Chinese Health Official Issues Stark Bird Flu Warning

Armen Hareyan's picture

This is, quite frankly, the kind of hyperbolic 'speculation' I try to avoid in this blog. Had this been reported by a tabloid paper, I might have skipped it entirely. However, when the Chinese State media, which tends to downplay anything that casts a negative light on China, warns of a possible `epidemic' of human cases of bird flu over the next few months - even my jaded ears perk up a little.

Now, exactly what is meant by an `epidemic' of human cases isn't completely clear. I wouldn't read too much into this phraseology. Not just yet, anyway.

So far we've seen no evidence of anything beyond sporadic human infections, probably contracted from close contact with infected (although possibly, asymptomatic) poultry. But this warning does indicate a visibly heightened level of concern among Chinese officials.

Bird flu epidemic forecast as cold weather deepens
Source: Xinhua | 2009-1-20 |

A CHINESE health expert said yesterday that the country was likely to experience "an epidemic" of human bird flu cases in the next month or two.

The warning came as China confirmed its fourth human case of bird flu in January - including two deaths - after almost a year without any.

"The situation urges us to further strengthen prevention and supervision over the epidemic and ensure early detection and diagnosis when new cases are found," said Shu Yuelong, vice director of virus control and prevention at the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Winter and spring are prime seasons for bird flu Shu said. More than 70 percent of bird flu cases reported in China occurred in those seasons because the virus is more active at lower temperatures. Shu advised the public to stay away from sick or dead poultry and reduce contact with live poultry.

China now faces "a grim situation" in bird flu prevention, threatened by frequent outbreaks in neighboring countries, the Ministry of Agriculture has said. Other threats come from the brisk poultry trade ahead of the Spring Festival and difficulties in taking preventive measures at loosely managed household farms.

China's latest cases appear to have no connection, and no recent outbreaks of the virus among poultry had been reported, Shu said.

By Avian Flu Diary, used under Creative Commons.

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