ROCKPORT, Maine (AP) — The expanding market for lobsters in China is continuing to grow, with the country setting a new record for the value of its imports of the crustaceans from the United States.
The UN’s food agency on Friday urged China to step up efforts to contain and eliminate a strain of bird flu which has killed scores of people this year.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that countries neighbouring China were at “high risk” of exposure to the H7N9 strain, which has recently mutated to become far more deadly for chicken than it had been.
The agency also warned that wild birds could carry the strain of the virus to Europe and the Americas, adding that it was baffled as to why China’s efforts to contain the outbreak had not worked as well as anticipated.
The FAO’s statement came after China reported last month that 79 people had died in January alone, the deadliest H7N9 outbreak since the strain first appeared in humans in 2013.
Nearly one in three people who contract H7N9 die from it.
FAO said the recent surge in cases in eastern and southern parts of China meant the virus had caused more reported human cases than all other types of avian influenza viruses, such as H5N1 and H5N6, combined.
Vincent Martin, the FAO’s representative in China, said efforts to contain the outbreak needed to focus on eliminating the strain at its source.
“Targeted surveillance to detect the disease and clean infected farms and live bird markets, intervening at critical points along the poultry value chain—from farm to table—is required,” he said.
“There should be incentives for everybody involved in poultry production and marketing to enforce disease control.”
The agency recognised that China had invested heavily in surveillance of live bird markets and poultry farms while noting that monitoring has “proven particularly challenging as until recently (the strain) has shown no or few signs of disease in chickens.”
The organisation said new evidence from Guangdong in southern China pointed to H7N9 having mutated to become much deadlier for chickens while retaining its capacity to make humans severely ill.
This could make it easier to spot outbreaks, as infected chickens are typically dying within 48 hours of infection, but it also underscores the potentially huge economic implications of the mutation, FAO said.
The FAO emphasised that there was no risk of humans catching the potentially deadly influenza strain by eating chicken.
China has suspended trade in live poultry in several cities, urged consumers to switch to frozen chicken, enforced stricter hygiene standards in fresh food markets, and culled affected flocks.
“With all the efforts taken by China and partners, there is a pressing need to understand why these measures have not worked as well as expected,” the FAO said.
Explore further: Some China cities close poultry markets amid bird flu fears
China is setting up a mega national park that will rival the Yellowstone National Park of the United States with an area more than 60 percent of the latter. The vast national park will serve as a sanctuary to protect two endangered species — the Siberian tiger and Amur leopard.
The national park, modeled on the lines of national parks in the United States, will be located on the border of Russia and North Korea at northeast China’s Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces.
The park will cover an area of 14,600 square kilometers (5,600 square miles) and will be 60 percent bigger than Yellowstone in the United States, which is close to 4,000 square miles in terms of area.
Chinese media reported that the plan for the national park has been approved by the central authorities and the “comprehensive plan and pilot for the national park is expected to be carried out before 2020.”
Threat To Siberian Tigers
Notwithstanding the conservation efforts, the number of wild Siberian tigers just increased from 9 in 1998, to 27 in 2015, indicating that the numbers were not encouraging to make the species thrive.
To tighten conservation, China has clamped a ban on logging with curbs on gun licenses. Compared with China’s concerns on falling numbers of Siberian tigers, some 400 of them are living in Russia.
Amur leopards are another endangered species whose numbers plunged below 30 in 2007 because of hunting and human activities.
According to latest data, in 2015, their numbers showed some increase and conservation groups like the World Wildlife Fund can take credit for that.
In an update, the WWF said the Amur leopard population had a jump since 2008.
China’s Ecological Initiatives
China decided to start national parks in 2013 after seeing that many endangered species including the Siberian tiger, Amur leopard, giant panda, Tibetan antelope, and Asian elephant required safer habitats.
The Chinese government wanted to develop a national park system of international standards and it roped in Paulson Institute, a Chicago-based research center in 2015.
The government also announced a three-year period to start a series of pilot national park projects in nine provinces. The goal was to address the governance and policy shortfalls in environmental protection while extending conservation efforts to other habitats and ecosystems.
President Xi Jinping has committed a series of environmental reforms to usher in an “ecological civilization,” which clubs economic progress with the sustainability of the environment.
Green Activists Hail National Park
Meanwhile, environmentalists like Dale Miquelle of the Wildlife Conservation Society has welcomed the move. He said the sanctuary will be one of the largest tiger reserves in the world.
“China’s commitment represents an extremely important step in recovering both subspecies in northeast Asia,” Miquelle said.
However, the park is also raising concerns of many urban colonies at Hunchun city in the Jilin province, which is very close to the animals’s range.
Hunchun is a key corridor linking tiger habitats of Russia and China. There the residents are uneasy about the animals getting too close.
In 2016, a Forestry Department spokesman mentioned about a plan to relocate some communities and factories from the national park area to avoid conflict between wildlife and human activities.
According to Fan Zhiyong, WWF’s species program director in Beijing, the park will be a boon to the endangered cats and also protect the unique biodiversity of the northern temperate zone.
Attractions Of Yellowstone Park
In the United States, the Yellowstone National Park is spread across the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.
It covers an area of 3,468.4 square miles (8,983 km2) and comprises lakes, canyons, rivers and mountain ranges. The Yellowstone Lake is a high-elevation lake centered around the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest supervolcano in North America.
The National Park is home to thousands of species including mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles, many of which are endangered. The vast forests also house many unique species of plants.
Nation reported 61 fatalities and 160 cases of human infection from H7N9 last month
China reported 61 fatalities and 160 cases of human infection from H7N9 bird flu in February, the government said on Monday, much higher than in previous years and bringing the death toll in this winter’s outbreaks to 161 since October.
While the total for last month was lower than January’s 79, it was the highest number for the month of February since the deadly strain was first identified in 2013, according to data from the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
The death toll from bird-flu infections tends to drop towards the end of the winter.
The data highlights the scale of the spread of the virus among humans, even after Chinese disease control experts have warned the public to stay on alert. South Korea and Japan are also battling their own major outbreaks and have culled millions of chickens.
The H7N9 strain shows few or no symptoms in poultry, a factor which has limited the number of birds culled in the world’s third-largest producer of broiler chickens and the second-biggest consumer of poultry.
The total of 140 deaths for the first two months of 2017 already surpasses the annual totals for avian flu in China in recent years. In 2010, 147 people died of the H1N1 strain of the virus.
The recent reports coming from China tells about the massive growing bird flu which is now become the major point of concern for the authority people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the H7N9 bird flu is growing up higher day by day and will become a much concerning point for the country. The report gets in front on Friday and the authority people are now trying their best to fight with this issue.
CDC signs the increasing rate of cases who gets infected by H7N9 bird flu virus. They tell that this is the major growing disease which had impacted the state since 2013. According to the reports, there are around 460 people who get infected since October 2017. Now CDC is working hard on the vaccination which will cure the patients and will save their lives as well. Recently the guidelines are also issued for the travelers in China that they should maintain the distance from the bird market.
It signs the danger that poultry farms can become of your bird flue infection. CDC tells that from 2013 around 1,258 people gets infected but the rate is now getting higher. There are around 460 people who get infected by the disease since October which is a much concerning point. Looking at the reports WHO also conducts a meeting in which the authority people tells that the virus didn’t get any change which will affect the people more.
The head of WHO’s global influenza program, Dr. Wenqing Zhang tells,”These changes make the virus highly pathogenic in birds, meaning that it can cause some severe disease in birds.” Now the major issue is that if the virus is affecting the birds more then it can also affect the flock. Infection between the birds can be a point of loss for the poultry farm’s owner but can also affect the people.
This virus effect can trap the many around you and hence the disease become the cause of death of many people. The much concerning point is that around 40% people get died who goes for the check up in the hospital. Symptoms of H7N9 bird flu are a runny nose, loss of appetite, muscle ache, sore throat, cough, fever, and fatigue. Stay tuned with us for more updates and feeds like this.
Since 2013, more than 1,200 people in China have been infected with the H7N9 bird virus.
Of these lab-confirmed cases, more than a third were diagnosed after October 2016. China is currently in the midst of its fifth avian flu epidemic, one that’s already deadlier than any of the preceding outbreaks. Forty-one percent of the 460 confirmed cases have resulted in death, according to a CDC report.
As of now, the World Health Organization has said that the risk of the virus spreading from human-to-human, and thus the likelihood of the epidemic developing into a pandemic, is low (the vast majority of cases in China were believed to be contracted directly from an infected bird).
But experts are on the lookout for mutations that could allow the virus to spread more easily between people.
“Constant change is the nature of all influenza viruses,” Wenqing Zhang, head of the WHO’s global influenza program, said on Wednesday. “This makes influenza a persistent and significant threat to public health.”
Per the Washington Post, the virus has already separated into two different branches. While the US maintains a stockpile of H7N9 vaccines, they are designed to treat the older lineage of the disease.
The CDC is working to help develop a vaccine that will specifically target the new strain of the virus, but according to the Post, testing and producing such a vaccine will take a few months.
LONDON – The World Health Organization says it has noticed changes in the bird flu virus now spreading in China, but says the risk of the disease spreading easily between people remains low.
The genetic mutations have been seen from birds and infected people, but because flu viruses change constantly, experts aren’t exactly sure how significant the differences may be.
The H7N9 strain of bird flu showed up in China in 2013 and has mainly sickened people in close touch with chickens or other infected people.
In a press briefing Wednesday, the U.N. health agency said in about 7 percent of recent cases, scientists have identified genetic changes suggesting the viruses are resistant to Tamiflu, the recommended treatment for the illness. The drug is being stockpiled worldwide in case there is a flu pandemic, possibly triggered by a mutated bird flu virus.
Wenqing Zhang, head of WHO’s flu department, said the rate is similar to what has been picked up in previous years.
“Constant change is the nature of all influenza viruses,” she said.
Zhang said the mutations in the H7N9 virus have made it more deadly to birds, but she said it’s unclear what that might mean for humans.
“The question is, does this change in the virus’ lethality make it any more lethal for humans? The jury is still out on that,” said Wendy Barclay, a professor at Imperial College London.
Although bird flu cases in China have surged this year – and spilled over to Hong Kong and Taiwan – Barclay said there was no suggestion the virus is spreading more easily, particularly among people.
Since October, 460 people in China have been infected, WHO said. That’s more than one-third of the 1,250 infections reported since 2013.
Some scientists worry that China isn’t sharing enough information. Earlier this year, the country suddenly announced about 100 cases, a lag that could compromise efforts to track any changes in the virus’ spread.
“We always need more and better information faster,” said Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota, adding that the continuing bird flu worries underline the world’s vulnerability to the next flu pandemic.
The H7N9 bird flu virus, which has sickened and killed several hundred people in China for the past four winters, had seemed over the past couple of years to be diminishing as a threat.
But a resurgent wave of activity this winter has produced more than a third of all infections recorded since the first human case was hospitalized in February 2013. And with this large burst of cases, H7N9 has overtaken another bird flu, H5N1, which has been causing sporadic human infections at least a decade longer than H7N9.
Changes in the virus are also worrying, said Dr. Daniel Jernigan, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s influenza branch. Jernigan noted Tom Price, the new health and human services secretary, has been briefed on the situation.
“We’re concerned about the uncertainties here and the number of changes that are happening at this point. We are monitoring this closely,” Jernigan told STAT.
To date, all of the infections have been contracted in China, although a few cases involved tourists from elsewhere who were infected there.
Overall, 460 of the 1,258 H7N9 cases have been recorded in the latest wave of cases. About a third of people who have been diagnosed with H7N9 have died from their infections — though experts note undetected mild cases are probably occurring, which would lower that case fatality rate.
“The situation is not particularly reassuring at the moment in the field,” said Professor Malik Peiris, a virologist in the school of public health at the University of Hong Kong. Peiris, a veteran bird flu researcher, called H7N9 “the most significant pandemic threat currently.”
A CDC risk assessment concurs, placing H7N9 at the top of the list of pandemic threats from among a dozen bird and animal flu viruses.
The way in which the virus has evolved undermines the usefulness of a 12 million-dose emergency stockpile of H7N9 vaccine made for the United States several years ago. That vaccine is now less effective at targeting the strains of the virus that are circulating.
Influenza experts who advise the World Health Organization are meeting this week in Geneva to make recommendations on the flu viruses that should be in next winter’s seasonal flu vaccine for the Northern Hemisphere. They are also likely to recommend that the H7N9 vaccine seed strain — the virus used as a target for companies that make vaccine stockpiles — should be changed due to this evolution.
While the vaccine in the emergency stockpile would likely still offer some protection, “we think that there could be a better vaccine match,” acknowledged Todd Davis, principal investigator on the CDC team that studies flu viruses that infect other mammals and birds.
Another genetic change is also amplifying the sense of anxiety about this virus. The genetic sequences of about a dozen H7N9 viruses from the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have mutated in a way that makes them more dangerous for chickens — and perhaps people.
Like all bird flu viruses, H7N9 originated in wild aquatic birds such as ducks. These viruses occasionally make their way into domestic poultry flocks, as H7N9 did. And from there, the viruses can trigger sporadic human infections — generally among people who work in poultry production or who sell or buy live chickens at Asia’s popular so-called wet markets.
Most bird flu viruses don’t kill poultry. They are of low pathogenicity — better known in the flu world as low path viruses. But viruses that carry an H5 or an H7 hemagglutinin protein on their outer shell can be deadly to chickens. The ones that do are called highly pathogenic or high path viruses.
H7N9 has, until now, been a low path virus. But it has long been known that low path H5 and H7 viruses can evolve to become highly pathogenic if they are allowed to circulate among poultry for too long.
The genetic sequences from Guangdong, recently posted in a flu virus database, suggest that has happened there.
While the designations high path and low path relate specifically to how bird flu viruses behave in chickens, it is known that high path viruses, when they infect people, can cause more disseminated disease than human flu viruses, involving organs other than the lungs, Davis said.
Flu experts find these changes unsettling.
“It certainly introduces uncertainty into the mix,” Jernigan said. “Where we kind of thought things were under control and going away, they’ve increased. We thought we had a low path [virus] and it’s now become high path. And so we do want to make sure that all mitigations that can be done will get done.”
In the early days of the H7N9 outbreak, authorities in China enacted strict rules to try to bring spread under control. Markets were ordered to institute clean days, when no chickens could be stored in or brought in. The idea was to stop the virus from circulating among the birds in the markets.
But in parts of the country, enforcement of containment efforts has become more lax as human cases declined in 2015 and 2016, Peiris said.
News that the virus may be evolving to high path status may actually have a beneficial effect, he noted. “Because this would now mean that the agriculture sector would take this much more seriously. Although I must say that the horse is now bolted from the barn and I doubt exactly what can be done to contain it at this stage.”
To date H7N9 has restricted itself to China, though experts fear that may soon change with word that the virus has been found in provinces bordering Vietnam. “I think now Vietnam is under very severe risk,” said Peiris.
There have also been reports that some of the viruses may no longer be susceptible to oseltamivir — sold as Tamiflu — and other flu drugs of the same class. There are few drugs that treat influenza, and if H7N9 became resistant to these drugs, it would be a highly unwelcome development. But the CDC’s Davis said so far it appears that the cases of resistance have involved hospitalized people who were taking the drugs for protracted periods.
Resistance can evolve during treatment, but resistance among viruses that haven’t yet been exposed to the drug would be more alarming, he and Jernigan said.
Scientists at the CDC would like to test virus samples from China to ensure that the flu drugs are still effective. But a disease diplomacy problem is getting in the way of that work.
While China has been reporting cases and sharing the genetic sequences of viruses, it has not shared actual virus samples with the United States since the early days of the H7N9 outbreak, Jernigan said.
Thanks to developments in synthetic biology, genetic sequences can be used to make sample viruses that can tell scientists a lot about how a virus behaves. Still, viral samples would be useful. “Synthetic biology is amazing. But it still takes time,” said Davis.
Jernigan said scientists at the China CDC collaborate openly with their international colleagues. But a green light to share viruses would need to come from other parts of the government. He said efforts are underway to try to open those doors.
Vans stocked with live poultry can be found down alleyways in the southern city of Guangzhou, with customers shrugging off the health risks
Guangdong housewife Zhang Yi makes no compromises on the quality of chicken for her Sunday family feasts.
Once a week, Zhang scours the narrow alleyways near the Wancongyuan wet market in Guangzhou’s Haizhu district.
The market has four poultry stalls but she disregards them all because she, like many other cooks in the city, is a diehard devotee of freshly slaughtered chicken – something that even the deadly H7N9 bird flu outbreak has failed to dampen.
Freshly slaughtered chicken has been off the official menu in downtown Guangzhou for more than a year but Zhang combs the alleys looking for signs of black market poultry on offer. One signal could be a temporary boiler set up on a quiet side street.
“These mobile vendors are always on the move. They don’t stay in the same spot to avoid being caught,” Zhang said.
“Some operate from a van so they can drive away the moment inspectors turn up.”
Guangzhou introduced a five-year live poultry ban in 2015, with the restrictions applying to various downtown districts, including Yuexiu and parts of Haizhu, Tianhe, Baiyun and Liwan.
Under the ban, wet market vendors are only allowed to sell chilled chickens killed at a central slaughterhouse – a deeply unappetising prospect for the city’s “Lao Guang”, or long-time residents.
The poultry trade has also been banned at wet markets citywide for cleaning between the 16th and 18th days of January, February and March.
The aim of the bans is to contain the spread of bird flu. Since January, the H7N9 strain of the virus has killed at least 94 people across the country – the highest death toll since the first known case of human infection in 2013.
Most of the fatalities have been in the Pearl and Yangtze river delta areas.
In January alone, Guangdong reported 21 cases of H7N9, 10 of them fatal. That compares with 10 in the first two months of 2015 and 16 a year earlier.
Since January, human deaths and infections from H7N9 have been reported in 16 provinces and municipalities, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission. Elsewhere in Asia, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea are battling bird flu outbreaks.
Analysts said the spike was probably partly caused by greater human exposure to infected poultry before and during the Lunar New Year festive season, with more people shopping for poultry, especially live birds. The H7N9 virus shows little or no clinical symptoms in poultry, complicating detection.
The spread of the strain has prompted authorities throughout the country to step up containment efforts going into the peak season for the virus.
Some Guangzhou wet markets, like the ones in Yuexiu district, have been banned from trading in poultry for the rest of this month. Live poultry markets have also been shut down in Zhejiang and various cities in Jiangsu. Parts of Guangdong, including Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Dongguan and Zhongshan in the Pearl River Delta, have made similar prohibitions.
In some other high-risks areas such as Anhui province, where 23 deaths have been reported this winter, various cities and counties were ordered to restrict the live poultry trade.
Shanghai authorities have gone a step further by suspending the live poultry trade from January 28 until the end of April. Despite occasional reports suggesting the black market live poultry trade has been spotted in the city, the city’s health department reported only five cases of human infection last month.
But in Guangzhou, the fresh chicken black market is well and alive, with customers prepared to take the risk and pay around 60 yuan (HK$68) per kilogram for the illicit product. That compares to the 80 or so yuan more demanding customers will pay at the Wancongyuan wet market for the best chilled chicken processed by a slaughterhouse.
Zhang said she knew the black market was a health risk and tried to minimise her chances of contracting the virus. “It’s always dirty in the alleyways. Guts and feathers are scattered everywhere – you can’t expect much hygiene. We usually just point at the chicken we want and come back for it after the vendor was done processing it,” she said. “It’s OK as long as we don’t touch it.”
Zhang said she was not convinced that a sweeping ban on the live trade could ever be effectively implemented.
“Guangzhou, let alone the entire Guangdong province, is too big for a blanket ban,” she said.
“Guangzhou has been trying to sort out its rubbish problem for the past seven years and has failed miserably. They can’t ban live chickens.”