News / Asia

China: Human Transmission of Bird Flu is Possible

Nurses collect patients' blood samples at a specialized fever clinic inside the Ditan Hospital, where a Chinese girl is being treated for the H7N9 strain of bird flu, in Beijing, April 14, 2013.
Nurses collect patients' blood samples at a specialized fever clinic inside the Ditan Hospital, where a Chinese girl is being treated for the H7N9 strain of bird flu, in Beijing, April 14, 2013.
VOA News
A top health official in China says it is possible that a deadly, new strain of bird flu could spread among humans, but cautioned there is no reason to fear a widespread pandemic.

Feng Zijian, a director at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, says human-to-human transmission of the H7N9 strain of bird flu is possible in theory, though highly sporadic.

China has reported 17 deaths since the virus was reported in humans for the first time last month. In total, 82 people have been infected, most were near Shanghai.

Until now, the virus was believed to have only been transmitted from birds to humans, greatly limiting its ability to spread. But officials say 40 percent of those infected appear to have had no contact with poultry.

The World Health Organization confirmed the finding, but warned there is no evidence of "sustained human-to-human transmission."

John Oxford, a professor of virology at Queen Mary University of London, tells VOA he is not overly concerned the situation will spiral out of control. He says many of those infected may not have realized they came into contact with birds.

"It could be their friend who is working with chickens, whose got his fingers and hands covered in chicken down," he said. "So it's not necessarily a real person to person transmission, you're both getting it from the same source."

Of particular interest is a case involving an 87-year-old Chinese man who suffered China's first human death from H7N9. One of his sons was confirmed to have contracted the virus, and recovered. Another son later died, though the cause of his death is unclear.

Chinese authorities are investigating whether cases like this mean long-term and unprotected exposure to the infected person might result in a person-to-person transmission.

But Oxford says even if this is the case, that does not mean that the virus will easily spread quickly outside the family.

"The family is a very unique structure - people share things, share towels, even toothbrushes, and live very closely together, and the hygiene can be quite low. So you can't base a whole philosophy of what's going to happen [with a virus] based on a family transmission," he said.

China has been working on developing vaccines and other treatment for the virus, as part of a wider plan to combat any potential outbreak. It has also slaughtered thousands of birds and closed many poultry markets in an attempt to slow the spread of the disease.

This is believed to be the first time humans have contracted the H7N9 bird flu virus. It previously existed only in birds. The more common strain of avian flu, H5N1, has killed more than 360 people worldwide in the last decade.

China is considered one of the countries at greater risk for bird flu because it has the world's biggest poultry population and many chickens in rural areas are kept close to humans.

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More