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BackgroundMainland China has experienced five epidemics of human cases of avian influenza A(H7N9) virus infection since 2013. We conducted a prospective study to assess long-term clinical, pulmonary function testing, and chest computed tomography (CT) imaging findings after patients were discharged from hospital.MethodsA(H7N9) survivors in five provinces and one municipality underwent follow-up visits from August 2013 to September 2018, at three, six, and 12 months after illness onset, and a subset was also assessed at 18 and 64 months after onset. Thirteen patients were enrolled from the first A(H7N9) epidemic in 2013, 36 from the 2013-2014 second epidemic, and 12 from the 2016-2017 fifth epidemic. At each visit, A(H7N9) survivors received a medical examination, including the mMRC (modified Medical Research Council) dyspnea scale assessment, chest auscultation, pulmonary function testing and chest CT scans.FindingsThe median age of 61 A(H7N9) survivors was 50 years. The cumulative rate of pulmonary dysfunction was 38·5% and 78·2% for chest CT scan abnormalities at the end of follow-up. Restrictive ventilation dysfunction was common during follow-up. Mild dyspnea was documented at three to 12-month follow-up visits.InterpretationPatients who survived severe illness from A(H7N9) virus infection had evidence of persistent lung damage and long-term pulmonary dysfunction.FundingNational Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars (grant number 81525023); Program of Shanghai Academic/Technology Research Leader (grant number 18XD1400300); National Science and Technology Major Project of China (grant numbers 2017ZX10103009-005, 2018ZX10201001-010).

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School of Public Health, Fudan University, Key Laboratory of Public Health Safety, Ministry of Education, Shanghai, China.