China detains 10 over bird flu rumours
Death toll from new strain of virus rises to nine out of 31 confirmed cases as authorities act to prevent public panic
Reuters in Shanghai
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 10 April 2013 09.39 BST
Medical workers take part in a drill that simulates human infection of the H7N9 bird flu virus in Hefei, China. Photograph: Chinafotopress/Getty Images
Chinese police have detained at least 10 people for spreading rumours about the H7N9 bird flu, according to state media, as the death toll from the new strain of the virus rose to nine.
Authorities made the arrests in six provinces – Shaanxi, Guizhou, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui and Fujian – after some posted "fake information" online about new cases of the virus in their areas, the official Xinhua news agency said.
The death toll and number of infections in China from the strain of bird flu first found in humans last month has risen daily.
Nine people have died out of the 31 confirmed cases of the virus, all in eastern China, according to data from the National Health and Family Planning Commission. State media quoted authorities as saying a vaccine should be ready within months.
One man detained in Anhui was given seven days of administrative detention for fabricating posts about infections on Chinese microblogs, Xinhua said. The Xi'an public security bureau in Shaanxi province is investigating another man's posts, "to prevent untrue information from causing public panic", Xinhua said.
Scientists around the world have praised China for its handling of the deadly outbreak, but many Chinese are sceptical of the government's pronouncements about the H7N9 virus given a history of public health scandals and cover-ups.
The government initially tried to conceal an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars), which emerged in China in 2002 and killed about one in 10 of the 8,000 people it infected worldwide.
Chinese internet users have questioned why the government waited weeks to announce cases of the bird flu strain, but health officials said it took time to identify the virus, which was previously unknown in humans.
China's Communist party is keen to maintain social stability but it has struggled to clamp down on rumours, which often spread quickly on the internet.
Authorities have detained people in the past for spreading rumours, including 93 people accused of circulating information about the apocalypse last December. However, some commentators have noted that reports of a flu-like condition killing one person near Shanghai had been circulating on Chinese microblogs weeks before the government confirmed it was a case of H7N9.
"From this you can see if the government tried to cover up like in 2003 (Sars cases) but more and more of these posts surfaced, there would be no way to conceal it," social media watcher and journalist Wu Heng told Reuters.
The latest H7N9 victim was from Anhui province, Xinhua reported. Among the new cases are several from Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, at least one of whom is dangerously ill, the news agency said.
The China Securities Journal reported on Wednesday that a vaccine for H7N9 had been authorised by China Food and Drug Administration and was expected to be introduced to the market in the first half of this year.
The source of the infection remains unknown, although samples had tested positive in some birds in poultry markets that remain the focus of investigations by China and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Tuesday it was looking into two suspected "family clusters" of people in China who may be infected with the H7N9 virus, potentially the first evidence of human-to-human spread.
The new virus is severe in most humans, leading to fears that if it becomes easily transmissible, it could cause a deadly influenza pandemic.
However, WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl told a news briefing in Geneva that so far there is no firm evidence of human-to-human transmission occurring, which could spark a pandemic. Chinese health authorities have said the same.
Jiangsu, Anhui see first deaths from H7N9 bird flu
Staff Reporter 2013-04-10 16:20
A poultry seller at a market in Fuzhou, Fujian province. Sales of live poultry have been banned in cities where H7N9 has been reported. (File photo/CNS)
The number of fatalities from H7N9 avian flu in China has risen to nine, with 28 confirmed cases as of Tuesday evening. In the last 24 hours two more patients have died, one each in the provinces of Anhui and Jiangsu, and a total of four new cases were identified in Zhejiang province and Shanghai. The authorities have repeated that there is still no evidence the disease can be spread by human-to-human contact.
The two deaths were an 83-year-old man surnamed Shen in Anhui province and a patient surnamed Han who was one of eight H7N9 cases in Jiangsu. They are both the first death from the virus to be recorded in the respective provinces, reports the state newswire Xinhua.
Zhejiang province and Shanghai meanwhile had each confirmed two new cases as of 6pm Tuesday. A 62-year-old man surnamed Lin developed a fever in Shanghai on April 1 and was confirmed to have contracted the virus on the evening of April 8. A 77-year-old retiree surnamed Wang experienced fever and muscle pains on April 3 and was later diagnosed with pneumonia and H7N9. The two patients are both reportedly in a stable condition and people who have had close contact with them have reported no symptoms.
In Zhejiang province, a 51-year-old woman surnamed Jia and a 79-year-old man surnamed Tu were diagnosed with the virus. Tu is in a critical condition, according to Xinhua.
Thirteen cases have now been recorded in Shanghai, eight in Jiangsu, two in Anhui and five in Zhejiang. Five of the 13 patients in Shanghai have died, two in Zhejiang and one each in Jiangsu and Anhui provinces.
H7N9 could become airborne virus: expert
Staff Reporter 2013-04-08 17:05
Shoppers in Hangzhou wear face masks as a precaution against H7N9. (Photo/CNS)
The new H7N9 strain of avian influenza that has so far killed six people and left another 15 critically ill in eastern China has the basic genetic hallmarks of an easily transmissible virus, according to a virology expert.
Ron Fouchier, a professor of molecular virology at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, told Bloomberg on Saturday that the H7N9 subtype was formed from two viruses merging their genetic material. Adding that the new strain of bird flu has features of viruses that are known to jump easily from birds to mammals, and a mutation that may help it attach to cells in the respiratory tract.
"That's certainly not good news," he said after reviewing a gene sequencing of H7N9 published by Chinese health authorities.
Last year, Fouchier studied the H5N1 subtype of the avian flu, the strain that sparked the previous outbreak in Asia in 2003 that has so far killed more than 600 people in a dozen countries. After implementing five genetic tweaks, Fouchier showed that the virus could become transmissible by air to ferrets, the mammal that responds to influenza closest to humans.
Two of the mutations Fouchier made are present in H7N9, leading him to conclude that it is "certainly of more concern than the vast majority of bird flu viruses." While it is not clear whether these mutations alone can make the virus easily transmissible, the possibility is something that should be investigated, he said.
While there is currently no evidence that the H7N9 virus can spread between humans, the possibility has not been ruled out by scientists, who continue to scrutinize the strain for more clues. As a precaution, live poultry trading has been suspended in the cities of Shanghai, Nanjing and Hangzhou.
Fouchier does not believe that a pandemic is imminent, however, pointing to the fact that H5N1 has circulated for 16 years and has not become mammal-to-mammal transmissible.
H7N9 rumored to have hit Beijing as warnings censored
Staff Reporter 2013-04-09 12:33
Medical staff treat an H7N9 patient in Anhui province. (Photo/Xinhua)
The deadly new strain of avian influenza is rumored to have spread to Beijing after a local hospital worker issued a cryptic warning to friends on his microblog account, reports citizen journalism website Boxun.
A new subtype of the bird flu, known as H7N9, has so far infected 24 people in eastern China and led to seven deaths, according to official figures. The victims have so far been geographically limited to the east of the country, with all reported cases coming from Shanghai and the provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui.
Internet rumors are circulating which suggest a government cover-up, with many microblog users believing that the virus has already spread to other major cities such as Beijing and Guangzhou, though hospital staff have been forced to remain silent.
An alleged Beijing hospital worker recently posted a thinly veiled warning about the presence of the virus in the city on their Sina Weibo microblog account.
"I cannot say anything. I can only hint that my friends in Beijing need to be careful. Hope you understand what I mean," said the post, reportedly uploaded by a stem cell researcher from one of the city's top hospitals. The warning was quickly deleted along with the microblog account that posted it.
Beijing's health authorities have released a notice on preventing the spread of the flu, requiring all hospitals and medical centers to complete related training by Wednesday. City hospitals with patients suspected to have contracted the virus must also report directly to central health authorities within two hours.
The notice also imposes strict restrictions on live poultry trading at markets and the transportation of birds into the city, including on public trains or buses. Food and health regulators will also increase supervision of the slaughter, processing, transportation and storage of poultry for human consumption.
There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)