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EPIDEMICS
International experts to probe H7N9 flu in China: WHO
by Staff Writers
Geneva (AFP) April 16, 2013


China's record on SARS a decade ago
Shanghai (AFP) April 16, 2013 - The first cases of SARS emerged in November 2002 in China's southern province of Guangdong, but the World Health Organization was not officially notified of an outbreak until two months later.

Rumours of deaths from a "strange disease" circulated in China before the government told the WHO about an outbreak of "atypical pneumonia", as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome had yet to be identified.

More than a third of early cases were in food handlers, such as butchers and cooks, leading scientists to conclude the virus originated in wild animals.

A doctor who became infected when he treated patients carried SARS outside Guangdong to a four-star hotel in neighbouring Hong Kong in February 2003.

Guests and visitors to the hotel seeded significant outbreaks in Vietnam, Singapore and the Canadian city of Toronto, and smaller ones around the world along international travel routes.

The WHO issued a global alert in mid-March for what became recognised as a worldwide threat to health.

On April 20, China sacked its health minister and the mayor of Beijing after cases in the capital, heralding more openness with daily reports about the epidemic situation.

SARS eventually killed nearly 800 people worldwide and infected more than 8,000, WHO figures showed. There have not been any known cases since 2004.

Taiwan to ban killing of live poultry in markets
Taipei (AFP) April 16, 2013 - Taiwan is planning a permanent ban on the killing of live poultry in traditional markets amid concerns over the spread of the H7N9 avian flu virus in China, an official said Tuesday.

The new rule will come into effect on June 17, as an agricultural law requires a grace period for relevant preparation, according to Huang Kwo-ching, a spokesman for the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine.

However, he said the ban would be implemented immediately if a human case of the H7N9 bird flu were reported in Taiwan.

Market vendors will still be allowed to sell poultry supplied from the island's 79 licensed slaughter houses after the new rule comes into effect, he added.

Sixty-three people in China are known to have been infected with the bird flu strain, which has killed 14 of its victims.

Travel between Taiwan and China, which is separated by a narrow strait, is frequent and Taipei has stepped up temperature checks at airports on passenger arrivals from several Chinese cities where infections have been reported.

Last week Taiwanese authorities destroyed more than 100 birds smuggled from the mainland and seized by the coastguard in a fishing port in northern Taiwan.

International experts are poised to head to China to probe the outbreak of H7N9 bird flu which has claimed 14 lives, the World Health Organisation said Tuesday.

The mission, including four international flu specialists, is due to arrive in China in the coming days for a week-long investigation, the United Nations' health agency spokesman Glenn Thomas told reporters.

"At this time, there is still no evidence on ongoing human-to-human transmission," Thomas underlined.

"We're still trying to find out more information about the virus reservoir," he added.

All told, the H7N9 strain of avian influenza has been confirmed as having infected 63 people since Chinese authorities announced two weeks ago that they had found it in humans for the first time.

Experts fear the prospect of such viruses mutating into a form easily transmissible between humans, which would have the potential to trigger a pandemic.

Health authorities in China say they do not know exactly how the virus is spreading, but it is believed to be crossing from birds to humans, prompting mass culls in several cities.

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation has said H7N9 shows "affinity" to humans while causing "very mild or no disease" in infected poultry, making it more difficult to find the source of transmission.

In 2003 Chinese authorities were accused of trying to cover up the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which went on to kill about 800 people worldwide.

But China has been praised for transparency over H7N9, with the WHO saying it was pleased with the level of information

Death toll hits 16 in China bird flu outbreak: Xinhua
Shanghai (AFP) April 16, 2013 - H7N9 bird flu has claimed two more lives in Shanghai, Chinese state media said on Tuesday, bringing the death toll from the disease to 16.

China has confirmed 77 human cases of H7N9 avian influenza since announcing two weeks ago that it had found the strain in people for the first time.

The new strain of the flu had been confined to the eastern city of Shanghai and nearby Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui until Saturday when the first case was reported in Beijing.

It has since spread west to the central province of Henan where two new cases were reported on Sunday.

China confirmed 14 new H7N9 cases between 6 pm on Monday and 8 pm Tuesday, Xinhua said, with two more deaths reported in Shanghai.

A total of 30 cases, including 11 ending in death, have now been reported in Shanghai, said Xinhua.

Eight of the people reported on Tuesday to have contracted H7N9 bird flu were said to be in critical condition.

Three of these were in Jiangsu, according to Xinhua, which cited the province's health department. They are a 21-year-old woman, and two men aged 56 and 72.

The other five were in Zhejiang, where three men and two women aged between 56 and 72 tested positive for the virus.

As of Tuesday, Zhejiang has confirmed 21 H7N9 cases, including two that have ended in death.

A seven-year-old girl in Beijing who tested positive for H7N9 in the capital's only reported case so far will be discharged from hospital on Wednesday, Xinhua said.

She has been treated for the past six days and is now testing negative for the virus.

A four-year-old boy who had tested positive was discharged from a Shanghai hospital last Wednesday, said Xinhua citing local health authorities.

He has been the only confirmed case to make a full recovery.

Health authorities in China say they do not know exactly how the virus is spreading, but it is believed to be crossing from birds to humans, prompting mass culls in several cities.

Experts fear the prospect of the virus mutating into a form easily transmissible between humans, which would have the potential to trigger a pandemic -- but the World Health Organization (WHO) has said there is no evidence yet of such a development.

International experts are preparing to head to China to probe the outbreak, the WHO said on Tuesday.

The mission, including four international flu specialists, is due to arrive in the coming days for a week-long investigation.

Taiwan announced on Tuesday that it is planning a permanent ban on the killing of live poultry in traditional markets amid concerns over the spread of the H7N9 avian flu virus in China.

Chinese state media on Monday urged people to keep eating chicken and help revive the poultry industry, which lost 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) in the week after the virus began infecting humans.

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EPIDEMICS
China H7N9 bird flu area spreads, two new deaths: govt
Beijing (AFP) April 14, 2013
China's H7N9 bird flu spread west to the central province of Henan on Sunday, as government websites and state media reported two deaths and 11 new cases nationwide. The new strain of the flu had been confined to the eastern city of Shanghai and nearby Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui until Saturday when the first case was reported in Beijing. In total 60 people have been infected and 13 have ... read more


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