Thursday, February 5, 2009

Avian Flu: Silence

Is avian influenza spreading in China? Cases in Hong Kong and Shenzhen led some to assert that the disease is spreading in China.

I checked China's Animal Husbandry and Veterinary net web site--surely this is the place to find out--but the latest article is from two weeks ago (Jan. 19), about a network of labs set up in universities to check on avian flu.

The article says the avian influenza situation is grim in neighboring countries. As for China, it says in recent years AI has been endemic only in some northern provinces, but AI was detected in an area of Jiangsu Province on December 15, suggesting that it may have spread over a broader area. In January, the article reports, two people in Beijing and Shanxi contracted AI.

The victim in Jiangsu was a farmer in Hai'an county. The H5N1 strain was detected in samples, but it was determined to be different from the virus found in southern China (Hong Kong and Shenzhen). Experts concluded it probably was spread by migratory fowl. Still, 377,000 chickens were culled in Jiangsu.

A 19-year-old woman died in Beijing on January 7 from AI. She was a native of Fujian Province in the South living in migrant worker housing on the outskirts of Beijing. She bought 9 ducks at a market in a small city in neighboring Hebei province Dec 19. They were slaughtered and she took them home, gutted them, and gave away three. In all, 13 people ate the ducks, but no one else got sick. Health workers found 116 people came in contact with the woman. One nurse had a fever, but she recovered. The Ministry of Agriculture dispatched personnel to inspect the surrounding rural areas in Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei, and found no bird flu.

A Feb. 3 news report in Guangming Daily says the Shanxi victim was a 3 year-old girl who came down with a fever while in Hunan on January 7 and was hospitalized after returning to Shanxi on the 11th. She was transferred to a provincial childrens' hospital with a serious case of pneumonia that a health department worker recognized as avian flu. She was treated and released from the hospital on Feb. 3. The health department assured everyone they need not fear avian flu--it can be treated if diagnosed early.

The article worried about the risk of spreading AI as lots of birds were traded during the Chinese New Year holiday last month.

The Ministry of Agriculture issued a series of notices aimed at controlling AI spread during the holiday. It aims for a poultry vaccination rate of 100% (actual rate is over 90%). Other stepinclude increasing monitoring by daily testing samples of poultry, increase vaccine production, do surveys to watch for the disease and keep a careful watch on border areas.

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