By SHAN JUAN in Beijing and WANG ZHENGHUA in Shanghai (China Daily)
Human-to-human transmission of the H7N9 bird flu virus might occur on a limited scale in China, the World Health Organization representative to the country said on Monday.
But there is no evidence that the virus will become sustained or widespread among humans, Bernhard Schwartlander said.
China has reported more than 200 human cases of H7N9 since March, the latest ones including a doctor in Shanghai who died from the infection at the weekend, according to statistics released on Monday by the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
“Since October, only one cluster was detected where human-to-human transmission might have occurred. We continue to expect only sporadic human cases,” Schwartlander said.
He referred to a case involving a 30-year-old man and his father-in-law in Zhejiang province. The local health authority said that the possibility of limited human-to-human transmission couldn’t be ruled out in the case, which was reported in December.
However, Schwartlander said it is not known whether H7N9 will cause a pandemic.
Sustained human-to-human transmission is usually needed for a pandemic, but so far “there is no evidence of sustained or widespread human-to-human transmission of the virus, which infects both birds and humans,” he stressed.
Feng Zijian, deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a media event on Monday that there have been no mutations of the virus in terms of drug resistance, viral activity and in transmission capacity since March.
“So there is no need to panic, although more human cases are expected in coming days,” he said.
The H7N9 bird flu virus tends to be more active in winter and such a period of stronger viral activity might last into early spring, he noted.
Most of the recent cases in China were in southeastern areas, with an average of five newly confirmed human H7N9 cases reported each day, Feng said, citing results from the center’s national epidemic surveillance network.
The main transmission route for the virus remains from birds to humans, Feng added.