New China H7N9 bird flu cases ‘signal potential winter epidemic’

New China H7N9 bird flu cases ‘signal potential winter epidemic’

By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) – Fresh human cases in eastern China of a deadly new strain of bird flu signal the potential for “a new epidemic wave” of the disease in coming winter months, scientists said on Thursday. The strain, known as H7N9, emerged for the first time in humans earlier this year and killed around 45 of the some 135 people it infected before appearing to peter out in China During the summer.But a new case in October in a 35-year-old man from China’s eastern Zhejiang province shows that the virus “has re-emerged in winter 2013” and “indicates a possible risk of a larger outbreak of H7N9 this winter,” according to Chinese researchers writing in the online journal Euro surveillance.

Flu experts around the world have been warning that despite the marked drop off in cases during the summer months, the threat posed by H7N9 bird flu has not passed. Ab Osterhaus, a leading virologist based at the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands who has been tracking the virus, told Reuters earlier this month: “We’re bracing for what’s going to happen next.”

The first scientific analysis of probable transmission of the new flu from person to person, published in the British Medical Journal in August, gave the strongest proof yet that it can jump between people and so could potentially cause a human pandemic.

And another study published in August identified several other H7 flu viruses circulating in birds that “may pose threats beyond the current outbreak”.

In a detailed analysis of the 35-year-old man’s case, scientists from the Zhejiang Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention said it differed from previous ones in that it was a severe case in a younger patient “with no obvious underlying diseases and no obvious recent direct contact with live poultry”.

Most laboratory-confirmed cases in the past had been people over the age of 60, many of whom said they’d had recent exposure to poultry, generally at live bird markets.

The case of the 35-year-old man, plus another H7N9 infection confirmed just a day ago, suggest the virus “has apparently continued to circulate in an animal reservoir during the summer”, the researchers said.

The second October case is a 67-year-old man with no underlying disease whose work included transporting and selling poultry.

The researchers said that based on China’s experience in the spring, when there were 30 cases in March and 88 in April, the best approach now would be to maintain enhanced and expanded surveillance in human and animal populations to make sure any new cases of H7N9 are picked up and diagnosed swiftly.

“In particular, enhanced surveillance in poultry would be helpful if it can identify the H7N9 virus and inform early control measures before human infections occur,” the Chinese scientists said.

“Hygiene campaigns and closure of live poultry markets can reduce the risk of severe cases and deaths.”

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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