Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Chicken still on menu, WHO tells China as bird flu spreads

By Ivan Watson and Hilary Whiteman, CNN
April 19, 2013 -- Updated 0649 GMT (1449 HKT)
A janitor sprays disinfectant over empty chicken cages at a market in New Taipei City, Taiwan, on Monday, April 29. Asian countries have stepped up vigilance against the spread of H7N9 bird flu after a case of the deadly strain showed up in Taiwan, the first outside mainland China. A janitor sprays disinfectant over empty chicken cages at a market in New Taipei City, Taiwan, on Monday, April 29. Asian countries have stepped up vigilance against the spread of H7N9 bird flu after a case of the deadly strain showed up in Taiwan, the first outside mainland China.
HIDE CAPTION
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
Bird flu scare spreads
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: WHO confirms start of international investigation into bird flu in China
  • H7N9 virus has infected 87 people since March
  • Six people have recovered, 17 have died
  • Experts investigating possible human-to-human transmission

Beijing (CNN) -- The World Health Organization announced the launch of an international investigation into a new deadly strain of bird flu, as the total number of infections in China rose to 87.

"Right now it is still an animal virus that rarely infects humans," said Dr. Michael O'Leary, the head of the WHO's office in Beijing.

O'Leary said one of the goals of the mission is to determine the source of the H7N9 virus which was first discovered only three weeks ago.

Officials from the WHO, as well as experts from the U.S. and European Centers for Disease Control, are expected to investigate the virus alongside Chinese health authorities in Shanghai and Beijing in the coming days.

READ: Bird flu puts spotlight on China's food traditions

Map: H7N9 infections and deaths  Map: H7N9 infections and deaths
Map: H7N9 infections and deathsMap: H7N9 infections and deaths
Poultry markets closed over bird flu
China on high alert over bird flu
New deadly strain of bird flu in China

Five new infections of the H7N9 virus were recorded in Shanghai and nearby provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Henan.

On Thursday, the government suspended wild bird sales to try to prevent the spread of the virus, although many questions remain as to the source of infection. It follows a ban on live poultry trading in affected provinces. A large number of birds have also been slaughtered, Xinhua said.

In his statement to a room packed full of journalists, O'Leary said there was legitimate reason for concern about the new virus, but suggested it was premature to begin mass culling of poultry.

"I eat chicken every day," O'Leary said with a laugh. "Chicken is of no concern at all."

However, posts on the country's microblogging sites suggested that some users were anxious about going anywhere near poultry products.

"After H7N9, I don't even dare to eat an egg. I ate lunch box every day. I want poultry, and I want meat!!!" one wrote. Another said: "Jiaxing has H7N9 patient now, so nervous. I wasn't this nervous even during SARS."

But some were more relaxed about the potential risks: "Everyone should be careful, but I don't think it's that big deal. It's not that scary. In 2006 during another avian flu, I was in final year of high school and my parents sent me eggs every week. I ate a lot, but I'm still fine now."

Until March, the virus had only been present in birds, which is why they've become the focus of the investigation.

However, 40% of patients with H7N9 had not come into contact with poultry, according to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The World Health Organization says at this stage there is "limited" evidence of human-to-human transmission.

Right now it is still an animal virus that rarely infects human
Michael O'Leary, WHO

Three clusters of infection have been identified. In each case, they involved family members living in close proximity. It was not clear whether relatives had transmitted the virus to each other, or whether they had been exposed to the same initial source of the illness.

"This becomes a different situation if the virus has human-to-human transmission," O'Leary said.

Authorities are monitoring more than 1,000 people who have come into close contact with confirmed cases.

One cluster of infection involved a family where a father and two sons fell ill.

The 87-year-old father died of the virus in March, followed soon after by his younger son. It hasn't been confirmed whether the son had the illness, according to Feng Zijian, director of the health emergency center of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Because he had died, further tests weren't possible, Feng added, during a press briefing on Wednesday.

The elder son was confirmed to have had the virus but has since recovered. He is one of five people who have been discharged from hospital after treatment, according to Xinhua.

So far, one boy is confirmed to have been an asymptomatic carrier of the virus, meaning he tested positive for the illness but didn't display any symptoms. The discovery of an asymptomatic carrier is worrying because it could make the spread of the infection more difficult to monitor, experts say.

The four-year old was part of a sweep of people tested for the illness because they'd come into close contact with the first reported case in Beijing.

Authorities took throat swabs from a group of people connected to 24 poultry farmers in Naidong Village, Cuigezhuang County in Beijing's Chaoyang District, according to the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau.

The WHO reported that of more than 80,000 birds tested in China, less than 40 had tested positive.

Unlike previous outbreaks of other strains of bird flu, none of the infected birds showed signs of being sick.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0109 GMT (0909 HKT)
The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, set off a media kerfuffle this month when he spoke about his next reincarnation.
September 28, 2014 -- Updated 1418 GMT (2218 HKT)
He's one of the fieriest political activists in Hong Kong — he's been called an "extremist" by China's state-run media — and he's not old enough to drive.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 0257 GMT (1057 HKT)
China has no wine-making tradition but the country now uncorks more bottles of red than any other.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 0929 GMT (1729 HKT)
Christians in eastern China keep watch in Wenzhou, where authorities have demolished churches and removed crosses.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 0538 GMT (1338 HKT)
Home-grown hip-hop appeals to a younger generation but its popularity has not translated into record deals and profits for budding rap artists.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 0545 GMT (1345 HKT)
Reforms to the grueling gaokao - the competitive college entrance examination - don't make the grade, says educator Jiang Xueqin.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 1218 GMT (2018 HKT)
Beijing grapples with reports from Iraq that a Chinese national fighting for ISIS has been captured.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 0200 GMT (1000 HKT)
CNN's David McKenzie has tasted everything from worms to grasshoppers while on the road; China's cockroaches are his latest culinary adventure.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 0057 GMT (0857 HKT)
Beijing rules only candidates approved by a nominating committee can run for Hong Kong's chief executive.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
China warns the United States to end its military surveillance flights near Chinese territory.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0312 GMT (1112 HKT)
China has produced elite national athletes but some argue the emphasis on winning discourages children. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout reports
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0513 GMT (1313 HKT)
Chinese are turning to overseas personal shoppers to get their hands on luxury goods at lower prices.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 0908 GMT (1708 HKT)
Experts say rapidly rising numbers of Christians are making it harder for authorities to control the religion's spread.
August 11, 2014 -- Updated 0452 GMT (1252 HKT)
"I'm proud of their moral standing," says Harvey Humphrey. His parents are accused of corporate crimes in China.
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 1942 GMT (0342 HKT)
A TV confession detailing a life of illegal gambling and paid-for sex has capped the dramatic fall of one of China's most high-profile social media celebrities.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 0410 GMT (1210 HKT)
President Xi Jinping's campaign to punish corrupt Chinese officials has snared its biggest target -- where can the campaign go from here?
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 0712 GMT (1512 HKT)
All you need to know about the tainted meat produce that affects fast food restaurants across China, Hong Kong, and Japan.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0230 GMT (1030 HKT)
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 0911 GMT (1711 HKT)
Is the Chinese president a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 0344 GMT (1144 HKT)
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
ADVERTISEMENT