Infectivity, Transmission, and Pathology of Human-Isolated H7N9 Influenza Virus in Ferrets and Pigs

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The emergence of the H7N9 influenza virus in humans in Eastern China has raised concerns that a new influenza pandemic could occur. Here, we used a ferret model to evaluate the infectivity and transmissibility of A/Shanghai/2/2013 (SH2), a human H7N9 virus isolate. This virus replicated in the upper and lower respiratory tracts of the ferrets and was shed at high titers for 6 to 7 days, with ferrets showing relatively mild clinical signs. SH2 was efficiently transmitted between ferrets via direct contact, but less efficiently by airborne exposure. Pigs were productively infected by SH2 and shed virus for 6 days but were unable to transmit the virus to naive pigs or ferrets. Under appropriate conditions, human-to-human transmission of the H7N9 virus may be possible.

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