Transmission of the bird flu virus H7N9 from person to person is also possible
In China, a new strain of H7N9 avian flu is causing a stir. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 87 people have been infected so far, 17 of whom have died. The Chinese authorities report more cases every day. It cannot be ruled out that "with the new bird flu strain, transmission from person to person is also possible," said a spokesman for the WHO. So far, experts had only assumed that it was contagious from animal to human.
Transmission of bird flu in "rare cases" from person to person According to the WHO, transmission of the bird flu pathogen H7N9 in "rare cases" is also possible from person to person. The health authorities had previously considered this to be unlikely According to experts, bird flu was caused by contact with birds or poultry, and WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl reported that two young children in Beijing and three families in Shanghai may have been infected with a human-to-human transmission The investigations were still ongoing, but Hartl explicitly pointed out that "there is also the possibility that the family members have not infected each other but the same bird".
So far, however, H7N9 has been considered an animal virus, "which in a few cases spills over to humans," Michael O'Leary, representative of the WHO, told the news agency "dpa" in Beijing not atypical for this type of virus that in a few cases there is also a transmission from person to person. " However, Feng Zijian, a researcher at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, reported that around 40 percent of those infected cannot remember coming into contact with poultry.
Avian flu infections sometimes difficult to detect In the New England Journal of Medicine, a well-known specialist magazine, two current articles deal with the avian influenza virus H7N9. Concerns about a possible global spread were also expressed. Dr. Leo Poon, associate professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong, told the CNN news broadcaster that future developments depend largely on whether the virus can be transmitted from person to person. The contagion routes need to be clarified urgently.
The experts consider the infections of a four-year-old to be of particular concern, since the boy had shown no symptoms of bird flu. The child was only diagnosed with the virus during a routine examination of the relatives of those affected. If human-to-human transmission of avian flu is possible, undetected carriers of the virus could pass it on without knowing it. In addition, symptom-free bird flu infection is difficult to detect and does not allow any statements about the spread of H7N9.
17 deaths from bird flu H7N9 The Chinese authorities first reported about a new bird flu virus about three weeks ago. Since then, 87 people have been infected with the virus, according to the WHO, with new cases being added every day. So far, 17 infected people have died.
Bird flu cases are currently being investigated by a WHO international team of experts in China, which includes 15 scientists. According to O'Leary, there are five experts from the Chinese health authorities. The rest of the scientists would come from the United States, Europe, Australia and Hong Kong. Five WHO health experts were also present. The team is said to spend a week in China, visiting laboratories, hospitals and affected regions, among others, on a route prepared by the Chinese authorities.
The WHO explicitly praised China's handling of the new avian influenza virus. After the Chinese authorities only publicly commented on the outbreak of the respiratory epidemic Sars ten years ago, when dozens of people had already died from the pathogen, they are now much better prepared. At that time, more than 800 people worldwide fell victim to the lung disease. Around 8,000 infections were registered.
In the case of the new avian influenza virus, the Chinese authorities are doing everything possible to contain the outbreak of the infection. "Above all, there is a system today that tests patients for the pathogen when the first symptoms appear," WHO representative Henk Bekedam told the "dpa" news agency The WHO agreement also allows the country to send its own experts to the countries. Bekedam further reported that "China has also invested heavily in the development of a monitoring system for infectious diseases. I am very encouraged by the response to H7N9. "
Avian flu could be behind every cold The center of the new outbreak is the city of Shanghai, which is home to around 23 million people, and the surrounding region. After the infectious disease has spread to neighboring provinces of Zhejiang, Anhui and Jiangsu, and Beijing last week, the fear of an epidemic is beginning to fade. The opening of the ten-day Shanghai auto show next Saturday, at which hundreds of thousands of international visitors are expected, therefore falls at an unfavorable time. Every cold and runny nose is suspected of bird flu. But people in Shanghai seem to be calm about the new bird flu cases. Few wear the face masks that are quite common in China to protect against infection. Nevertheless, tourism losses have already been recorded, as Chinese newspapers report. Tours in the Yangtze Delta are currently booked much less frequently. Travel agencies also report cancellations. As the tourism authorities affirm, however, no impairment of visitor traffic is to be expected. (sb)
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