BEIJING • China is grappling with its worst bird flu outbreak, with the death toll so far this winter rising to at least 108, stirring further concerns about the spread of the deadly virus.
Chinese disease control experts have warned the public to stay alert against the H7N9 avian flu, saying that more than 340 cases of human infection have been reported since last October. South Korea and Japan are also battling their own major outbreaks and have culled millions of chickens.
The virus is likely to strike in winter and spring, and farmers have in recent years ramped up measures such as cleaning regimes to prevent the disease from striking. China has confirmed five bird flu outbreaks among poultry this winter, which has led to the culling of more than 175,000 birds. Some live poultry markets have been closed after people and chickens were infected by the avian flu strains
China is the world’s third-largest producer of broiler chickens and second-biggest poultry consumer.
The new strain of H7N9 bird flu virus could become drug-resistant, experts say, while a leading specialist in respiratory diseases warns that it might be resistant already.
Two human cases have been reported in Guangdong province, with the strain showing resistance to oseltamivir phosphate, a commonly used drug in the prevention and treatment of flu, said Mr Zhong Nanshan, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, according to a report in Nanfang Daily, a newspaper in the provincial capital of Guangzhou.
Death toll from the H7N9 avian flu.
Number of cases of human infection that have been reported since October.
Although the two patients are resistant to the drug, oseltamivir phosphate has been effective for most human H7N9 cases, Mr Zhong was reported as saying. “This shows that most H7N9 viruses have not mutated to the new strain,” he said.
Mr He Jianfeng, chief expert in infectious disease at the Guangdong Provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said…