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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid