News / Asia

Hong Kong, China on Bird Flu Alert

Health workers pack dead chicken at a wholesale poultry market in Hong Kong December 21, 2011.
Health workers pack dead chicken at a wholesale poultry market in Hong Kong December 21, 2011.
TEXT SIZE - +
Ivan Broadhead

A 39-year-old man is confirmed to have died of bird flu in recent days in the southern Chinese city, Shenzhen, after being admitted to hospital on Christmas Day. Authorities insist that the chances of further bird flu infections are minimal. Concern is mounting in neighboring Hong Kong.

The death of Shenzhen bus driver Chen Fayu this weekend represents the first bird flu fatality in China in 18 months.

Despite this being peak influenza season, Dr. Lo Wing-lok - an infectious diseases expert and former Hong Kong legislator - remains optimistic that the Shenzhen case may yet prove isolated. “Despite talks about mutation, the situation remains the same. The disease remains a bird-to bird disease; occasionally a bird-to-human disease," he explained. "But far from a human-to-human disease.”

However, Lo is skeptical of the Shenzhen authorities’ suggestion that avian flu is not prevalent among local poultry stocks, and that Chen likely contracted the H5N1 virus from wild birds. “This is a poultry virus, not a wild bird virus. Blaming human infection on wild birds is not conducive to epidemic control because people might become complacent about poultry, about slaughtering sick birds. As a result, more human cases could occur,” he said.

Residents of Hong Kong and the adjacent mainland Chinese province of Guangdong, in which Shenzhen is located, have reason to feel nervous about Chen’s death.

High density human populations live alongside animals kept for food. The conditions have helped make the region something of a cauldron for zoonosis - the transmission of animal diseases to human beings.

In 1996, Hong Kong recorded the cross-species transmission of avian flu, from birds to humans, resulting in multiple deaths. In 2003, the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic had its genesis in Guangdong’s live-animal markets. Around 40 percent of the world’s total SARS fatalities occurred in Hong Kong, alone.

Shenzhen Disease Control Center confirmed Tuesday that Chen succumbed to a strain of the H5N1 virus intransmissible from human to human. Xinhua, the government news agency, urged the populace “not to panic”.

Officials are working to reassure and communicate openly with a nervous public.

"There’s a sea-change from the time of SARS when the Chinese government hid this disease that broke out in Guangdong at the end of 2002, and the outside world only heard about it after cases were seen in Hong Kong in February 2003," said Thomas Abraham, director of the Public Health Media Project at Hong Kong University. "There’s a huge change in terms of reporting."

In Hong Kong, authorities have taken steps to prevent the spread of avian flu, including a cull of 19,000 chickens in local markets and a ban on poultry imports from parts of Shenzhen.

However, the Hong Kong Center for Health Protection confirmed Tuesday that the virus strain which killed Chen is similar to the strain found in dead birds in Hong Kong last month.

Abraham wonders whether the media, both local and international, is exaggerating the extent of the bird flu threat following the latest death.

“H5N1 is endemic now. Whether they’re over-reacting or not, it depends which media you’re talking about. But if you’re asking me, ‘Is this [outbreak] unusual?’ I would say: ‘No. Because this has happened time and time again,’” Abraham stated.

Chinese Lunar New Year is just a few weeks away (January 23) and many more people are expected to come into contact with live poultry, and possibly the H5N1 virus, as chickens and ducks are slaughtered to celebrate one of China’s biggest annual holidays.




You May Like

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population 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.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid