H7N9 is a bird flu that mostly infects poultry. Mostly. Lately, it's jumped to humans. And in humans it's a killer. During a recent spike, 88% of people infected got pneumonia, three-quarters ended up in intensive care with severe respiratory problems, and 41% died.
Is a new bird flu ready to fly the coop?
Since viruses have an uncanny ability to mutate, scientists fear only time is holding H7N9 back from infecting millions and then billions. The longer the virus spends in humans, the better the chance that it might become more contagious. Couple that with the ease of travel thoughtout the world, the virus could quickly hopscotch from continent to continent.
According to a May 4, 2017 Time Magazine article, “While a mutant bug that moves from chickens in China to humans in cities around the world may seem like something out of a Hollywood script, the danger the world faces from H7N9–and countless other pathogens with the potential to cause enormous harm–isn't science fiction. Rather, it's the highly plausible nightmare scenario that should be keeping the President up at night.”
In the wild, this flu will be virulent
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranks H7N9 as the flu strain with the greatest potential to cause a pandemic–an infectious-disease outbreak that goes global. If a more contagious H7N9 were to be anywhere near as deadly as it is now, the death toll could be in the tens of millions.