With the winter flu season now over in the Northern Hemisphere, we can safely say that the feared global pandemic from the newly emerged H7N9 flu virus did not occur. As the weather in China warms up, cases are dwindling in the manner usually seen for any flu virus:
After months of mounting concern, Chinese health officials are breathing a sigh of relief: no new human cases of H7N9 have been reported in the country in more than a week. The milestone marks the first time since March, when the H7N9 outbreak first began, that human cases haven’t continued to increase.
In the week beginning May 13, one previously infected patient succumbed to the virus, according to a statement issued on Monday by China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission. That death brings the H7N9 fatality toll to 36, with 130 confirmed cases in total.
Vigilance will be needed next fall to see if the virus is now lurking, ready to re-emerge once weather conditions are more favorable.
Unfortunately, the situation with another emerging virus is not improving. The newly named (pdf) Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) still bears watching since the death toll from this virus has now reached 30:
Three more people have died in Saudi Arabia from the new SARS-like coronavirus, bringing the worldwide death toll to 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.
Saudi health officials also told the WHO of a new case in the eastern province of al-Ahsa, increasing the number of cases worldwide to 50, WHO spokesman Glenn Thomas told reporters at a news conference in Geneva.
As shown in the schematic above, coronaviruses get their name from the crown-like spikes on their surface. The common cold is caused by various members of the coronavirus family.
Another coronavirus that got headlines in the past was the virus causing Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. That virus was first identified in 2003. This otherwise informative description of the virus and its outbreak that resulted in over 8000 cases and 750 deaths states that SARS is “here to stay”, but the CDC, in this backgrounder on coronaviruses, notes that there have been no reported cases of SARS since 2004.
From the link above where MERS-CoV was given its new name, we get more information on the virus (references removed): Read more