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The curious case of bird flu in China

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Date:Apr 19, 2013

The source of new strain of bird flu, H7N9 which has claimed at least 17 lives in China, has become a mystery. World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday that many patients had no contacts with poultry. The strain transmission is also not human-to-human, said officials.

The WHO officials confirmed that epidemiologists haven't yet been able to establish a strong and clear link between poultry through which the infection has been transmitted traditionally, and patients.

In the statement, WHO representative in China, Dr Michael O'Leary , “From the animal side, only a handful of the tens of thousands of chicken and birds tested have been positive for H7N9. With this different situation in animals, the presumed source of infection, we are still uncertain about the source of illness in people.” However, the Chinese authorities have killed thousands of birds and closed many poultry market, fearing the spread of virus.

The source of the spreading infection has become complex to decode as officials claimed that it is also not human-to-human infection.

Dr O’Leary also said, “We know that, with perhaps rare exceptions, people are not getting sick from other people. Of the many hundreds of people who were in close contact with the H7N9 patients, all the care-givers, neighbors, family members, and so on, there are only a very few cases where these contacts have become ill as well.”

Meanwhile, WHO has convened a team of experts who will visit areas affected by H7N9 in China in order to provide recommendations on the prevention and control of the disease.

WHO has been working closely with Chinese authorities and international public health community since it was informed of the first cases of H7N9 on March 31. Although the disease does not appear to spread easily between people, a new flu virus is always of concern because of the nature of the disease and its ability to change. The preliminary results will be provided to NHFPC on 24 April.

 

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