Bird Flu Spread in China Slowing Down
By Mei Manuel, February 18, 2017 00:02 AM
On Thursday, Chinese health authorities announced that the deadly strain of bird flu affecting China is now slowing down and that they are now working on enforcing stricter policies to control the market and the transport of live poultry to stop the spread of the virus.
In January, at least 79 people died from the H7N9 bird flu virus according to the government. These numbers are up to four times more than the previous record in previous years. Some even say this is the worst bird flu crisis felt by the country on record.
Authorities have warned against panic and urged precautions to be enforced by the public against the outbreak. Nevertheless, the numbers triggered concern of a repeat of previous health crises, such as the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2002.
From Sunday to Tuesday this week, eight new human infections of H7N9 avian flu were reported, indicating the rate had slowed from the previous weeks according to the announcement of the National Health and Family Planning Commision.
"The national epidemic situation clearly shows a downwards trend," it said.
From Feb. 6 to Feb. 12, 69 new cases, including 8 deaths, had been reported, with just three of the 69 reported on Sunday.
To fight the spread of the virus even further, the commission is urging stronger monitoring, besides suspending or permanently closing live poultry markets and tightening curbs on bird transport.
"Once the virus is discovered, immediately investigate and take targeted measures to prevent the epidemic's spread," as cited in the statement.
Chicken prices have sunk in the world's second largest poultry consumer due to the outbreak.
The spread of the virus among fowl in China follows major outbreaks in poultry flocks in neighboring South Korea and Japan.
Exposure to live poultry markets is the "crucial factor" in human infections according to the Chinese health commission and added that the virus had not mutated to spread from human to human.
The greatest fear is that a deadly strain of avian flu could mutate into a pandemic form that can be passed easily between people.
The World Health Organization has said it had not been able to rule out limited human-to-human spread in two clusters of China's cases.
Though H7N9 has spread widely and early this year, most cases were confined to the same areas similar to previous years, which includes the Yangtze River delta and the southern region of Guangdong.
On Saturday, Beijing reported its first human H7N9 case this year, a 68-year-old man from Langfang city, Hebei Province. A second human case was reported in the same region on Tuesday.
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