News / Asia

    China Uses Past Experience to Cope with New Flu Virus

    China Uses Past Experience to Cope with New Flu Virus i
    X
    April 09, 2013 11:46 PM
    H7N9, the latest variant of the avian flu virus, has spread 700 kilometers across three Chinese provinces since it was identified last month. With researchers struggling to identify how the disease is transmitted, concern is mounting about its danger to humans. Ivan Broadhead has this report from Hong Kong.
    Ivan Broadhead
    Since the first H7N9 fatality was identified in Shanghai in early March, the latest variant of the avian flu virus has spread across three Chinese provinces - 700 kilometers apart.  Some 24 people are now infected and seven have died.  

    China is stepping up surveillance measures after authorities closed Shanghai poultry markets last week and culled stocks after the virus was detected in local pigeons.  In Taiwan, supplies of anti-viral medicines are being made available for subsidized public sale.  
     
    There are still questions about how susceptible H7N9 is to antiviral drugs like Tamiflu.  Shanghai Municipal Center for Disease Control reported Monday that a 4-year-old boy has made a full recovery, offering hope H7N9 can be treated successfully.
     
    Professor Malik Peiris is scientific director of the Pasteur Research Center at Hong Kong University. He is also the first scientist to isolate the SARS virus that killed more than 700 people in 2002 and 2003.  He cautions against reading too much into the mortality rate of the flu virus.
     
    “I think you have to be cautious about interpreting mortality rates because, usually, only the most severe cases are investigated.  There could be milder cases that go unrecognized.  So, on the one hand, this would make the mortality and the severity less.  But of course, on the other hand, it would mean there is more transmission occurring in humans too,” Peiris said.
     
    Inspecting a poultry wholesale market Monday, Hong Kong health secretary Ko Wing-man said that by the end of this week live poultry imports will only be sold after 30 in every 1,000 birds are tested for H7N9.  Tests will be expedited and results returned within four hours.
     
    But while governments are implementing response plans across Asia, Peiris warns that to develop vaccines and break the infection cycle, it is imperative the source of the outbreak be identified.
     
    “Learning from H5N1, it is quite an unpredictable virus in that there are hundreds of people working closely with poultry who do not seem to get infected," he said. "But there is the one person who may have quite a tenuous contact who [does] … So, I think what is crucial is to go upstream, along the poultry marketing chain, ideally to the farms, and identify which species is the main source.” 

    Hong Kong is still commemorating the 10th anniversary of SARS, which infected thousands as it spread from China across three continents.  Many here are fearful the Chinese government coverup that contributed to the spread of SARS could be repeated with H7N9.
     
    Thomas Abraham, director of the public health media program at Hong Kong University and author of "21st Century Plague; the Story of SARS," believes this is unlikely.  Beijing has learned valuable lessons since SARS, and social media challenge governments’ ability to control information.
     
    “One of the early [H7N9] cases in Shanghai, even though the hospital said nothing, the patient’s admission slip was photographed and put up on Weibo (China’s Twitter)," he said. "This kind of information flow is a dam that is unstoppable.  It is an entirely new environment the Chinese authorities are working in.”  
     
    Although World Health Organization officials have said there is no need for panic, Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, warns there could be trying times ahead if the H7N9 death toll continues to rise.
     
    “What 2009 taught us with the swine flu [pandemic] is that global solidarity can break down very fast.  Countries start closing airports and quarantining travelers; they start hoarding drugs and vaccines. It is not a pretty pictur,” Garrett said.
     
    Though public sentiment remains fragile, some reassurance was offered by Hong Kong University last week.  Researchers there announced they will revisit a 2009 study in order to confirm that surgical masks, seen widely on the streets of Hong Kong in peak influenza season, are indeed 70 percent effective in preventing the spread of flu viruses.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora