China calls in aid as bird flu spreads


This is unlikely to help markets today. From Bloomberg:

Four international flu experts will arrive in China within days to help authorities respond to the country’s widening bird-flu emergency, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Nancy Cox, director of the flu division at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Anne Kelso, director of a World Health Organization flu research center in Melbourne, Malik Peiris from the University of Hong Kong, and Angus Nicoll, head of the Stockholm-based European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s flu program, will arrive on about April 17 to offer technical advice, said the people, who declined to be identified because the Chinese government hasn’t announced that the experts are being invited.

The group will seek to assist Chinese authorities grappling to identify the source and mode of transmission of the H7N9 avian influenza that has infected at least 60 people and killed 13. Beijing yesterday said that a 7-year-old girl has the virus, and Henan province reported its first two cases, opening a new front in the spread of the new pathogen in the world’s most populous nation.

“There’s no way to predict how this will spread,” Michael O’Leary, the WHO’s China representative, told reporters in Beijing yesterday. “The good news is we have no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission. That’s a key factor in this situation.”

Cox referred questions to the WHO, while Kelso, Peiris and Nicoll didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comment. Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the Geneva-based WHO, said the agency has discussed a mission to China, but declined to comment on specifics. Two calls to the press office of China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission weren’t answered.

…Shanghai now has 24 human infections. The government said April 13 that a 56-year-old man surnamed Gu, the husband of a woman diagnosed on April 4, was found with the virus.

There isn’t enough evidence to conclude that Gu, who is in a critical condition, was infected by his wife and there’s no evidence that there has been human-to-human transmission among any of the cases, the National Health and Family Planning Commission said on its website.

“We can’t say yet” if the latest Shanghai infection represents human-to-human transmission, O’Leary said, adding that each case must be investigated very carefully.

“In cases where there might be two people in close proximity who both have the disease, it’s also difficult to determine whether that’s because of human-to-human or because they were both exposed to the same source, for instance chickens,” he said. “That’s not so easy to sort out.”

David Llewellyn-Smith
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