H5N1 - Avian Influenza
The Ministry of Agriculture plans to close all live bird markets in medium and large cities across the country to combat a possible bird flu epidemic, Beijing Times reported today.
China built up stockpiles of a domestically-produced bird-flu vaccine for humans in February. The vaccine protects people aged 18-60 from the H5N1 virus.
China can make 20 million doses of bird flu vaccine annually.
Beijing is the first city in mainland to close live bird markets. Winter and spring are the peak seasons for bird flu.
A 19-year-old woman died of the virus in a Beijing hospital on January 5. The woman had bought nine ducks at a wet market in neighboring Hebei Province on December 19.
Just when you thought you could scratch bird flu off your list of things to worry about in 2009, the deadly H5N1 virus has resurfaced in poultry in Hong Kong for the first time in six years, reinforcing warnings that the threat of a human pandemic isn't over.
Avian Influenza in Hong Kong: "Baby Girl in Hong Kong Infected with H9N2 Bird Flu Strain"
World Journal - December 2008
Avian Influenza in Taiwan: "H5N2 suspected in Taiwan"
The Liberty Times - December 2008
Bird flu re-emerged as a threat in Asia on Tuesday after China reported the disease killed a woman in Beijing and neighbouring Vietnam said a girl had contracted the virus. The cases are the first involving humans in the two countries in nearly a year, and mark a reappearance of the H5N1 virus as Asia moves into the cold winter months that typically favour the spread of the virus.
The case in the Chinese capital saw a 19-year-old woman, Huang Yanqing, die on Monday after she fell ill on December 24, the Beijing Health Bureau said. Huang apparently contracted the disease after she cleaned the internal organs of some ducks she had bought in neighbouring Hebei province, China's official Xinhua news agency reported. Direct contact with infected poultry, or surfaces and objects contaminated by their faeces, is considered the main route of human infection, according to the World Health Organisation's website.
With the arrival of winter, H5N1 avian flu is on the rise again in Asia and Egypt. The outbreaks are part of an annual trend: cases peak between December and March each year in birds as well as humans. Children have died from it recently in Indonesia and Egypt, and a Cambodian teenager tested positive but survived.
Indonesia may have had more flu deaths than it has admitted. Its health minister said in June that she “wanted to focus on positive steps by the government” and would not announce all confirmed deaths. There were several family clusters of fatal respiratory diseases this year, according to news reports, but all were officially attributed to other causes.
Map: An Evolving Flu Virus.
Last year, for the first time since avian flu emerged as a global threat, the number of human cases was down from the year before. As the illness receded, the scary headlines — with their warnings of a pandemic that could kill 150 million people — all but vanished.
But avian flu has not gone away. Nor has it become less lethal or less widespread in birds. Experts argue that preparations against it have to continue, even if the virus’s failure to mutate into a pandemic strain has given the world more breathing room.
There were 86 confirmed human cases last year compared with 115 in 2006, according to the World Health Organization, and 59 deaths compared with 79. Experts assume that the real numbers are several times larger, because many cases are missed, but that is still a far cry from a pandemic.
Dr. David Nabarro, the senior United Nations coordinator for human and avian flu, recently conceded that he worried somewhat less than he did three years ago. “Not because I think the threat has changed,” he quickly added, but because the response to it has gotten so much better.”