News / Health

CDC: Current China Bird Flu Strain Can't Cause Pandemic

Pedestrians wearing medical masks walk on the street outside National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei, April 26, 2013. A 53-year-old Taiwan businessman contracted the H7N9 strain of bird flu while travelling in China, the first reported case outside of mainland China.
Pedestrians wearing medical masks walk on the street outside National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei, April 26, 2013. A 53-year-old Taiwan businessman contracted the H7N9 strain of bird flu while travelling in China, the first reported case outside of mainland China.
Reuters
The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the current strain of bird flu that is causing illness and deaths in China cannot spark a pandemic in its current form - but he added that there is no guarantee it will not mutate and cause a serious pandemic.

In an exclusive interview at the Reuters Health Summit in New York, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, said more than 2,000 people have been in contact with infected individuals, and only a handful have become ill.

Virtually all of the rest have had direct contact with poultry, the identified cause of the virus.

FILE - Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, is shown at the agency's headquarters, Sept. 3, 2009.FILE - Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, is shown at the agency's headquarters, Sept. 3, 2009.
x
FILE - Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, is shown at the agency's headquarters, Sept. 3, 2009.
FILE - Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, is shown at the agency's headquarters, Sept. 3, 2009.
"This particular virus is not going to cause a pandemic because it doesn't spread person-to-person," Frieden said. "But all it takes is a bit of mutation for it be able to go person-to-person.  I cannot say with certainty whether that will happen tomorrow, within 10 years or never."

The new strain of bird flu known as H7N9, which began infecting people in February, has so far sickened at least 127 people and killed 27. According to the latest CDC estimates, the flu kills about 20 percent of the people it infects.

The United States has been working closely with Chinese health officials, and has recently distributed test kits to detect this new strain of flu, which has never before appeared in humans.

Tests by Chinese health officials have found the virus in chickens, ducks and pigeons, but Frieden said it is not yet clear how the virus spreads in birds.

New strains of flu present a threat because if they do become easily transmissible, they might quickly spread around the globe, attacking individuals who have no natural defense against the virus.

The CDC has activated its Emergency Operations Center to monitor the disease and currently has 193 staff working on H7N9.

"We've got a team working in China, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam," he said.

Frieden said there are several factors that make this particular virus especially worrisome.

An analysis of the genetic code of the virus shows that it has receptors that bind to the lower respiratory tract of people, much like the more familiar bird flu strain known as H5N1.

"That is why it's causing severe disease," Frieden said.

But it also has receptors that bind to the upper respiratory tract of people, which may explain why it is more transmissible from birds to people than H5 appears to be, he said.

And unlike H5N1, which caused severe disease in poultry, this new virus does not, which may make it more difficult to control because researchers will not be able to cull poultry flocks.

Frieden said even with H5, it took 18 months from the emergence of the virus until the 100th case. By comparison, it took only about one month from the emergence of H7 until the 100th case.

"If you look at the geographic spread of H5, within a couple of years it was all over Asia, into Africa, into the Middle East," he said.

Frieden said he cannot predict what the spread of H7 will be in birds, though he said he is concerned it may be quite wide.

"If there is evolution in the virus, it could go person-to-person, and that could cause severe pandemic," he said.

In the United States, the CDC has developed and distributed H7N9 test kits, given to states and to several countries.

Frieden said the agency is working on flu vaccines for the virus and clinical trials could begin in the summer.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs