New bird flu strain: Genuine threat?

CHINA-HEALTH-FLUChina, Japan and Vietnam are on alert not to let the deadly new bird flu strain spread. The last decade has however shown the information about a virus has always spread much faster than the virus itself.

The new bird flu, labeled H7N9, has already claimed four lives. Scientists studying samples of the virus taken from a Chinese man who died in hospital in March say this strain of the disease is harder to track than the now more common H5N1.

The scientists from research institutes around the world warned on Wednesday that this new virus can generate no noticeable symptoms in birds while seriously harming humans.

“In that sense, if this continues to spread throughout China and beyond China, it would be an even bigger problem than with H5N1 in some sense, because with H5N1 you can see evidence of poultry dying, but here you can see this would be more or less a silent virus in poultry species that will occasionally infect humans,” AP quoted the University of Hong Kong microbiologist Malik Peiris.

The Chinese Health Ministry announced it’s mobilizing to combat the virus. Passengers flying to and from Hong Kong are being called to report on their condition if feeling unwell. Vietnam banned poultry imports from China in an effort to prevent the deadly virus from getting in.

Scientists have so far said there are no signs of transmission of the H7N9 virus between any of the victims or people they have come into close contact with.

However, they are already looking into the possibility of a pandemic, saying the virus may mutate in future and become easier to spread among humans.

However, statistics from World Health Organization shows the term “pandemic” has so far been hardly applicable to bird flu or swine flu, which together are much less deadly than common seasonal flu.

Bird flu has claimed 371 lives since 2003. The 2009 swine flu outbreak killed much more – 18,138. In the meantime, the common flu, which is hardly ever in the news, kills 250,000-500,000 every year.

This huge difference in numbers of casualties between exotic kind of flu and the seasonal one has caused many to believe that this is being orchestrated by the pharmaceutical companies.

In 2010, the British medical journal and the Daily mail published a list of 20 people who worked as advisors for WHO and the same time they had financial ties with pharmaceutical companies.

That same year the World Health Organization came under scrutiny from the Council of Europe, which was looking into whether the international body had colluded with drug companies to exaggerate the threat from swine flu.

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