Bird flu spreading in China’s poultry

What a nightmare. At least they seem to be talking about it.

China said Friday that bird flu is spreading among its poultry flocks despite mammoth efforts to control the disease, while leaders at an Asia-Pacific summit warned that greater vigilance is needed to prevent more human infections….

The near-daily reports of new bird flu outbreaks in China point to the challenges in controlling the virulent virus. Hundreds of millions of birds have been vaccinated, yet the government reported two new poultry outbreaks Friday — bringing to 15 the number of cases it has confirmed since Oct. 19.

In the hard-hit northeastern province of Liaoning, nearly 1 million officials were fanning out to enforce anti-flu controls, which include mandatory poultry vaccinations and twice-daily health checks for all villagers who live near the sites of outbreaks — 72,000 people in all, authorities said at a news conference this week.

Officials have been ordered: “If you get too tired to do your job, close your eyes for a moment and then get back to work,” said Zhou Liwei, a Liaoning government spokesman.

I really hope this doesn’t turn into another SARS scare. Even if the threat to humans is over-rated as some claim, a major scare will devastate China’s economy and bring another round of misery to the region. Then you get the aftershocks (empty hotels, layoffs, recession, fear), and I never want to see China go through that again.

The Discussion: 16 Comments

Looks like it’s really worse than it is if this is true.

November 18, 2005 @ 10:03 pm | Comment

Now that is one scary article, Gordon. I sure hope it’s not true. It could mean we really are poised for a pandemic.

November 18, 2005 @ 10:31 pm | Comment

ESWN has translated it a few days ago. the source seems very dubious.
there was also a disclaimer in the original website Boxun, saying there is no way to verify the authenticity.

November 18, 2005 @ 11:53 pm | Comment

Well, we can only hope. Unfortunately the Chinese government hasn’t given us much room to hold faith.

November 19, 2005 @ 12:03 am | Comment

Past Chinese govt shenanigans aside, while there’s always a potential threat of a pandemic, a strain of bird flu must first make that double jump (animal-human and then human-human).

Still, one thing about Asia is that large sections of the populations here live in very close contact with animals and that makes for a good breeding ground for disease.

Not a very cheerful prospect.

November 19, 2005 @ 3:07 am | Comment

I’m eating more chicken than usual lately. I’m worried that a day may come soon when we stop eating chicken, duck, and geese for long time!

In the meantime, bring on the “gongbao ji ding” and the “lazi ji” … while it’s still on the menu! :-0

November 19, 2005 @ 4:27 am | Comment

Hm. Looks like Tofu Turkey for this Thanksgiving. But it ain’t so bad if the sauce is right….

November 19, 2005 @ 5:32 am | Comment

Ivan, maybe this year you can replace the Butterball turkey with a nice, roasted civet cat?

November 19, 2005 @ 11:57 am | Comment

Well, don’t forget that regardless of what the Chinese do, the disease is also spreading in other countries, especially in Vietnam and Indonesia. It doesn’t have to jump species in China.

I personally think that the report from Boxun is not correct. I’m not saying that I think the Chinese government is above conceiling an outbreak. Rather, I think that if over 300 people had died already, we some news from a more reputable source would have leaked out by now.

November 19, 2005 @ 10:41 pm | Comment

mmmm, Tofu-civet-cat and beer!

November 20, 2005 @ 2:22 am | Comment

China’s Moves On Bird Flu Are Vigorous, Open
Nicholas Zamiska. Wall Street Journal. Nov 18, 2005. pg. B.1

AROUND THE MIDDLE of October, He Yin, a 12-year-old middle-school student from a small village in southern China, came down with a bad case of the flu. In her village, a deadly strain of avian influenza had broken out that would eventually kill more than 500 chickens and ducks. The little girl died later last month.

That death, which experts believe may have been China’s first human victim of bird flu, marked a sad milestone in the disease’s progress. But it also became a key test of China’s ability to manage and contain the growing threat of avian flu, a virus that so far kills mostly birds but that health authorities warn could lead to a pandemic if it mutates into a form readily spread among humans.

This time around, China appears to have passed the test. The nation’s surveillance network has caught suspected instances of the disease at the local level and reported them to central authorities who could follow up. Its scientists, at least in Beijing, have aggressively investigated suspicious deaths, avoiding the temptation to cover up or ignore results that could have a damaging impact to the country’s image and economy. And Chinese officials have cooperated closely with international health authorities. All that suggests China may be better prepared to address a deadly human pandemic if one should start within its borders.

The response marks a dramatic contrast with the state of things 21/2 years ago during an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, when Chinese officials refused to disclose the outbreak and kept the international health community at bay.

True, the Chinese initially denied that the death of He Yin and other cases under investigation were caused by bird flu, whose symptoms mimic those of other flu strains and pneumonia, and authorities resisted inquiries from outsiders — which seemed to be a reversion to the Communist Party’s habitual secrecy. But those denials may have resulted from erroneous lab results instead of a conscious cover-up.

The confusion began on the morning of Oct. 16, when He Yin arrived at a health clinic from her family’s village in Hunan province. There, doctors said she had a severe case of pneumonia. The next morning, she died, just as her younger brother was coming down with similar symptoms.

Provincial health authorities, who were already wrestling with an outbreak of bird flu in the very village the siblings had come from, began testing her for H5N1, the deadly strain of avian influenza that has ravaged flocks across Asia. Those tests came back negative. The Chinese Ministry of Health held a press conference denying that the cases in Hunan had been caused by bird flu, pointing instead to the original diagnosis of severe pneumonia.

But the provincial lab in Hunan had tested a sample that had been taken from the girl only eight days after she fell ill, according to a scientist who reviewed the results. That may not have been enough time to detect telltale antibodies that the body’s immune system produces in response to bird flu,

On Oct. 26, eight days after He Yin was first admitted to the hospital, and shortly before those official denials, Shu Yue Long, the director of the national influenza center at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing, received a call from his boss, telling him that health authorities in Hunan had found a possible case of bird flu and that the Ministry of Health had requested that samples from the brother and sister be sent to his lab in Beijing for further testing, even though those initial tests had shown no sign of the disease.

When the samples arrived at his lab, Dr. Shu set to work that same day, performing a battery of tests. While doctors had sent only one blood sample from the girl, they had taken two from the boy — one collected eight days after he fell ill and another after 17 days. It was that second sample that tested positive for bird flu, even though the others, including throat swabs, were negative.

Eager to learn more about the results and ensure that China was following the suspected cases, the World Health Organization had managed to hammer out an agreement with the Chinese that would allow Nancy Cox of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and Wilina Lim, a virologist with Hong Kong’s Center for Health Protection, to fly to Beijing and review the work.

According to Dr. Shu, Dr. Cox questioned the positive results, suggesting that they might have been the result of cross-contamination with another flu virus.

Dr. Shu remembers discussing his results with Dr. Cox shortly after she arrived in Beijing from Atlanta late last week and hearing her voice caution while suggesting that the samples be retested.

“They were almost convinced,” says Dr. Shu.

Attempts to reach Dr. Cox in Beijing yesterday were unsuccessful.

Determined to double-check his results, Dr. Shu returned to his lab and worked nonstop that weekend. The positive test results came back again.

That following Tuesday, late at night, a group of some of China’s top disease experts gathered at the Chinese CDC headquarters to discuss the new findings.

At that nighttime meeting, they concluded that the illness of He Yin’s brother, who eventually recovered, was avian flu, as was another suspected fatal case from Anhui province. And while they couldn’t be sure about He Yin, they suspected she had died of the disease as well.

Early the next morning, the Ministry of Health and the WHO gathered at Dr. Shu’s lab, where he presented his results to Henk Bekedam, the WHO’s chief representative in China, as well as Drs. Cox and Lim. The new results were enough to convince them all.

The Ministry of Health decided to make an announcement that same day. At 8:10 p.m. Wednesday, the country’s semi-official Xinhua news agency flashed a headline across the wires indicating that the Ministry of Health had confirmed the country’s first cases of bird flu in humans.

There is no indication that the virus spread from human to human in these cases. Nevertheless, Dr. Shu and his team are currently testing blood samples from more than 200 people who may have come in contact with the brother and sister.

November 20, 2005 @ 2:46 am | Comment

Thomas, fair points.

November 20, 2005 @ 4:25 am | Comment

Sun Bin, we know all of that. And it has nothing to do with the thread, which deals with widespread outbreaks in poultry. As for the table above, everyone admits it is questionable. So why the long article?

November 20, 2005 @ 4:27 am | Comment


i was going to just post a link, but that site requires subscription.

anyway, there are conflicting reports from different source. if we can compare these different sources, we can form a clearer understanding of the current situation and that would help with our preventative measures.

November 20, 2005 @ 4:06 pm | Comment

…i think that article is mnore relevant to a previous post on bird flu…..i thought they were th same thread.

November 20, 2005 @ 4:08 pm | Comment

i thiink we need a new bird flu thread…this one is getting too far down the page. by the way, im blocked in beijing again…

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November 25, 2005 @ 3:29 pm | Comment

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