assistance, which is typically seen during natural disasters or localized disease outbreaks. Once international spread has begun, governments will likely focus on protecting domestic populations.