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.
    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

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    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.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora