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

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL 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.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid