05 April 2013 15:30 | By Ng Jie Ying
China gears up to combat new bird flu strain H7N9

Authorities in Shanghai have commenced the mass slaughter of poultry at a market after the H7N9 bird flu virus, which has killed 14 people in China so far, was detected there.



Chicken Province Healthcare And Medicine Horizontal China Illness Occupation Farm Guangxi Vaccination Chinese (© AFP/Getty Images)
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China has stepped up efforts, including the mass culling of poultry in a market in Shanghai, to rein in the spread of the new H7N9 bird flu virus which has since seen 63 confirmed infections in humans and have left 14 dead.

According to Chinese authorities, there has been no evidence of human to human transmission and they are trying to understand how the H7N9 virus, which was first reported in the country last month, infects people.

Although China has called for safe disposal of the culled birds and promised to maintain transparent communication with the World Health Organization to strengthen monitoring of the virus, the first two deaths in February was not reported by the authorities until late March. The authorities said that the delay was due to the time required to identify the cause of the illnesses.

Wendy Barclay, a flu virologist at Britain's Imperial College London, has confirmed that the H7N9 is an avian virus and it is a low pathogenic form which is likely to cause mild disease in birds. However, the genetic sequences of the new flu strains have also showed that there are some mammalian mutations in the genes of the virus.

Elsewhere in Asia, authorities are raising their alert levels on the situation. In Japan, public posters have been put up informing passengers from China to seek medical help if they are experiencing any flu-like symptoms, while Hong Kong has already activated the preliminary “Alert Response Level” in case an influenza pandemic takes place.

Vietnam has banned poultry imported from China, while Singapore and Malaysia are monitoring the situation in China closely.

Scroll through the gallery to see how China is combating the spread of the latest strain of avian flu

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