No poultry contact in some China bird flu cases: WHO

Dead chickens are seen at a poultry farm on the outskirts of Shanghai April 16, 2013. REUTERS-Aly SongPhoto Credit: REUTERS/Aly Song

(Reuters) – The World Health Organization said on Wednesday that a number of people who have tested positive for a new strain of bird flu in Chinahave had no history of contact with poultry, adding to the mystery about the virus that has killed 16 people to date.

Chinese authorities have slaughtered thousands of birds and closed some live poultry markets to try and stem the rate of human infection, but many questions remain unsolved including whether the H7N9 strain is being transmitted between people.

WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl confirmed that “there are people who have no history of contact with poultry”, after a top Chinese scientist was quoted as saying about 40 percent of those with the H7N9 flu had had no poultry contact.

“This is one of the puzzles still (to) be solved and therefore argues for a wide investigation net,” Hartl said in emailed comments, though he did not know the exact percentage.

Several avenues should be explored by an international team of experts going to China soon, including the possibility that the virus can be spread between people, although there is “no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission”, Hartl said.

“It might be because of dust at the wet markets, it could be another animal source beside poultry, it could also be human-to-human transmission,” he added by telephone.


Reuters has the full article

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