April 10, 2013 – BEIJING – A Chinese Air Force officer on Saturday accused the U.S. government of creating the new strain of bird flu now afflicting parts of China as a biological warfare attack. People’s Liberation Army Sr. Col. Dai Xu said the United States released the H7N9 bird flu virus into China in an act of biological warfare, according to a posting on his blog on Saturday. The charge was first reported in the state-run Guangzhou newspaper Southern Metropolis Daily and then picked up by several news outlets in Asia. State Department spokesman Jason Rebholz dismissed the claim. “There is absolutely no truth to these allegations,” he told the Washington Free Beacon. Seven deaths from the bird flu outbreak were reported as of Tuesday in state-run Chinese media. As many as 24 people reportedly were infected by the disease in Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Anhui. Chinese authorities are trying to calm public fears of a major epidemic, claiming there is no evidence the virus can be transmitted between humans. The government also is claiming that the outbreak is not related to the recent discovery of thousands of dead pigs floating in a river in China. The accusation of U.S. biological warfare against China comes as the Pentagon is seeking closer military relations with China. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is set to travel to China for talks with Chinese military leaders later this month. Dai is a military strategist who in the past has been outspoken in seeking to foment conflict between China and the United States. He told the Global Times in August that China should go to war over U.S. support for Japan’s claims to the disputed Senkaku Islands. Writing on Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site akin to Twitter, Dai stated that the new bird flu strain was designed as a biological weapon similar to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which he also claimed was developed as a U.S. bio-weapon, that affected the country in 2003. According to Dai’s posting, the new flu outbreak should not be a cause for concern. “The national leadership should not pay too much attention to it,” the PLA lecturer at the National Defense University wrote. “Or else, it’ll be like in 2003 with SARS!” “At that time, America was fighting in Iraq and feared that China would take advantage of the opportunity to take other actions,” he said. “This is why they used bio-psychological weapons against China. All of China fell into turmoil and that was exactly what the United States wanted. Now, the United States is using the same old trick. China should have learned its lesson and should calmly deal with the problem.” Dai said that even if “a few may die” from the flu outbreak, it will not equal one-thousandth of the deaths caused by vehicle accidents in China. Dai in the past has called for China to punish the United States for U.S. arms sales to rival Taiwan, by selling arms to U.S. enemies. “China recognizes that a few perfunctory protests will not have any effect,” Dai said in 2010. “China can’t directly sanction American arms companies since they did not do business with China … but China can sanction companies that are doing business with China directly, like Boeing or General Electric.” Dai also has said the United States has used crises with North Korea and offers of cooperation on the issue as a plot to drive a wedge between Beijing and its fraternal communist ally. Dai also has said U.S. efforts to counter Chinese espionage and intelligence-gathering were part of a U.S. “plot theory” of “western countries threatening others by [releasing] information gained through spying in order to damage the reputations of other countries.” A State Department official said China notified the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 31 about its first detected human cases of H7N9 infection. Fourteen cases were confirmed by the WHO by April 5, of which six were fatal. The organization said there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission. “U.S. Embassy Beijing and U.S. Consulate Shanghai are monitoring the situation, working closely with counterparts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and the Beijing and Shanghai municipal governments,” the official said. The colonel’s accusation provoked a widespread response on Chinese websites. One post in reaction joked that Dai’s comment about auto deaths must mean that the United States and Germany are responsible for a conspiracy to produce cars, according to a report in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post. Luo Changping, deputy editor of Caijing, said most PLA soldiers would not support Dai’s comments and he urged the colonel to resign and apologize to those who have died from the current bird flu outbreak. A defiant Dai then said in a new posting Sunday that “it is common knowledge that a group of people in China have been injected with mental toxin by the United States.”
Jennifer Welsh | Apr. 9, 2013, 11:03 AM
Update: Reports from FluTrackers indicate that a ninth person has died from the virus, as of 2pm EST April 8.
China has been paralyzed by an emerging human strain of bird flu, H7N9, which has now infected 28 people, 8 of whom died. In just the last two days, four more people have tested positive for the virus, according to Xinhua.
The latest case has hospitalized a 62-year-old man in Shanghai. About 30 percent of patients who have been diagnosed with the virus have died.
The virus took its first victims in early March. This is the first time that the H7N9 flu strain has made the jump into humans, so we haven’t built up a natural resistance. Luckily, the virus doesn’t seem to be able to spread between humans, though it’s possible it could mutate and gain this ability.
April 9, 2013 – CHINA – Another person died in China from a new strain of bird flu on Tuesday, state media said, bringing to eight the number of deaths from the H7N9 virus since it was confirmed in humans for the first time last month. The 83-year-old victim, from the eastern province of Jiangsu, was admitted to hospital with a fever on March 20 and confirmed as having H7N9 on April 2, the official Xinhua news agency reported. The H7N9 strain has infected 24 people, all of them in eastern China, of whom eight have died. The World Health Organization has praised China for mobilizing resources nationwide to combat the strain by culling thousands of birds and monitoring hundreds of people close to those infected. Authorities have said there is no evidence of the H7N9 strain being transmitted between humans. The bird flu outbreak has caused global concern and some Chinese internet users and newspapers have questioned why it took so long for the government to announce the new cases, especially as two of the victims fell ill in February. Airline shares have fallen in Europe and in Hong Kong over fears that the virus could be lead to an epidemic like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which emerged in China in 2002 and killed about 10 percent of the 8,000 people it infected worldwide. Chinese authorities initially tried to cover up the SARS outbreak. In the case of the H7N9 strain, authorities have said they needed time to identify the virus, with cases spread between eastern Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Anhui provinces as well as the business hub Shanghai. Other strains of bird flu, such as H5N1, have been circulating for many years and can be transmitted from bird to bird, and bird to human, but not generally from human to human.
April 8, 2013
Three new cases of the new bird flu strain, H7N9, have been reported in China, bringing the total number of cases to 21, according to the World Health Organization. Six of those who were infected have died, but no new deaths have been reported since Friday.
The new patients include a 59-syear-old Shanghai man who is in critical condition, and a 55-year-old Anhui man who is in stable condition. Another new patient, a 67-year-old Shanghai man, has a mild case, according to the WHO.
“They’ve already seen some changes that allow it to survive in people,” ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser told “Good Morning America.” “The big concern is could this become the next pandemic strain?”
BEIJING (AP) — The World Health Organization is talking with the Chinese government about sending international experts to China to help investigate a new bird flu strain that has sickened at least 24 people, killing seven of them.
A 64-year-old retired man in Shanghai became the latest victim of the H7N9 bird flu virus that had previously not been known to infect humans, the city government said Monday.
The Shanghai government said the man died Sunday night, a week after first experiencing chills. He sought medical treatment last Wednesday for pneumonia-like conditions. By Sunday morning, his condition worsened, he was out of breath and was admitted to a ward for in-patient treatment. He died hours later.
Michael O’Leary, head of WHO’s office in China, told reporters in Beijing on Monday that the international health organization had confidence in China’s efforts to track and control the outbreak of H7N9 infections, but that growing interest in the virus globally has prompted WHO to consider sending a team.
The cases are of “great interest not only in the scientific community but in the world at large,” O’Leary said at a joint press conference with China’s national health agency. “WHO’s responsibility in part is to make sure that we serve as liaison and linkage between China and the rest of the world.”
The team would likely include epidemiological, laboratory and communications experts, but the matter was still being discussed by the two sides and it remained unclear if and when such a group would arrive, O’Leary said.
Aside from the latest fatality in Shanghai, China reported two more cases of human infection of the H7N9 bird flu virus on Monday, raising the total number of cases to 24 — all in the eastern part of the country. Most of the patients have become severely ill, and seven of them have died, however milder infections may be going undetected.
There could be additional infections, both among animals and humans, in other regions and authorities have stepped up measures to monitor cases of pneumonia with unexplained causes, said Liang Wannian, director of the Chinese health agency’s H7N9 flu prevention and control office.
Liang said Chinese experts also were in the early stages of researching a possible vaccine for the virus, though it might not be needed if the virus remains only sporadically reported and if it does not spread easily among people.
The H7N9 strain previously was known only to infect birds, and officials say they do not know why the virus is infecting humans now. The virus has been detected in live poultry in several food markets where human cases have been found, leading officials to think people are most likely contracting the virus through direct contact with infected fowl.
April 5, 2013
Scientists in the Dutch city of Rotterdam know precisely what it takes for a bird flu to mutate into a potential human pandemic strain – because they’ve created just such mutant viruses in the laboratory.
So as they watch with some trepidation the emergence in China of a strain of bird flu previously unknown in humans, they also argue it vindicates their controversial decision to conduct these risky experiments despite fierce opposition.
Above all else, what the world needs to know about this new strain of H7N9 bird flu is how likely it is to be able to spread efficiently among human populations.
March 31, 2013 – CHINA – Two men have died in the Chinese city of Shanghai, after contracting a strain of bird flu not previously known in humans, Chinese officials say. The men, aged 27 and 87, both fell ill with the H7N9 strain in February and died some weeks later in March, Xinhua news agency reported. A woman of 35 who caught the virus elsewhere is said to be critically ill. It is unclear how the strain spread, but the three did not infect each other or any close contacts, officials say. While both men who died were in Shanghai, the third victim was reported in Chuzhou in the eastern province of Anhui. According to China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission, all three became ill with coughs and fevers before developing pneumonia. Commission experts said on Saturday the cause had been identified as H7N9, a strain of avian flu not thought to have been transmitted to humans before. There is no vaccine against the strain, the commission said, adding it was currently testing to assess its ability to infect humans. Another strain of bird flu, H5N1, has led to more than 360 confirmed human deaths since 2003 and the deaths of tens of millions of birds. The World Health Organization says that most avian flu viruses do not infect humans and the majority of H5N1 cases have been associated with contact with infected poultry.
The new virus is named hCoV-EMC, meaning human coronavirus-Erasmus Medical Center, after the Dutch hospital where it was first isolated. It has killed 11 people since September of last year and attacks multiple systems of the body, unlike SARS which was specifically a respiratory virus.
Lead researcher and study author Yuen Kwok-yung told the South China Morning Post, ”The SARS coronavirus infects very few human cell lines. But this new virus can infect many types of human cell lines, and kill cells rapidly.”
Patients infected with the Erasmus virus die of multiple organ failure as the organism attacks the body at multiple points, particularly the kidneys. Thus far, the virus has a 65 percent mortality rate, compared to an 11 percent mortality rate in patients infected with SARS.
Scientists are rushing to create a vaccine, even as they attempt to gain more knowledge of the pathogen, including questions as to where it came from, how rare or widespread it is, whether all forms of the disease are equally severe, what animals it thrives in and how it makes the leap to human hosts.
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