Web Zap*Germs Archive

June 09, 2005

China Admits to More Avian Flu in Domestic Fowl

Last month's avian flu outbreak in western China has been succeeded by another one, this time in Xinjiang province -- which has the health experts worried, according to the WSJ [subscr. req'd]:
...1,042 domesticated geese on a backyard farm were found to be infected.

Health officials responded by culling more than 13,000 birds that may have come in contact with the virus. They say migratory geese may have carried the virus to the domesticated fowl on the farm. Jia Youling, China's chief veterinarian, reported the cases Wednesday to the World Organization for Animal Health in Paris.

"This indicates once again that the virus is widespread in the region," says Julie Hall, who heads up the World Health Organization's team responsible for combating communicable diseases in China. "It's very important to remain vigilant."
While the virus is able to jump between species, such as birds to humans, it so far hasn't spread from human to human. Scientists and experts in communicable diseases warn that a single mutation in the virus could lead to easy human-to-human transmission, a scenario that could spark a global flu pandemic, potentially killing millions of people in a matter of months.

"We are worried," says Noureddin Mona, representative in Beijing for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. "We should be prepared for the worst."

Update 10 June 2005: Another WHO rep called avian flu "unstable, unpredictable and very versatile," though perhaps he had just been musing on Russell Crowe.


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