Bird Flu Death Toll Rises as Virus Dissipates

Four more deaths have brought the total number of fatalities from the H7N9 bird flu to 36. Yet despite these deaths, there is evidence that the virus is not spreading as fast or as widely as many feared. From Al Jazeera:

The United Nations health agency said a written statement on Friday that the four deaths were from cases that had already been identified in laboratories.

It said here had been no new cases of infection with H7N9 Since May 8.

The WHO reiterated that there was no evidence that the new strain of bird flu, which was first detected in patients in China in March, was passing easily from human to human. If such a feature emerged it could spark a pandemic.

But it said: “Until the source of infection has been identified and controlled, it is expected that there will be further cases of human infection with the virus.” [Source]

Fears that the virus would morph into a global pandemic have eased as hospitals around the country have seen fewer new cases. From Quartz:

The passing of the crisis would be good news not just for Chinese citizens. Epidemiologists have long worried that bird flu could morph into a virus contagious between humans, which could give rise to a global pandemic. Experts at the World Health Organization (WHO) and other institutions have said that the possibility of human-to-human transmission in China’s recent outbreak is not confirmed but can’t be ruled out either. A total of 131 people in China have caught H7N9, and 36 people have died from it, according to the WHO.

But shutting down live poultry markets across the country seems to have slowed the outbreak’s spread. Warmer temperatures may also be helping. Zhejiang health officials said there have been no new cases of the virus over the past 28 days. They have also now released dozens of people who were being examined because of their contact with H7N9 patients in the province. [Source]

As fears have dissipated and with the help of government subsidies to the hard-hit poultry industry, the price of chicken is on the rise, according to People’s Daily:

The price per kilo of dressed chicken hit 13.51 yuan (2.18 U.S. dollars) on May 15, up from an annual low of 12.97 yuan on May 12, but the figure was still 4.2 percent lower than the same time last year, according to data from MOA.

The number of transactions in the poultry sector from May 6 to May 12 increased 25.6 percent from the equivalent period in April, but they were still down 67.2 percent year on year, the data showed.

The price rebound is the result of central government subsidy initiatives that involved pumping 600 million yuan into major poultry-processing companies and breeders nationwide to stabilize the industry, said Bi Meijia, MOA chief economist. [Source]


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