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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal 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 Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid