Poultry slaughtered in Shanghai after deadly bird flu outbreak

chickenJust days after Chinese authorities confirmed the presence of a new strain of avian influenza – H7N9 – it has now been reported there has been a total of 14 cases of the new flu, with six cases of these fatal after the deadly bird flu claimed the life of a 64-year-old farmer from Zhejiang province.

He is now the second victim from the Zhejiang province of a problem that threatens to spiral into a human pandemic, whilst the other four victims are believed to have died in the Chinese city of Shanghai.

Shanghai authorities have stated another person is currently receiving treatment for flu-like symptoms. The deadly strain, previously unknown in people, is known to only be present in wild birds and as of yet, no instances of human-to-human transmission have been reported. This is despite China’s disease control agency managing to track down hundreds of people who have come into contact with the 14 infected people.

Chinese authorities received fierce criticism in their delay in reporting the first two casualties.  The first two deaths occurred back in February and were not reported until late into March. The Health Ministry in Beijing tried to deflect criticism though, arguing it took a while to determine how the people died, adding it “will continue to openly and transparently maintain communication and information channels with the World Health Organisation and relevant countries and regions, and strengthen monitoring and preventive measures.”

Thorough analysis is still being conducted in China into the new bird flu, but Japan and Hong Kong are wasting no time in preventing a mass outbreak of the virus. The latter have raised a preliminary alert, activating the ‘Alert Response Level’; safeguarding against a potential influenza pandemic through the close monitoring of chicken farms, vaccination, culling drills, and a ceasing of live birds being imported from the mainland. Meanwhile, in Japan, there are now posters at airport entry points that stress passengers coming into the country from China must seek medical attention if they believe they could have bird flu.  In addition, Vietnam has now stopped all imports of Chinese poultry.

Shanghai has shut down its poultry markets because of the H7N9 bird flu outbreak after a spokesman for the city authorities stating it was necessary for public safety. A mass slaughter of at least 20,000 birds is already underway following the discovery that pigeons being sold at Huhuai market had the virus.

Different types of bird flu have been circulating in varying severity for several years, such as H5N1 virus. This is a subtype of the Influenza A virus and is more commonly referred to as ‘bird flu’ or ‘avian influenza’. Though it is primarily considered an avian virus, and transmitted from bird-to-human, there have been some instances of a human-to-human transmission of the virus.

“The gene sequences confirm that this is an avian virus, and that it is a low pathogenic form (meaning it is likely to cause mild disease in birds),” said Wendy Barclay, a flu virologist at Britain’s Imperial College London. She continued: “But what the sequences also reveal is that there are some mammalian adapting mutations in some of the genes.”

There is currently no definite cure for either of the two strains of flu mentioned above. However it is widely acknowledged that oseltamivir (marketed by Roche as Tamiflu), effectively helps to prevent the influenza virus from spreading inside the body. The medication has even been at the core of many governments and organisation’s efforts previously when anticipating a potential flu pandemic. It is available through Medical Specialists Pharmacy from as little as £21.98 per pack after we dramatically lowered the price of Tamiflu to help all new and existing patients during this difficult recession.

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