H7N9 avian flu

Four more die of bird flu in China, pushing toll to 31

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 May, 2013, 1:58pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

The H7N9 bird flu killed four more people over the weekend, pushing the official death toll to 31.

The number to have been infected on the mainland since outbreak began in February rose to 129, with two more cases identified in Fujian.

The head of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)said the virus, in its current form, could not start a pandemic but there was no guarantee it would not mutate.

Of the four new deaths, two were in Jiangsu, one was in Zhejiang and the other was in Anhui.

Health authorities in those provinces failed to provide details about the deaths, opting instead to highlight information about bird flu patients discharged from hospitals.

The latest cases in Fujian were announced on Monday, when officials said a retrospective analysis determined that a nineyear-old boy had contracted the virus, and an elderly man was diagnosed on Saturday. The child, from Cangshan district, Fuzhou , showed symptoms on April 26. He was admitted to hospital the next day and discharged after three days. The other case involved a 69-year-old in Sanshan township, Fuqing. Five people have been diagnosed with H7N9 in Fujian.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission said 42 patients had been discharged from hospitals across the country by Monday afternoon. Another discharge was announced yesterday by Henan officials, who said a 34-year-old chef from Kaifeng had been released but, because of the severity of his case, was likely to require three to six months of rest to fully recuperate. He was the first person diagnosed with the bird flu strain in the province.

With the bird flu spreading south, agricultural authorities in Guangdong recently placed an urgent order for 144,800 bird flu testing kits, the Nanfang Daily said. The poultry trade has been halted in the western Guangdong city of Zhanjiang .

Dr Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC in the US, said he could not predict where the H7 virus would spread among birds, but he was concerned it could go quite far. Still, he said: “This particular virus is not going to cause a pandemic because it doesn’t spread person-to-person. But all it takes is a bit of mutation for it to be able to go person-to-person.

“I cannot say with certainty whether that will happen tomorrow, within 10 years or never.”

At a health conference in New York, Frieden said he was concerned about the World Health Organisation’s ability to police the new strain of bird flu,as budget cuts are putting these efforts at risk.

“They had trouble sending a team to China for H7 because they didn’t have enough money to travel,” Frieden said.

He said he planned to raise the issue with other countries at in Geneva from May 20-28.

View H7N9 map in a larger map

Click on each balloon for more information on individual patients infected: blue, patients infected with the H7N9 virus under treatment; red, those infected with H7N9 who have died; yellow, those who have fully recovered; and pink, those infected other types of the Influenza A virus, including H1N1.