Entries in China (13)


New Bird Flu Crosses Strait to Taiwan

STR/AFP/Getty Images(TAIPEI, Taiwan) -- A Taiwanese man has contracted a deadly strain of bird flu once confined to mainland China, health officials said Wednesday.

The man, 53, is thought to have imported the H7N9 virus to his native Taiwan after travelling to China's Jiangsu Province, where bird flu has sickened at least 24 people and killed three, according to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. He is said to be in "severe condition."

The latest case as lifted the tally of virus victims to 109, 22 of whom have died, according to the World Health Organization. It has also flamed fears that the deadly virus could spread beyond East Asia.

"Given the extent of global travel, I expect that we will see cases in the United States," ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser said. "It's so important that people who become ill tell their doctors if they have been traveling."

The Taiwanese man developed flu symptoms April 12, three days after returning to Taiwan from Shanghai, health officials said. He was hospitalized four days later. But initial tests for H7N9 were negative, with official confirmation from Taiwan's National Influenza Center coming more than two weeks after his trip April 24.

"Physicians are once again reminded to report suspected cases to the health authority within 24 hours of detection according to the relevant regulation," the Taiwanese CDC said in a statement, noting that suspected cases with severe respiratory infections should be hospitalized in isolation.

The H7N9 virus is thought to pass from birds to humans. But many of its victims, including the Taiwanese man, reported no contact with birds, and few birds are testing positive for the disease.

"There are so many unanswered questions about this disease," Besser said. "Could there be another route of transmission? Are some people becoming infected from exposure to infected people?"

Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center has obtained a list of 139 people who came into contact with the Taiwanese man, including 110 health care workers. Three health care workers who developed symptoms of an upper respiratory infection are being closely monitored, health officials said.

WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl last week said there was no evidence of "sustained human-to-human transmission," adding that "the only instances where there might have been human-to-human transmission are between two close family members."

"The main thing now is to figure out how this virus spreads and where it lives," Hartl said. "Until then, we're shooting in the dark."

In the meantime, Taiwanese health officials are urging travelers to mainland China to avoid direct contact with birds or their droppings, consume only thoroughly cooked poultry and eggs, wash their hands often and wear a protective mask.

U.S. health officials are also bracing for bird flu by preparing a vaccine, a process expected to take six months. In the meantime, they, too, are urging travelers to China to steer clear of birds, practice good hygiene and report any and all flu-like symptoms to a doctor upon return.

"The CDC has developed a diagnostic test for H7N9 flu so that travelers who develop symptoms can be tested," Dr. Besser said.

U.S. doctors are urged to promptly report suspected bird flu cases to their state health departments.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


CDC Working to Develop Vaccine Virus Against H7N9 Avian Flu

James Gathany, Centers for Disease Control(NEW YORK) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working to develop and evaluate a vaccine virus against the H7N9 avian influenza, as the number of human infections and related deaths rises in China.

China's state-run news agency Xinhua reported 11 new H7N9 cases Sunday and two more deaths, bringing the total number of reported cases to 60 and the death toll to 13.

The CDC is completing work on a diagnostic test kit for use both domestically and internationally, according to Chief of Influenza Division Nancy Cox. The agency is also preparing to test the virus against common flu drugs and is working on making a candidate vaccine virus, which could be used to make a vaccine.

Additionally, the CDC is working on a blood test to be able to measure levels of existing immunity in the population, Cox said in an email to ABC News. This could help determine how many people have been asymptomatically infected.

The agency will also perform tests to determine how transmissible and pathogenic the virus is.

Of the 60 H7N9 cases reported in China, there were 24 in Shanghai, 16 in Jiangsu, 15 in Zhejiang, two in Anhui, two in Henan and one in Beijing, according to Xinhua.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Bird Flu Widens Geographic Reach in China

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BEIJING) -- Officials in Beijing confirmed Saturday that a 7-year-old girl is infected with H7N9 avian influenza, widening the geographic spread of the virus that has already killed 11 people.

The girl, whose parents sell live poultry, was admitted to the hospital on Thursday with pneumonia and is the first case reported outside eastern China, where the virus was first reported in late March.

Government officials said the total number of new bird flu infections across the country rose to 47 today as the eastern province of Jiangsu reported two fresh cases and Shanghai reported one.

What is concerning about this latest report is the distance between Shanghai and Beijing.

The virus was able to travel more than 750 miles without leaving a trail of dead birds.

Unlike the H5N1 bird flu that raised concerns starting in 2003, H7N9 does not seem to make birds very sick or sick at all. This makes tracking the movement of the virus and containing it to limited flocks of birds next to impossible.

Authorities can't just test flocks that show signs of the disease. The case in Beijing illustrates that clearly. In order to understand where people might be at risk, China will have to screen many healthy birds across an increasingly large area.

The epidemiologic investigations of people who were sickened by H7N9 are extremely important. In order to prevent infections, authorities need to determine what kind of exposures put people at risk.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Experts Wary of Recent Bird Flu Outbreak in China

iStockphoto(BEIJING) -- The bird flu outbreak that has claimed six lives in China has experts on notice, but they say that while the public should be aware of the developments with the virus, there’s no reason to worry at this stage.

“To date, there’s no evidence of person to person transmission,” said Dr. Andrew Pavia, Chief of the University of Utah's Pediatric Infectious Disease Division. The majority of the people who have gotten sick with the H7N9 virus have been in close contact with poultry. This has prompted China shutting down several poultry markets.

Still, the disease has dangerous potential. “H7N9 has not been known to infect humans before,”  said Director of the Mayo Vaccine Research Group Dr. Gregory Poland . Now though, “it has jumped species and that makes it a novel virus and that raises some pandemic concern.”

Pavia says that working on a vaccine now might have an imperfect result, but that it can help get things moving in the right direction.

“It's possible that a vaccine that's developed with a strain that's isolated today will not be the perfect vaccine if in six or twelve months it becomes a wide spread epidemic. However, making a vaccine now has a lot of advantages,” he said.

“I think it's a story that the public should watch as we in the flu community are working very hard to track it because we really don't know where this is gonna go,” said Pavia.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Infant Flesh Capsules Seized in S. Korea

ABC News(LONDON) -- The dried flesh of dead infants appears to be the not-so-secret ingredient in a health supplement that is reportedly being smuggled out of China.

The performance-enhancement pills, touted for increasing vitality and sex drive, have been found in the luggage of tourists and in international mail, according to South Korean authorities.

They said they had confiscated nearly 17,500 of the human flesh capsules since last August, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

South Korean authorities warned that the pills could be dangerous to human health.

"This is gross, as well as creepy," said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, who consults regularly with the Centers for Disease Control.

"We have no idea how this material is processed and under what circumstances," he said. "If it's not done in a hygienic fashion to make assurances infections are excluded, it could contain viruses as well as bacteria."

The dried human tissue may also not have been sterilized, according to Schaffner. "It's an extremely dubious for an operation like this with the potential for infection complications."

It is not known whether these pills made of human flesh have appeared in the United States.

Customs officials in South Korea are beefing up efforts to stop the alleged smuggling, apparently by ethnic Koreans living in northern Chinese cities.

Chinese folklore promotes the belief that a human fetus can cure disease and help with circulation and sexual performance.

Schaffner said the pills could transmit the drug-resistant bacteria MRSA that could be on the skin of a fetus. "If these fetuses went through the birth canal, they can quickly pick up bacteria," he said.

Because the birth canal is in close proximity to the rectum, other bacteria like e coli, salmonella and shigella could be present.

"We know that in China the occurrence of hepatitis B, the viral infection, is exceedingly high," said Schaffner. "That is also of concern."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Bird Flu Strain That Killed Man Won’t Spread, China Officials Say

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BEIJING) -- A Chinese bus driver died after complications from the bird flu virus Saturday, but after genetic analysis, the strain contracted by the man can’t spread from person-to-person, the country’s health officials announced Monday.

According to the country’s official Xinhua News Agency, the 39-year-old man contracted the virus after having close contact with infected poultry.

“Though it is highly pathogenic to human beings, the virus can not spread among people,” the Shenzhen Disease Control Center said in a statement, according to Xinhua. “There is no need for Shenzhen citizens to panic.”

Since 2003, 593 bird flu cases have been confirmed and 336 people have died, according to the World Health Organization.

The newest case of bird flu came one week after two dead birds tested positive for H5N1 in Hong Kong, which is close to Shenzhen province.

“I am impressed at how thoroughly the Chinese government has investigated this case and how they’re taking the necessary precautions,” said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Philip Alcabes, associate professor of urban public health at Hunter College’s School of Health Sciences, said it’s important to remember that the H5N1 flu strain is an animal virus and it rarely makes humans ill.

But in a world of increasingly global relationships, Schaffner said this story should emphasize how important it is that public health surveillance activities “continue to function optimally to get early information on all these sorts of events throughout the world.”

“There is going to be a great tendency to want to cut public health budgets in a tough economy, but this could be perilous,” Schaffner said. “We can’t have appropriate pandemic and bioterrorism preparedness teams in place if we put those teams on the bench. That’s like cutting a town’s fire department in hopes there won’t be a fire.”

Schaffner said the fact that one Chinese man’s death from bird flu gains international media attention is a sign of how global the influenza pandemic can be.

“Influenza is an international infectious disease, so we must be sure to maintain a strong public health presence at home and have very close international ties with our colleagues around the world,” Schaffner said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Hong Kong Slaughters Birds After Avian Flu Scare

AFP/Getty Images(HONG KONG) -- Hong Kong health officials slaughtered nearly 20,000 birds after they discovered a dead bird in a poultry market was infected with the virus that causes bird flu, according to Bloomberg News.

The culling is one of a series of precautionary steps the government announced.  Authorities also tested birds from the city’s 30 chicken farms, and so far, no other birds tested positive for the virus, known as H5N1.

The city will also close the market where the infected chicken carcass was found until Jan. 12, and there is currently a ban on importing live poultry.  They are also testing people who may have come into contact with the birds.

In addition, there is a ban on the sale and import of live poultry for three weeks.

Despite the safety measures, a bird flu expert at the University of Hong Kong stressed that while there is a need to be cautious, there is no need to panic.

The first recorded cases of H5N1 in humans came from Hong Kong in 1997, and in response the government ordered the slaughter of all poultry in the city.

H5N1 is a potentially lethal virus and has the capacity to become a global pandemic, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  H5N1 does not normally infect humans unless they are in close contact with birds that have it, but according to statistics from the World Health Organization, there have been more than 500 human cases of bird flu and more than 300 deaths.

After the outbreak in Hong Kong in 1997, the virus didn’t re-emerge until 2003, when it began to spread across Asia, Europe and Africa.  Millions of birds have been infected and have either died or been killed in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Chinese Man Has Severed Fingertip Attached to Stomach 

Rubberball/Mike Kemp(LIAONING PROVINCE, China) -- A Chinese man who accidentally severed his finger tip with an electric saw, but doctors managed to save the sliced-off digit by attaching it to his stomach, reports


The muscle and skin had been cut away from the end of his finger leaving only bone showing.  

“We had to make a quick decision or he could have lost his finger,” said Dr. Huang Xuesong. “We decided to cultivate a new fingertip on his stomach."

The technique restores blood circulation in the severed part so it can begin to heal.  The surgery is being called a complete success, and the man will have a new fingertip when it is separated from his stomach and reattached in about a month.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


China Arrests 2,000 People in Food Safety Crackdown

Jupiterimages/Pixland(BEIJING) -- Chinese authorities have arrested 2,000 people and shut down nearly 5,000 businesses in a clampdown on illegal food additives.

After series of food scares earlier this year -- including glow-in-the dark meat and buns injected with dye to make them look more expensive -- a food safety campaign was launched in April and nearly six million food-related businesses have been investigated since.  

Police have also destroyed a series of "underground" sites for the illegal food manufacturing.

A Food Safety Commission statement said that government agencies across the country would continue the drive, and that anyone caught breaking the law would "be severely punished."

Analysts say with food prices and inflation rising in China, some producers will continue to cut corners -- with potentially harmful results.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Chinese Women Try to Bypass One-Child Policy with Pills for Twins 

Photodisc/Thinkstock(GUANGZHOU, China) -- Women in southern China are trying to circumvent the country's one-child policy by using fertility drugs to have multiple births, according to reports in local newspapers, in the latest sign of growing opposition to the country's birth control strategy.

"Experts are deeply concerned about the rapidly increasing birth rate of twins," read the Yangzhou Evening News.

"Some private hospitals are trying to lure customers by claiming that they can help them have twins," accused the Guangzhou Daily.

According to the Guangzhou Daily investigation, some private hospitals in Guangdong province are providing healthy, fertile women with infertility medicines, such as clomifene citrate, to stimulate ovulation and increase the chance of having twins or triplets.

The pills, dubbed "multiple baby pills" in Chinese, are taken orally and are only supposed to be available by prescription. According to Chinese fertility specialists, 20 to 30 percent of women who take the drugs have multiple births.

When not taken in the proper dosage the drugs can cause serious side effects, doctors warn.

There are no official statistics available on multiple births in China, but the Yangzhou Evening News pointed to Dr. Zhang's hospital as an example. The hospital had 24 twin births out of 1,600 mothers last year, which the newspaper called, "a proportion of twins born beyond the laws of nature."

In fact, 24 twins for 1,600 mothers amounts to a 1.5 percent birth rate, a small increase on the natural occurrence of twins in China which is 1.1 percent. In 2008, the U.S.'s twin birth rate was 3.25 percent, in part because of the country's use of fertility procedures such as in-vitro fertilization.

ABC News contacted three fertility hospitals in Guangzhou to see if any would prescribe the drugs for a healthy, fertile couple who wanted twins. Of those, one was willing to help.

"No formal hospital would provide this service, because it's not part of the regular medical treatment," the customer service personnel at Guangzhou Yikan Infertility Treatment Center said. "But if a couple insists that they want to have twins by artificial means, we can do this if they meet the requirements."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio