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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

FAO raises alarm over influenza virus in China

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has once again raised an alarm over the increasing human cases of influenze A (H7N9) in Southern and Eastern China, reports NaijaAgroNet.

According to FAO official statement made available to NaijaAgroNet and endorsed by FAO Chief Veterinary Officer, Juan Lubroth, human infections with the influenza A (H7N9) virus are on the rise again in China and the upcoming Chinese New Year festivities provide opportunity for further spread and human exposure.

“Millions of people and poultry are expected to be on the move and many households will slaughter poultry at home to celebrate the New Year. FAO called upon neighboring countries to remain vigilant in the face of A (H7N9) and other avian influenza viruses, such as highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1,” part of the statement read.

Also, FAO said that the number of human infections with H7N9 has considerably increased since late December in East and Southeast China, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Equally, they said that the increase in cases was expected, as influenza viruses traditionally show increased activity during the winter months. So far, no other country has reported influenza A (H7N9) in humans, animals or in the market place.

“There is strong evidence that people become infected following close contact with infected live poultry, mostly in live bird markets or when slaughtering birds at home. According to WHO, no sustained human-to-human transmission has occurred so far. Genetic analysis by FAO reference centers has revealed that the virus has not changed significantly since its emergence last year,” FAO officials said.

Lubroth further said that Chinese authorities are enforcing important measures to reduce the risk of human exposure to the A (H7N9) virus.

"This includes temporary closures of live bird markets, regular market rest days, improved hygiene in markets, heightened and ongoing surveillance in poultry and live bird market environment, and control of poultry movements," Lubroth advised.

Isaac Oyimah/GEE
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Pix: FAO DG, Da Silvia

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