Skip to main content

Mayo vaccine expert tracking China's latest bird flu outbreak

  • Author:
  • Updated:

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's ... another round of bird flu? As a new bird flu outbreak gathers steam in China, a vaccination expert was in Chaska Friday to talk about H7N9 and what we know about it.

"Right now they're in the very early stages, as they say, shoe leather epidemiology," Dr. Gergory Poland, head of the Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research group, tells KARE 11. "Trying to learn where is the virus, how is it spreading and isolation of people who are infected."

Poland was among the experts who appeared at a conference on vaccines and preventable diseases Friday at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska, KARE reports. "If we were to see cases outside of China or in the US, or evidence of human-to-human transmission, then I think it would be justified for us to be very concerned," Poland said.

A 7-year-old girl is the latest person to be infected with bird flu in China -- and the first case in the Chinese capital, the country's official Xinhua news agency reported Saturday, according to CNN. Her case brings to 44 the number of people infected in China; 11 have died.

Chinese experts published a report Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine suggesting that the new H7N9 avian flu virus is even more deadly than previously believed.

The conclusions: H7N9 causes unusually severe respiratory infection, sepsis and brain damage, and appears to be resistant to vaccination and treatment, Forbes reports.

The New York Times reports Richard Webby, of the infectious diseases department at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, who was not involved in the report from China or the commentary, said that compared with other types of bird flu, H7N9 was the most worrisome he had seen because it seemed the most capable of infecting humans.

Researchers think the virus spread from wild birds to domestic birds, and then to pigs, and possibly back to birds. But it's not known yet exactly how it has been transmitted to humans. "Researchers can't wait for bird to fall from the sky," Poland told KARE.

Next Up

Screen Shot 2022-05-11 at 7.04.37 PM

LIVE UPDATES: Tracking dangerous storms moving towards Twin Cities

We'll have live updates as the storms move through the metro.


Tornado watch issued in Twin Cities, southern Minnesota

The watch will remain in place until midnight.

Wild fox.

Wild fox in Minnesota tests positive for highly contagious avian flu

This is the first confirmed case of highly pathogenic avian influenza in a wild mammal in the state, the Department of Natural Resources said.

New COVID-19 testing site in Midway neighborhood.

New COVID-19 testing site in St. Paul; 3 others to close as cases rise

Testing sites in Stillwater, Hutchinson, and St. Paul are closing as part of moves to adjust testing resources.

Screen Shot 2022-05-11 at 4.47.49 PM

St. Joseph man dies in motorcycle crash

The 27-year-old motorcyclist struck a curb, causing him to lose control before he crashed.


Downtown bike day—city biking at its best!

Move Minneapolis and ABC Ramps Mobility invite you to come along for the ride at Target Plaza on June 1, 2022

Anthony Skelley

Charges: South St. Paul teen killed during apparent marijuana sale

The individual accused of killing Skelley is a 17-year-old from St. Paul.

Anthony Edwards

Anthony Edwards among NBA stars in Adam Sandler's Netflix film, 'Hustle'

The Timberwolves point guard stars alongside other NBA players LeBron James, Trae Young, Juancho Hernangomez and more.

police lights

Armed man found barricaded inside Brooklyn Park home, negotiators on scene

An active police presence remains in the area as negotiators speak with the suspect.

Anthony Skelley

17-year-old South St. Paul homicide victim is identified

The medical examiner determined that Skelley died of multiple gunshot wounds.

tornado, severe weather

Tornado watch issued in Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska

Severe storms are expected to push into southwest Minnesota this afternoon.

Screen Shot 2021-05-27 at 9.08.37 AM

Korean chicken chain Bonchon's 6th MN location set to open

The South Korean-based franchise has steadily increased its presence across the country.