International health team flying to China to help assess deadly flu outbreak, UN reports

Poultry farmers test chickens for the Avian Flu virus. FAO/Giulo Napolitano

16 April 2013 – United Nations and international health experts will travel to China later this week at Beijing’s invitation for a week-long joint assessment of the deadly H7N9 bird influenza outbreak that has so far infected 63 people, 14 of them fatally.

Beyond these confirmed cases, 1,000 other people are being monitored, based on the assumption that there was a consistent source, although there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission, UN World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Glenn Thomas told a news briefing in Geneva today

Until the source is identified, further cases of infection, which has so far been limited to six eastern provinces and municipalities, are expected in other areas of China, he said, adding that WHO was on the alert for mutations that could bring human-to-human transmission of the virus.

The international health team, comprising experts from the WHO, Australia, the European Union and the United States will leave for China before the end of the week and look at issues around the virus reservoir and its transmission from animals to humans.

Mr. Thomas reported that there were some cases of people recovering from a critical state after contracting the illness.

UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) spokesperson Silvano Sofia said diagnostic capabilities were being strengthened, noting that the virus had been confirmed in samples taken from chickens, quails, pigeons, ducks and the environment.

. FAO is working with the Chinese authorities to develop a market chain analysis to trace the sources of infected poultry back to the farms of origin and identify other infected farms, he added.


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