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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countriesi
X
December 16, 2014 2:14 PM
Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.
Video

Video Indonesian Province to Expand Sharia Law

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and a legal system based on Dutch civil law and Indonesian government regulations. But in a 2001 compromise with separatists, Aceh province in Sumatra island’s north was allowed to implement Sharia law. Since then, religious justice has become increasingly strict. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh.
Video

Video Some Russian Businesses Thrive in Poor Economy

Capital flight, the fall in oil prices and Western sanctions are pushing Russia's staggering economy into recession. But not companies are suffering. The ruble’s drop in value has benefited exporters as well as businesses targeting increasingly frugal customers. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

All About America

AppleAndroid