Mystery of Chinese bird flu outbreak grows

BEIJING/LONDON Fri Apr 19, 2013 8:32am EDT

Employees dispose uninfected dead birds at a treatment plant as part of preventive measures against the H7N9 bird flu in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, April 16, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Employees dispose uninfected dead birds at a treatment plant as part of preventive measures against the H7N9 bird flu in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, April 16, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

Related Topics

BEIJING/LONDON (Reuters) - Health officials raised further questions on Friday about the source of a new strain of bird flu infecting humans in China after data indicated that more than half of patients had had no contact with poultry.

The H7N9 virus has been found in 87 people, mostly in eastern China, and killed 17. But it is not clear how people are becoming infected and the World Health Organization (WHO) says there is no evidence of the most worrying scenario - sustained transmission between people.

The WHO's China representative, Michael O'Leary, issued data on Friday showing that half of the cases analyzed had had no known contact with poultry, the most obvious potential source, but he said it appeared human-to-human transmission was rare.

"This is still an animal virus that occasionally infects humans," he said. "With rare exceptions, we know that people are not getting sick from other people".

Experts say it may be premature to definitely rule in or out whether people sick with the virus have been in contact with poultry, and note that contact with wild birds is even more difficult to establish.

A scientific study published last week showed the H7N9 strain was a so-called "triple reassortant" virus with a mixture of genes from three other flu strains found in birds in Asia. One of those three strains is thought to have come from a brambling, a type of small wild bird.

Ian Jones, a virologist and flu expert at Britain's Reading University, said none of the data or scientific analyses available so far have been able to pin down the exact source of the human infection or the route of transmission.

"Those are the things we need to know about," he said.

INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATORS

An international team of epidemiologists and other experts led by the WHO and Chinese government officials will visit live chicken markets and hospitals over the next several days in Beijing and Shanghai.

Some bird samples have tested positive and China has culled thousands of birds and shut down some live poultry markets.

A WHO spokesman in Geneva, Glenn Thomas, said that "evidence suggests that poultry is a vehicle of transmission, but epidemiologists haven't yet been able to establish a strong and clear link".

"We also know that, perhaps with rare exceptions, people are not getting sick from other people."

The official China Daily newspaper quoted an investigator at the Chinese Academy of Sciences as saying the H7N9 outbreak may linked to the migration of wild birds.

"The infection time and route coincided with the migration of water birds," He Hongxuan told the newspaper.

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday called for efforts to strictly control sources of infection, boost checks of live poultry and release accurate information.

He said researchers should work to accelerate development of vaccines while local authorities should strengthen disease control, according to a statement released by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, of which he is the secretary.

China has warned that there could be more infections to come. Many of the 87 cases, and 11 of the deaths, have occurred in the commercial hub of Shanghai.

China's poultry sector has recorded losses of more than $1.6 billion since reports of the new flu surfaced two weeks ago, an industry official said this week.

(Additional reporting by Terril Yue Jones in Beijing and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (3)
sukebe wrote:
probably was accidentially released from the lab.

Apr 19, 2013 3:52am EDT  --  Report as abuse
prastagus wrote:
sure it can be released from the lab accidently. Which lab and where is the question? Is it domestic or foreign?

Apr 19, 2013 11:23am EDT  --  Report as abuse
bettysenior wrote:
In 2007 a certain Ab Osterhaus, a principal adviser to the WHO on virus based pandemics made the announcement on a US pharmaceuticals’ website that he had been the first to determine that the H1N1 virus had mutated to a human-to-human killer (Osterhaus had just become one of their principal advisers. In the Dutch press he was loathed by the animal rights people for experimenting on animals without a government license – he was a law unto himself). His assertions was untrue that he was the first and where Professor Kennedy Shortridge a former member of our Foundation was the person who first identified this. Kennedy was awarded the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize, the Prince Mahidol Award, for his work and where with Margaret Chan (now D-G of the WHO) stopped the killer pandemic
going any further than Hong Kong in 1997. No drugs were required and the virus was stopped in its tracks at ‘source’. This is important as you will see.

When we contacted the US pharmaceutical company concerned we challenged them and where after contacting
Osterhaus they would get back to us. To this day they never have done.

A few months later a certain Declan Butler of Nature magazine and an old time friend of Osterhaus contacted our Foundation
to undertake what he described as a very interesting story on the Foundation. At that time we thought that Nature were a magazine of impeccable integrity and decided that we would work with Butler.

At the same time an international conference had been arranged in Thailand in January 2008 concerning the threat of Avian flu and different perspectives of how to stop it happening. Professor Shortridge was a keynote speaker and
where he was to deliver the ‘first’ global presentation of his ‘source’ strategy not based upon the use of drugs. Visit the WIF’s website to download Professor Shortridge’s source strategy that worked to stop the avian killer flu pandemic happening in 2007 in Hong Kong or click on http://avian-influenza.cirad.fr/content/download/1931/11789/file/Kennedy-F-Shortridge.pdf

The article by Nature magazine was published on the very same day as Prof. Shortridge’s keynote speech but where the article ridiculed the Foundation and was not we were led to believe that the article would be about. Butler had in fact gone behind our backs and misquoted people from the Foundation and where most have apologised for what Butler printed.

The reason for this was clear, Osterhaus and the big Pharma did not want this alternative source strategy to see the light of day as there were not the billions upon billions in drug sales. Indeed they did stop this strategy with the article as the Foundation could not get any financial support to move the
Shortridge strategy further. Nature had done their dirty work for Osterhaus and big Pharma.

I would make you aware that the same scientists in the Netherlands (including Osterhaus) that are now creating the avian flu killer virus in the laboratories. Working from the large Pharma for their future profits again.

But we have analysed the potential killer virus against the history of the 2009 Swine Flu and where a drugs cure for a future avian human-to-human killer virus will simply come too late as the time horizons based upon the Spanish flu also,
are too short.

1918 SPANISH FLU PANDEMIC
The 1918 pandemic did its worst after the first human death between week 16 and week 26 after the second wave and where the virus had mutated into the deadly
human-to-human mass killer. Up to 100 million perished out of a world population of around 1.5 billion (less than 25% of the population now). Therefore in a mere 6 months from initial human death, most had died an absolutely horrible suffocating death.

2009 SWINE FLU PANDEMIC
Time Horizons for the 2009 Swine Flu Pandemic against the 1918 Spanish flu

Detection
Time Scale – 0 months

Swine Flu first detected – Influenza A, Novel H1N1 “swine flu” was first detected in Mexico City and was made public March 18, 2009. Therefore the first causality was probably at the beginning of March 2009 taking into account the incubation period.

First Death in USA
Time Scale + 2-months later at the end of April 2009

1st Vaccine Approved
Time Scale + 6 months 2 weeks

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the new swine flu vaccine for use in the United States on September 15, 2009.

Mass Vaccine 1st ready for use in USA
Time Scale + 7 months 1 week

The vaccine was first ready from mass production and used on 5th October 2009 in the USA

Most Vaccinated City in the USA by 22nd March 2010
Time Scale + 1 year 1month 1 week
Massachusetts vaccinated more residents against the swine flu and seasonal flu in the fall and winter than any other state.
Up to the end of Winter (March 2010) – The Massachusetts Department of Public Health says 36 percent of residents were inoculated against the swine flu, also known as H1N1, compared with 21 percent nationally. Seasonal flu vaccinations were administered to 57 percent of the population, compared with 37 percent nationwide.

A mere 36% in one USA city and where nationally only 21% had the vaccine by March 22nd 2010. This was approximately 13 months after the first human death was recorded in Mexico.
Therefore a drug vaccine strategy is totally flawed and where most people would be dead by the time that it was available to the masses and administered.

The world has to come to its senses before it is far too late and adopt Professor Shortridge’s strategy for our own good, as is the only one that has worked and will save the lives of literally 100s of millions.

Dr David Hill
World Innovation Foundation

Apr 19, 2013 4:07pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.