2 bird flu clus­ters rais­ing con­cerns Hu­man-to-hu­man trans­mis­sion can­not be ruled out, source says

China Daily (Canada) - - TOP NEWS - By SHAN JUAN shan­juan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China re­ported two clus­ters of hu­man cases of H7N9 bird flu last month, ac­cord­ing to a source with the Na­tional Health and Fam­ily Plan­ning Com­mis­sion who warned that “we can­not rule out hu­man-to-hu­man trans­mis­sion”.

The num­ber of in­fec­tions spiked in De­cem­ber to 106, up from just six in the pre­vi­ous month, ac­cord­ing to data from the Chi­nese Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

How­ever, two clus­ters — two or more cases in the same place — in eastern China have raised con­cerns of hu­man-to-hu­man trans­mis­sion.

One in­volved a 66-year-old man and his 39-year-old daugh­ter in Suzhou, Jiangsu prov­ince, who both tested pos­i­tive for H7N9, said the health com­mis­sion source, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

He said the fa­ther, who had had con­tact with live poultry at a mar­ket, was di­ag­nosed first, and the daugh­ter con­tracted the virus while tend­ing to her sick fa­ther. She had had no ex­po­sure to live poultry.

The other clus­ter, in He­fei, An­hui prov­ince, was not fam­ily-re­lated but in­volved two men in their 60s who were ad­mit­ted to the same hos­pi­tal ward. One had con­firmed con­tact with live poultry, and the sec­ond was sus­pected of con­tract­ing the virus while in the hos­pi­tal ward, the source said.

For any clus­ters, “we con­duct a thor­ough epi­demi­ol­ogy in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and all those in close con­tact with the in­fected are tested for the virus”, he said, adding that the cases last month did not pro­vide a rea­son to panic. “There is def­i­nitely no sus­tained hu­man-to-hu­man trans­mis­sion,” he said, adding that the virus is not known to have mu­tated.

This month, more than 130 cases of H7N9 flu have been re­ported in China, in­clud­ing 24 deaths.

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion urged all coun­tries on Tues­day to mon­i­tor bird flu out­breaks in birds and to re­port cases in hu­mans that could sig­nal the start of a pan­demic.

Tal­lies by the UN health body showed that around 40 coun­tries and re­gions world­wide have re­ported avian in­fluenza out­breaks in­volv­ing var­i­ous strains in poultry or wild birds.

The Chi­nese Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion has been closely mon­i­tor­ing the H7N9 virus since the first re­ported case in China in 2013, said Ni Daxin, deputy di­rec­tor of the cen­ter’s emergency re­sponse de­part­ment.

How­ever, a tricky thing about H7N9 is that it doesn’t cause symp­toms in the birds in­fected, said Shu Yue­long, head of the Chi­nese Na­tional In­fluenza Cen­ter.

“That makes it dif­fi­cult to de­tect the out­break in birds and to curb sec­ondary trans­mis­sion from bird to man,” he said.

In China, hu­man cases of H7N9 have been re­ported mostly in 11 south­ern prov­inces in­clud­ing Jiangsu, An­hui and Guang­dong.

Shu said that’s highly re­lated to the eat­ing habits of peo­ple liv­ing in those ar­eas. “Peo­ple there pre­fer live poultry to the frozen kind.”

He rec­om­mended that con­sumers shift to frozen poultry and stay away from live poultry mar­kets.

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