A senior Chinese disease control official has warned the H7N9 strain of bird flu had peaked again since last December following three recently reported deaths from the disease, the Beijing News reported on Monday.
More than 200 people across the country had been confirmed as infected with the strain since March last year and three patients had died over the past weekend, according to Feng Zijian, the deputy director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
Feng also noted the disease control authority had not ruled out the possibility that the disease had “limited capability of human-to-human transmission” amid concerns stoked by the death of a Shanghai doctor on Saturday and clusters of cases that emerged among family members.
The deputy director told the Beijing News on Monday night that the disease remained to be “sporadic” but had seen a high occurrence in southeast China.
He dismissed concerns over a more dangerous strain of flu in the recent outbreak and said the virus had not undergone major mutations and remained sensitive to current medication, the newspaper reported.
Two deaths have been reported in Shanghai and one in Guangdong province from January 18 to 19, state media reported on Monday.
One of the deceased in Shanghai was a doctor, igniting an explosion of fears that the disease might be capable of human-to-human spread. But state news agency Xinhua reported the doctor might have been exposed to live poultry and had not come into contact with flu patients in the ten days before he began to show symptoms.
Feng’s words echoed that of a representative from World Health Organisation to China, who said on Monday that there was no sign of sustained or large-scale human-to-human transmission of the virus.
“Since October, only one cluster was detected where human-to-human transmission might have occurred. We continue to expect only sporadic human cases,” the China Daily quoted the representative Bernhard Schwartlander as saying.
Figures from the national epidemic surveillance network have shown that the country recently sees five to seven newly confirmed human H7N9 cases each day.
Both the Chinese disease control authority and the World Health Organisation expect the number to be on the rise, the Beijing newspaper reported.
The World Health Organisation said on Monday it had been notified of more than 40 confirmed human H7N9 infections this month, all in China. It did not recommend any restrictions on travel or trade.