China 'downgrades' H7N9 bird flu description (Update)

January 27, 2014

China has reportedly downgraded H7N9 bird flu in humans, dropping its description as "infectious" in new guidelines on how to deal with the disease, even as new cases spike with the onset of winter.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission described it as a "communicable acute respiratory disease" in its 2014 diagnosis and treatment protocols.

In the 2013 version it was considered as an "infectious disease".

The Beijing Times on Monday quoted an unnamed Beijing disease control centre official saying that health authorities decided to "make the downgrade" on the basis that nearly a year of analysis had shown H7N9 was "not strongly infectious".

The H7N9 human outbreak began in China in February 2013 and reignited fears that a bird flu virus could mutate to become easily transmissible between people, potentially triggering a pandemic.

The guidelines come as human cases undergo a seasonal spike, with 95 cases confirmed in mainland China so far this month according to an AFP tally of reports by local authorities.

More than half have been in the eastern province of Zhejiang, with 24 in Guangdong in the south.

So far seven patients have died in mainland China this year.

That compares with 144 confirmed cases, including 46 deaths, in the whole of 2013 according to official statistics.

It was not clear whether the rise in cases and decrease in fatality rate so far are due to the virus becoming more widespread and possibly less severe, or detection and treatment improving.

Cases and deaths dropped significantly after the end of June, but have begun to pick up with the onset of winter.

"So far, most cases have been sporadic and there were some cluster outbreaks among family members," the commission said in the guidelines.

"But there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission yet," it said, although it added that "limited" and "unsustained" infections could not be ruled out.

In the past China has been accused of trying to cover up disease, particularly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed about 800 people around the world in 2003.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has more recently praised its openness and response to the outbreaks of bird flu.

WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl told AFP: "There's been an increase in the number of cases, not deaths. The deaths haven't increased that much.

"This is winter, and all influenza viruses disseminate much more easily, much more widely, in winter, so it is not unexpected to see more cases," he said.

The health commission guidelines shortened the disease's incubation period from seven days to three to four days, and the Beijing Times said hospitals would reduce the quarantine time for suspected exposures accordingly.

The health commission also inserted the phrase "particularly the elderly" in its description of those vulnerable to the virus, who it specifies are those who have had contact with poultry or have been to a live poultry market in the week before showing symptoms.

Explore further: China reports new H7N9 bird flu death

Related Stories

China reports new H7N9 bird flu death

January 17, 2014
China has reported a new death from the H7N9 bird flu virus, state media said Friday, bringing the toll this year to at least four as the disease returns following its 2013 outbreak.

New H7N9 bird flu deaths reported in China

January 14, 2014
China has reported two new deaths from the H7N9 bird flu virus, state media said, as the disease returns following an outbreak last year.

Shanghai reports two deaths in China bird flu outbreak

January 20, 2014
Two people have died from the H7N9 strain of bird flu in China's commercial hub Shanghai, including a medical doctor, the local government said Monday, the city's first fatalities from the virus this year.

China reports first H7N9 bird flu death this year

January 8, 2014
China has reported its first death from the H7N9 bird flu virus in 2014 after a significant drop-off in fatalities following an outbreak last year.

Hong Kong reports first H7N9 case of the year

January 8, 2014
Hong Kong health authorities on Wednesday confirmed the territory's third human case of the deadly H7N9 bird flu, the city's first of 2014.

Vietnam reports first bird flu death in nine months (Update)

January 21, 2014
Vietnam has recorded its first death from bird flu in nine months, according to the country's Health Ministry, as regional concerns over a potential resurgence of the deadly virus grow.

Recommended for you

Researchers report new system to study chronic hepatitis B

July 25, 2017
Scientists from Princeton University's Department of Molecular Biology have successfully tested a cell-culture system that will allow researchers to perform laboratory-based studies of long-term hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections. ...

Male hepatitis B patients suffer worse liver ailments, regardless of lifestyle

July 25, 2017
Why men with hepatitis B remain more than twice as likely to develop severe liver disease than women remains a mystery, even after a study led by a recent Drexel University graduate took lifestyle choices and environments ...

Mind-body therapies immediately reduce unmanageable pain in hospital patients

July 25, 2017
Mindfulness training and hypnotic suggestion significantly reduced acute pain experienced by hospital patients, according to a new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Research examines lung cell turnover as risk factor and target for treatment of influenza pneumonia

July 24, 2017
Influenza is a recurring global health threat that, according to the World Health Organization, is responsible for as many as 500,000 deaths every year, most due to influenza pneumonia, or viral pneumonia. Infection with ...

Scientists propose novel therapy to lessen risk of obesity-linked disease

July 24, 2017
With obesity related illnesses a global pandemic, researchers propose in the Journal of Clinical Investigation using a blood thinner to target molecular drivers of chronic metabolic inflammation in people eating high-fat ...

Raccoon roundworm—a hidden human parasite?

July 24, 2017
The raccoon that topples your trashcan and pillages your garden may leave more than just a mess. More likely than not, it also contaminates your yard with parasites—most notably, raccoon roundworms (Baylisascaris procyonis).

0 comments

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.