News / Asia

WHO: No Sign of Sustained Spread of H7N9 Between Humans

A patient (L) with fever receives treatment at the hospital where a 67-year-old H7N9 patient is being treated, in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, April 3, 2013.
A patient (L) with fever receives treatment at the hospital where a 67-year-old H7N9 patient is being treated, in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, April 3, 2013.
Reuters
The World Health Organization said on Friday there was no sign of sustained spread of a deadly new strain of bird flu among people in China, but it could not rule out that it was transmitted in a limited way similar to the H5N1 strain.

It was important to check on the health of 400 people who had been in close contact with the 14 confirmed cases of the H7N9 virus, and to nail down the source of infection in the animal or environmental world, the United Nations agency said.

"We have 14 cases in a large geographical area, we have no sign of any epidemiological linkage between the confirmed cases and we have no sign of sustained human-to-human transmission," WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl told a news briefing in Geneva.

"The 400 contacts are being followed up to see if any of them do have the virus, have had it from someone else," he said. "There are reports of people or a person with fever, so this is obviously why it's so important to follow up with all contacts in order to know whether or not they do have the virus and/or from whom they contracted it."

Hartl added: "Remember even that if they are infected, you still need to try to find out if they contracted the virus from one another, or from a common environmental source."

Chinese authorities slaughtered over 20,000 birds on Friday at a poultry market in Shanghai as the death toll from the new strain of bird flu mounted to six, causing concern overseas and sparking a sell-off in airline shares in Europe and Hong Kong.

Other strains of bird flu, such as H5N1, have been circulating for years and can be transmitted from bird to bird, and bird to human, but not generally from human to human. So far, the lack of human-to-human transmission also appears to be a feature of the H7N9 strain.

"Pieces of the puzzle"

The 14 human cases of H7N9, in four eastern provinces including Shanghai, include a butcher and a seller of pork products in a market, Hartl said. But for now, there was not a known common source of exposure for all the human infections, he said, adding: "That's one of the pieces of the puzzle which needs to be filled in."

Referring to more than 16,000 pig carcasses dumped in rivers around Shanghai, he said: "There are numerous investigations going on into various possible environmental and animal sources but again, the pigs and especially the pigs dumped into the river have not shown at all to be connected with these cases."

Chinese authorities have been "very diligent" by stepping up disease surveillance and conducting retrospective testing of people who had respiratory illnesses of unknown origin, he said.

Since 2003, there have been 622 cases of H5N1 including 371 deaths, according to the WHO. That bird flu virus spreads rarely between people but its 60 percent mortality rate is far higher than H1N1, known as swine flu. Swine flu sparked a pandemic in 2009/2010 and caused an estimated 200,000 deaths, roughly in line with seasonal flu that kills 250,000-500,000 a year.

"If you go back to a comparison with H5N1, out of 600 cases of H5N1, there were literally probably 5 instances where H5N1 was transmitted from one close contact to another, it was often between the original infected person and the care giver. So this is maybe what we might see here, but we don't know yet. Again, we are having to follow up the 400 contacts and see if there is any evidence of human-to-human transmission," Hartl said.

In 2003, Chinese authorities initially tried to cover up an epidemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed about a tenth of the 8,000 people it infected worldwide.

After the initial cases of SARS, almost all SARS cases were transmitted in hospitals, infecting health workers, Hartl said.

Referring to H7N9, he said: "It is really a severe illness but cases are being well handled and put into intensive care units. There doesn't seem to be any indication of infections in hospital so far. We are ensuring hospitals have instituted proper infection control and procedures for dealing with it."

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

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