China has said it is mobilising resources nationwide to combat the new strain of bird flu, monitoring hundreds of close contacts of confirmed cases and culling tens of thousands of birds where traces of the virus were found.
"We are confident we can effectively control it (H7N9)," the head of China's National Health and Family Planning Commission Li Bin told Reuters on the sidelines of a World Health Organization-backed event in Beijing.
Li did not elaborate, but she is the most senior Chinese health official yet to publicly comment on the subject.
The bird flu outbreak has caused global concern and some Chinese internet users and newspapers have questioned why it took so long for the government to announce the new cases, especially as two of the victims fell ill in February.
The government has said it needed time to correctly identify the virus.
The WHO's representative to China, Dr. Michael O'Leary, repeated that no evidence of transmission between humans has been found and praised China for its efforts to determine the source of the virus.
More than 20,000 birds were culled today at a Chinese poultry market in Shanghai after a bird flu strain was detected in the samples of market pigeons, Xinhua reports.
So far, all the 14 H7N9 infections have been reported in eastern China, four of them in Shanghai. The current death toll stands at six victims. Some Shanghai residents have opted out of going to wet markets for fear of contracting this lethal disease.
Bird flu concerns have spread overseas triggering a sell-off on Hong Kong's stock market. Chinese airlines were hit the most showing the biggest losses. In Japan, posters have been sported in airports warning passengers from China to seek medical help if they have flu-like symptoms.
The 2002-2003 epidemic of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is still fresh in people’s minds. It swept through China killing about one-tenth of the 8,000 people it infected.
Authorities initially tried to cover up the pandemic which emerged in China. This time however they pledged to keep society posted and maintain transparent communication with the World Health Organization and relevant countries.
Six people died from bird flu in China according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While Chinese officials confirmed five deaths: four in Shanghai and one in Zhejiang province. At least 14 people in China have been confirmed to have H7N9, all in the eastern part of the country.
According to the World Health Organization, three of the most recent fatal cases involved men: a 38-year-old from Zhejiang province, in eastern China, who became sick March 7; a 64-year-old, also from Zhejiang, who became ill March 28; and a 48-year-old from Shanghai who also became sick March 28.
Chinese authorities are trying to find the source of the human infections. They 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, suggesting the virus isn't highly contagious among humans.
Officials in Hong Kong and Japan said they are taking precautions at airports. Posters and personnel are warning passengers to seek medical attention if they suspect they have bird flu. Vietnam banned all poultry products from China this week, and Taiwan set up a monitoring group.
The H1N1 virus responsible for the 2009-2010 swine flu pandemic originated in pigs, then mixed with human and avian viruses, touching off the first global influenza outbreak in more than 40 years. It killed 151,700 to 575,400 people in the first year, with a disproportionate number of deaths in Southeast Asia and Africa, according to the CDC.
China's commercial hub Shanghai will temporarily close all its live poultry markets over the H7N9 bird flu outbreak, which is confirmed to have killed six people so far, the city said Friday.
The move was being taken for the purposes of "public safety", Shanghai government spokesman Xu Wei told a news conference.
The authorities of Shanghai have begun destroying poultry following the death of five people from the H7N9 avian influenza virus in China.
The virus was found in the tissues of pigeons in one of the markets of the city where poultry is sold. After the inspection the market was closed.
In total there have been 14 cases of avian influenza in China.
According to the local newspaper the China Daily, there is no vaccine for H7N9 neither in China nor abroad.
The authorities are currently trying to determine how the virus is transmitted to humans.
At the time there is no evidence that the infection is transmitted from person to person.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Thursday it is monitoring a new strain of bird flu and plans to start preparing a vaccine just in case it is needed.
So far, the new strain of flu known as avian influenza A (H7N9) is only in China and has not yet been found to be capable of being transmitted from person to person.
The CDC said on its website it is following the situation closely and coordinating with domestic and international partners.
Chinese authorities on Thursday reported a man in the eastern province of Zhejiang has been infected with the H7N9 strain of bird flu, the tenth human case of the disease which has claimed three lives.
The 64-year-old from Huzhou city was admitted to hospital on March 31 after being ill for two days, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing local authorities.
The man is the third person to be infected from the province of Zhejiang, where the disease has so far claimed one life. The other two deaths from the new strain of avian flu occurred in Shanghai.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday ruled out the possibility of a pandemic because the disease is not thought to be transmitted from human to human.
In a separate development, a man in the central province of Hunan died from the H1N1 (swine) flu on Wednesday, reported Xinhua.
A 2009-2010 swine flu pandemic resulted in over 18,000 deaths, according to WHO estimates. But the strain, while highly contagious, is not thought to be more lethal than ordinary flu.
Voice of Russia, AFP, Reuters, Interfax, the Washington Post