News / Asia

China Mobilizes to Fight New Bird Flu; Japan, HK on Guard

In a worrisome sign, a bird flu in China appears to have mutated so that it can spread to other animals, raising the potential for a bigger threat to people, scientists said, April 4, 2013.
In a worrisome sign, a bird flu in China appears to have mutated so that it can spread to other animals, raising the potential for a bigger threat to people, scientists said, April 4, 2013.
Reuters
China said it was mobilizing resources nationwide to combat a new strain of deadly bird flu that has killed five people, as Japan and Hong Kong stepped up vigilance against the virus and Vietnam banned imports of Chinese poultry.

The new H7N9 bird flu strain does not appear to be transmitted from human to human but authorities in Hong Kong raised a preliminary alert and said they were taking precautions at the airport.

In Japan, airports have put up posters at entry points warning all airline passengers from China to seek medical attention if they suspect they have bird flu.

A total of 14 people in China have been confirmed to have contracted H7N9, all in the east of the country. Five infected people have died.

"[China] will strengthen its leadership in combating the virus ... and coordinate and deploy the entire nation's health system to combat the virus,'' the Health Ministry said in a statement late on Wednesday on its website.

In Hong Kong, authorities activated the preliminary "Alert Response Level" under a preparedness plan for an influenza pandemic, which calls for close monitoring of chicken farms, vaccination, culling drills, and a suspension of imports of live birds from the mainland.

All passengers on flights in and out of Hong Kong were being asked to notify flight attendants or airport staff if they were feeling unwell.

Vietnam said it had banned poultry imports from China,  citing the risk from H7N9.

In Beijing, the Health Ministry said the government would  swiftly communicate details of the new strain to the outside world and its own people, following complaints it had been too slow to report on the outbreak and suspicion of a cover-up.

Chinese internet users and some newspapers have questioned why it took so long for the government to announce the new cases, especially as two of the victims fell ill in February. The government has said it needed time to correctly identify the virus.

In 2003, authorities initially tried to cover up an epidemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which emerged in China and killed about 10 percent of the 8,000 people it infected worldwide.

Transparent Communication

China "will continue to openly and transparently maintain  communication and information channels with the World Health Organization and relevant countries and regions, strengthen monitoring and preventative measures'', the ministry said in a statement.

Flu experts across the world are studying samples isolated from the patients to assess the human pandemic potential of the strain.

Other strains of bird flu, such as H5N1, have been circulating for many years and can be transmitted from bird to bird, and bird to human, but not generally from human to human.

So far, this lack of human-to-human transmission also appears to be a feature of the H7N9 strain.

However, China has yet to find any animals infected with H7N9, meaning how humans got it remains a mystery.

"The gene sequences confirm that this is an avian virus, and that it is a low pathogenic form [meaning it is likely to cause mild disease in birds]," said Wendy Barclay, a flu virologist at Britain's Imperial College London. "But what the sequences also reveal is that there are some mammalian adapting mutations in some of the genes."

This, she said, meant the H7N9 virus has already acquired some of the genetic changes it would need to mutate into a form that could be transmitted from person to person.

While the official Xinhua news agency said it was unfair to compare SARS with H7N9, as the new bird flu virus had yet to show signs of human-to-human transmission, it did warn that the government's credibility was on the line.

"If there is anything that SARS has taught China and its government, it's that one cannot be too careful or too honest when it comes to deadly pandemics. The last 10 years have taught the government a lot, but it is far from enough," it said in a commentary.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid