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China culls 80,000 birds in Hebei

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    Posted: May 05 2017 at 3:20pm

China culls 80,000 birds in Hebei to tackle spreading bird flu

China has culled 80,000 chickens in the country's north after detecting an outbreak of H7N9 bird flu on a farm of layer hens, said the agriculture ministry on Friday.

Five thousand hens on the farm in Xingtai in Hebei province died in late April, said the ministry, and another 8,500 hens were infected with the disease.

After confirming infection with the H7N9 virus, authorities ordered the culling of 80,057 poultry. The outbreak is under control, added the statement.

Infection with bird flu usually peaks during winter months and tails off in the spring but cases of H7N9 have been unusually high in the country since last year.

More than 200 people have died since last October and new cases continue to be reported, with the latest fatality occurring in Shaanxi province this week.

Outbreaks among birds have spread northwards, and the virus has evolved from a low pathogenic one into one with more serious symptoms.

(Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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CDC is tracking emerging, deadly bird flu in China


POSTED:MAY 03 2017 05:53PM EDT

UPDATED:MAY 03 2017 10:14PM EDT

ATLANTA - As the U.S. flu season winds down, scientists in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Atlanta flu lab are focused on finding the next pandemic flu threat.

And they're watching a deadly strain of bird flu in China.



"There are features of this strain that are worrisome," says CDC Acting Director Dr. Anne Schuchat.

She's talking about the H7N9 bird flu, which began spreading from poultry to people in 2013, with lethal consequences.

"And while this is the fifth year of seeing the disease, this year has been worse than any of the previous ones in China,"  Dr. Schuchat says.

So far, in the fifth outbreak alone, the World Health Organization says 623 people have been sickened.

That brings the total of lab-confirmed H7N9 infections to 1,421 since 2013.

Most of those infected had been exposed to poultry, but there were some rare cases of limited person-to-person spread.

This virus moves quickly, progressing from high fever and cough to severe breathing complications like pneumonia.

The WHO says up to 40 percent of those infected die.

"When a new influenza strain it emerges, it is a risk from being spread easily from person to person," Dr. Schuchat says. "This one hasn't done that yet.  But that's why we're keeping our eye on it. Because it has the capacity to evolve and change."

And that change is already happening.  

The CDC had developed an H7N9 vaccine using earlier circulating strains of the virus.  But Schuchat says they started seeing signs the flu has mutated, becoming more deadly in birds, and, they think, more resistant to the drugs we use to treat influenza.

"And when we got the strains and could actually look at them, what we see is that they have changed," Schuchat says. "So, they have developed away from the vaccine that was developed against this H7N9 strain into something that we need to attend to."

Now, with a surge in new infections, CDC scientists have gone back to the vaccine drawing board.

"Our scientists are taking that strain from the new bird flu viruses and making a candidate vaccine virus that can be used to hand off to companies, so that the flu vaccine manufacturers can make a new vaccine against that bird flu strain."

It could take months to develop a just-in-case vaccine.  

But, Dr. Schuchat says, the good news is this virus has not learned yet to spread easily, which is a feature of pandemic flu.

So the risk of a worldwide outbreak, or pandemic flu, remains low.

"But we can never be complacent about the risk for new threats," Dr. Schuchat cautions.  "We know that Ebola in West Africa seemed very far away to people, until it was on our doorstep here in Atlanta."

NEXT ARTICLE: If you're pregnant, you need these two shots

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China reports 24 more H7N9 avian flu cases, 9 fatal

China continues to see a steady pace of new H7N9 avian flu infections late into the season, with 24 cases reported over the past week, including at least one from a province that had never reported one before.

Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection (CHP) typically publishes a report in English on the most recent week's worth of cases from the mainland, but today the only hint of a weekly total came in a report in Chinese from Xinhua, China's state news agency.

This week's total reflects an increase from 17 reported from China last week.

Citing Chinese national health officials, the report said the 24 cases were reported between Apr 28 and May 4 and that 9 of the infections were fatal. A translation of the Xinhua report was posted by *******, an infectious disease news message board. The report offered no other details about the newly infected patients or the affected provinces.

Shaanxi province's first cases

Yesterday, however, the CHP said it was monitoring two new cases from the mainland, that of a 62-year-old man from Shaanxi, the province's first such case. The province is located in northwestern China. The man died from his illness.

Today Xinhua reported a second case from Shaanxi province, involving a 63-year-old man who was hospitalized.

The CHP also noted another H7N9 patient in the city of Chongqing, a 25-year-old woman who is hospitalized. Chongqing is in southwestern China.

China is currently in its fifth and by far its largest wave of H7N9 infections, an event that has been marked by wider geographic spread and the detection of a highly pathogenic form of the virus in poultry.

Separate reports flagged by infectious disease news tracking sources suggest that new cases in Hebei province, which had reported only a few H7N9 cases, are likely part of China's weekly H7N9 total. Hebei province is in northern China and is not far from Beijing, which has also reported a surge of recent cases.

Provincial officials in Hebei province announced six new cases between Apr 28 and May 4, according to a statement translated and posted by *******.

Farm outbreak

In a likely related development, China's agriculture ministry today announced an H7N9 outbreak at a poultry breeding farm in Hebei province, which killed 5,000 chickens and led to the culling of 80,057 more, according to a statement translated and posted by Avian Flu Diary (AFD), an infectious disease news blog.

China has now reported at least 680 cases during the fifth wave, including at least 197 deaths.

See also:

May 5 ******* thread on Xinhua report

May 4 CHP statement

May 5 Xinhua report on second Shaanxi province case

May 4 ******* thread on Hebei province cases

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