WHO is looking into two suspected “family clusters” of people in China who may be infected, potentially the first evidence of human-to-human spread. “In general, no matter what their exposure, this virus so far has produced overwhelmingly severe cases”

H7N9 death toll rises as ‘family clusters’ probed

Created: 2013-4-10 1:06:39

TWO more deaths from the H7N9 bird flu virus took China’s toll from the new strain to nine yesterday.

One was an 83-year-old man in Jiangsu Province who was admitted to hospital with a fever on March 20 and confirmed as having H7N9 on April 2, Xinhua news agency reported.

The other victim was a patient in Anhui Province. No further details have been released so far.

The strain has now infected 28 people, all of them in eastern China. They include another four infections confirmed yesterday, two in Shanghai and two in Zhejiang Province, one of whom was said to be dangerously ill.

The World Health Organization said yesterday that it was looking into two suspected “family clusters” of people in China who may be infected, potentially the first evidence of human-to-human spread.

The new virus is severe in most humans, leading to fears that if it becomes easily transmissible, it could cause a deadly influenza pandemic.

“At this point there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission,” WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl told a news briefing in Geneva. “There are some suspected but not yet confirmed cases of perhaps very limited transmission between close family members. Those are still being investigated.

“In general, no matter what their exposure, this virus so far has produced overwhelmingly severe cases,” he said.Hartl said that the two suspected “clusters” were in Shanghai and Jiangsu.

In each suspected cluster, a family member has been confirmed as being infected, he said.

“They are small family clusters. One is two people, and the other is three people. We just are trying to get good samples in one of the cases of the family cluster in order to be able to test those samples, and we are waiting on test results from the other cluster,” he said.

The exact source of infection remains unknown, although samples have tested positive in some birds in poultry markets that remain the focus of investigations by China and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

“If it is confirmed, it means that it has passed between two people under the same roof,” Hartl said. “And if it passes between two people under the same roof, it’s either human-to-human transmission between two people who have constant and close contact or it could be virus from the same environmental source, so we don’t know yet.”

The WHO has praised China for mobilizing resources nationwide to combat the strain by culling thousands of birds and monitoring hundreds of people close to those infected.

Chinese authorities have said there is no evidence of the H7N9 strain being transmitted between humans.

The bird flu outbreak has caused global concern. Airline shares have fallen in Europe and in Hong Kong over fears that the virus could be lead to an epidemic like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which emerged in China in 2002 and killed about 10 percent of the 8,000 people infected worldwide.

Health authorities initially tried to cover up the SARS outbreak.

“The Chinese ministry of health and family planning is working extremely openly and closely with us on this issue (H7N9),” Hartle told reporters yesterday.

“We are getting all the information that we need or ask for,” he added.

Referring to work being done in WHO laboratories worldwide to identify the best vaccine for the virus, he said that “in terms of vaccine development, we are still in the phase where a suitable vaccine virus is being developed.”

However, Hartl said that would take “a matter of weeks not months.”

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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