First Human to Human Transmission of H7N9 Bird Flu Confirmed in China


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Examples of disposable PPE. Image by Timely Medical staff

Examples of disposable PPE. Image by Timely Medical staff

Bird Flu Protection: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal protective equipment, also known as PPE for short, are items that can help a person from contracting an infectious disease or from a dangerous chemical or hazards. The WHO said that this virus, the H7N9, is the most lethal of any virus that medical professionals have had to face in recent years. This dangerous virus requires personal protective equipment, especially for medical professionals who are caring for the patients.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have developed guidance on how to deal with H7N9 infections in hospital settings.

One of the eight infection control measures that the CDC has developed is the use of respirators, eye protection, and gloves. The recommended respirator for the H7N9 is the fit-tested NIOSH-certified disposable N95 filtering facepiece respirator.

Healthcare professionals should also put on protective eye equipment such as a face shield or goggles to prevent respiratory droplets from the patient coughing or sneezing from entering into the healthcare professional’s eyes.

Gowns and gloves are also important pieces of PPE that should be worn when entering into a patient’s room.

The sequence of putting on and taking off PPE is also important. The CDC recommends the following sequence of putting on and removing PPE:

  • When putting on PPE: first put on the gown, then respirator, goggles or face shield, and then gloves. 
  • To remove PPE: remove gloves, then goggles or face shield, then remove the gown, and lastly remove the respirator.

Before putting on PPE healthcare professionals should always wash hands thoroughly and once PPE is removed, hand washing is critical in removing any viruses that could have gotten on the skin.

As for visitors, the CDC recommends that visitors to patients with probable or confirmed H7N9 should only be allowed if needed for the patient’s emotional well-being. Visitors should also be screened for signs and symptoms before entering the hospital and visitors should be instructed on the use of PPE. According to the study, the daughter visited her father in the hospital and did not wear PPE.

Bird Flu in China Moving Between Humans

This study has shown that it is possible for the H7N9 virus to be passed human to human; however, it was limited and not sustainable since the other 43 contacts all tested negative for H7N9. This study also showed the importance of always taking precautions when being around someone who is sick; especially someone who has the bird flu.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interim Guidance for Infection Control Within Healthcare Settings When Caring for Patients with Confirmed, Probable, or Cases Under Investigation of Avian Influenza A(H7N9) Virus Infection. Accessed August 7, 2013.

CNN. WHO: H7N9 virus ‘one of the most lethal so far. (2013). Accessed August 7, 2013.

World Health Organization. Number of confirmed human cases of avian influenza (H7N9) reported to WHO. (2013). Accessed August 7, 2013.

Qi, Xain, Qian, Yan-Hua, et al. Probable person to person transmission of novel avian influenza A (H7N9) virus in Eastern China, 2013: epidemiological investigation. (2013). British Medical Journal. Accessed August 7, 2013.

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