WHO: H7N9 “one of most lethal” influenza viruses; Bird Flu Found Outside China’s Mainland in Taiwan

Updated April 24, 2013, 9:40 a.m. ET

Bird Flu Found Outside China’s Mainland

By LAURIE BURKITT

BEIJING—Taiwan reported the first case of the H7N9 virus found outside of China’s mainland Wednesday, and said that three health-care workers who treated the patient had developed undiagnosed respiratory symptoms, raising concerns over the virus’s potential for spreading by human-to-human contact.

At a news conference earlier in the day in Beijing, global health officials stressed that there had been no confirmed cases of transmission of the virus between humans, though they said researchers were still struggling to understand how the virus was spread and hadn’t ruled out the possibility of human-to-human transmission.

Taiwan health officials reported that a 53-year-old Taiwanese male developed a fever on April 12, three days after returning from China’s coastal Jiangsu province, where the virus first emerged in China, according to Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control. The patient, in serious condition now, wasn’t believed to have had any exposure to birds or poultry and hadn’t consumed undercooked poultry or eggs while in the Jiangsu city of Suzhou, the Taiwan CDC said on its website.Three of the 109 health-care workers who have overseen the patient have developed symptoms of upper respiratory infection, the statement said. Health officials are monitoring all of the workers and also monitoring 139 people who came into contact with the patient, including three who had been in close contact, the CDC said.

Chinese and World Health Organization officials said Wednesday in Beijing that they plan to boost surveillance and research on the H7N9 virus to understand its spread and potential for human-to-human transmission, even as the rate of infection slows.

While the source of the virus remains unknown, further surveillance will help in understanding its transmission, said Liang Wannian, director general of the health emergency division of China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission.

Not all cases within China have come from people who have had contact with poultry. Some cases were found within family clusters, though WHO experts say it isn’t clear if those cases were caused by common exposure to a source or due to limited person-to-person transmission.

The rate of new cases has slowed since Shanghai’s live poultry markets were closed on April 6, said Anne Kelso, director of the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Centre for Influenza in Melbourne.

“Evidence shows that closing the markets was an effective way of reducing infections,” Ms. Kelso said. “Still, we can’t relax yet.”

Health experts have just finished an initial investigation into the virus, which has infected 108 people in China, killing 22 of them, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. Of the remaining 86, 14 have been discharged from hospitals and 72 others remain under treatment, Xinhua says.

Experts say that it is reassuring to see that cases are now sporadic, as it suggests the virus can’t easily be contracted by one person from another.

While most cases have centered around Shanghai, the disease has spread beyond the region. The first case in China’s northeastern Shandong province was announced yesterday, according to Xinhua.

In the hunt for the source of the infection, additional testing of farms is planned, said Malik Peiris, a University of Hong Kong microbiologist.

Chinese officials say they would consider developing a vaccine, but the research and development will take time.

Taiwan is strengthening its screening of travelers from China, the CDC said.

H7N9 “one of most lethal” influenza viruses: experts

POSTED: 24 Apr 2013 6:19 PM

International experts probing China’s deadly H7N9 bird flu virus said it was “one of the most lethal influenza viruses” seen so far and concluded that the likely source of infection was poultry.

BEIJING: International experts probing China’s deadly H7N9 bird flu virus said on Wednesday it was “one of the most lethal influenza viruses” seen so far and concluded that the likely source of infection was poultry.

China had confirmed 108 cases and 22 deaths since the first the infections were announced on March 31, with a higher proportion of cases in older people.

“This is definitely one of the most lethal influenza viruses we have seen so far,” said Keiji Fukuda, one of the leading flu experts for the World Health Organization, which has led a team on a week-long visit to China to study H7N9.

Fukuda told a news conference that the H7N9 virus is more easily transmissible than the more common H5N1 strain of bird flu. Experts had previously remarked on the “affinity” of H7N9 for humans.

“We think this virus is more transmissible to humans than H5N1,” he said, referring to the strain the WHO estimates has killed more than 360 people globally since 2003.

“When we look at influenza viruses this is an unusually dangerous virus,” he said, but he added: “We are really at the beginning of our understanding.”

The team said the likely source of infection was poultry, as chickens, ducks and pigeons from poultry markets had tested positive for H7N9, but nevertheless warned over the potential for human-to-human transmission.

“So far no migratory birds or their habitats have tested positive for H7N9,” said team member Nancy Cox, director of the influenza division at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“At least we can now understand that the likely source of infection is poultry, the virus originates from poultry,” she said.

Experts have previously said the animal reservoir for H7N9 appeared to be unspecified birds.

There are worries over the prospect of such a virus mutating into a form easily transmissible between humans, which could then have the potential to trigger a pandemic.

But a statement released by the team, which includes Chinese experts, repeated that no human-to-human transmission has been discovered.

“No sustained person to person transmission has been found,” it said. “What remains unclear is whether the virus could gain the ability to become transmissible between people.”

A WHO official said last week that over 50 percent of those with the virus had remembered coming into contact with birds, raising questions over how the remaining cases became infected with H7N9.

Chinese health officials have acknowledged so-called “family clusters”, where members of a single family have become infected, but have so far declined to put it down to human-to-human transmission.

Such cases could be examples of what health officials call limited human-to-human transmission, in which those in close contact with the ill become infected, as opposed to widespread, or “sustained”, transmission.

So far most H7N9 cases have been confined to the commercial hub Shanghai and nearby provinces in eastern China.

But the number of reported new cases in Shanghai has seen a “dramatic slowdown”, Cox said, calling the reduction in the frequency of new cases “very encouraging”.

Tuesday marked the fourth consecutive day where no new cases were reported in Shanghai.

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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