May 22, 2013
H7N9 Bird Flu Under Control In China, According To United Nations
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Experts with the United Nations (UN) reported Tuesday that the 2013 H7N9 bird flu outbreak that has sickened 130 people and killed 36 has been brought under control in China. They said that closure of live bird markets in Shanghai and other areas has likely contributed to the halt of the spread of the disease throughout the country.
The UN warned that health authorities worldwide must still remain on the lookout to detect further cases of the virus, which could develop the ability to easily spread among humans, potentially leading to a deadly pandemic.
China Health Minister Li Bin recently told a meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO) that no new cases of bird flu have been detected in China since early May. It was also reported last month that H7N9 had spread beyond China into Taiwan. However, only one case has been reported there since April 25.
The WHO´s assistant director-general for health security, Keiji Fukuda, said on Tuesday that the world is currently unprepared for a massive virus outbreak. He told delegates at a WHO meeting that despite efforts to bring the H7N9 bird flu, and the earlier 2009-10 H1N1, under control, far more contingency planning was necessary.
"Even though work has been done since that time, the world is not ready for a large, severe outbreak," Fukuda said in the meeting, as cited by Jonathan Fowler of The Associated Press (AP).
"The immediate outbreak has been controlled, but it is also unlikely that virus has simply disappeared. We believe we need go another autumn/winter/spring season to know“¦ We also have high concern over the potential, I stress the potential, to gain the ability to sustain transmissibility,” said Fukuda, as reported by Reuters´ Stephanie Nebehay.
Fukuda maintained that there has not been any evidence of sustained spread among people and most cases of H7N9 have likely occurred from contact with infected birds at markets.
Li noted that Chinese authorities had shut down live poultry markets in 10 provinces as needed to control the source of outbreaks. The government also standardized methods of transporting poultry to reduce the spread among birds. The government has spent $97 million US to bring the poultry industry up to a healthier standard, she added.
"In view of the present situation, H7N9 is preventable and controllable. There has been no qualitative change in the epidemic. Cases are sporadic and there has been no genetic mutation (of the virus)," said Li.
In humans, the virus is highly pathogenic, causing severe respiratory disease. However, it is not virulent among birds, making it nearly impossible for farmers to detect it, according to experts.
Liang Wannian of China´s Health Ministry said in a statement that disease experts had taken 60,000 samples from birds and had only found 53 carrying the virus. The Chinese government had ordered the culling of millions more birds in April to halt the spread of the disease.
Juan Lubroth, chief veterinary officer at the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said the “economic impacts of H7N9 have been astounding.”
“Over $6.5 billion has been lost in the agriculture sector because of prices, consumer confidence and trade. So poultry industry losses in China have been high,” said Lubroth, citing information released by China´s Agriculture Ministry.