Animal health agency: Bird flu poses 'exceptional situation' (Update)

April 11, 2013

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) on Thursday said H7N9 bird flu posed an "exceptional situation" as the outbreak among Chinese poultry claimed a 10th human victim.

"Based on the information currently available we are facing a rather exceptional situation," said OIE chief Bernard Vallat, explaining that the virus, while dangerous to humans, was hard to detect in the host, which is farm birds.

"We are dealing with an influenza virus of very low pathogenicity for poultry which has the potential to cause severe disease when it infects humans," Vallat said in a statement.

The Paris-based OIE said that, based on reports sent to it by the Chinese veterinary authorities, infected birds "do not show any visible signs of disease, making it very difficult to detect this virus in poultry."

The OIE is the world's monitor for the health of farm animals traded across borders.

Past food crises it has handled include the mad-cow scare and the H5N1 bird flu, a different strain of avian influenza that first surfaced in Hong Kong in 1997.

On Thursday, China said the death toll from H7N9 reached 10 out of 38 confirmed human cases, with another fatality in Shanghai.

The virus is believed to spread to humans from birds, triggering the mass culling of poultry in several Chinese cities.

The fear is that the virus will mutate, making it transmissible from human to human.

The OIE said it had been informed of eight outbreaks of H7N9 in pigeons and chickens at Chinese markets, "all located in Shanghai and neighbouring provinces."

The possible reservoir for the virus in nature is being probed by the China Animal Disease Control Centre and China's animal health service, including a world-standard laboratory, the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute.

"At the international level, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) are working together to support China's efforts to manage this new and evolving situation," the OIE statement added.

Explore further: Destroy lab stocks of eradicated cattle disease, OIE says

Related Stories

Nepal culls chickens amid bird flu outbreak

October 15, 2012

Health workers in Nepal on Monday culled hundreds of chickens and destroyed eggs following an outbreak of bird flu in the capital Kathmandu, a government official said.

Recommended for you

Zika virus infection alters human and viral RNA

October 20, 2016

Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine have discovered that Zika virus infection leads to modifications of both viral and human genetic material. These modifications—chemical tags known as ...

Food-poisoning bacteria may be behind Crohn's disease

October 19, 2016

People who retain a particular bacterium in their gut after a bout of food poisoning may be at an increased risk of developing Crohn's disease later in life, according to a new study led by researchers at McMaster University.

Neurodevelopmental model of Zika may provide rapid answers

October 19, 2016

A newly published study from researchers working in collaboration with the Regenerative Bioscience Center at the University of Georgia demonstrates fetal death and brain damage in early chick embryos similar to microcephaly—a ...

Scientists uncover new facets of Zika-related birth defects

October 17, 2016

In a study that could one day help eliminate the tragic birth defects caused by Zika virus, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have elucidated how the virus attacks the brains of newborns, ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.