China braces for double hit as bird flu outbreaks reported in Shuangqing and Sichuan provinces
The outbreak was reported on a chicken farm in the Shuangqing district of Shaoyang City. Another strain of the virus was found in the Sichuan province as well
The coronavirus outbreak in China is showing no signs of slowing down. On February 10, over 100 people died for the first time in a single day since the outbreak began. The total number of deaths now touch 1,016. In the midst of all of this, adding to the country's mounting concerns are reports of a bird flu breakout in two of its provinces.
China's Hunan which borders Hubei --the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak --has detected the H5N1(Bird flu) strain as well.
“The outbreak occurred on a farm in the Shuangqing district of Shaoyang City. The farm has 7,850 chickens, and 4,500 of the chickens have died from the contagion. Local authorities have culled 17,828 poultry after the outbreak,” China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs on Saturday is reported to have said.
More recently, another bird flu strain has been detected in China's Sichuan: H5N6. The virus has killed over 1,840 birds. The authorities have culled the remaining birds to prevent any further spread.
Are these outbreaks dangerous to humans?
There are no reports of the bird flu infecting humans since reports of the outbreaks emerged later, last week. Generally, viruses belonging to the H5 category do not easily infect humans, says the World Health Organization (WHO).
They also do not spread easily between people. H5N1 has so far infected 238 people from four countries within the Western Pacific Region since January 2003 and as many as 24 people have caught the H5N6 strain across mainland China.
People who are in close contact with infected live or dead birds or contaminated environments are more susceptible to the illness.
Still, these viruses have a high fatality rate: Over 60% of those infected, die. Moreover, the experts are concerned that in the future these viruses could change or evolve to acquire the ability to infect and spread efficiently among people.
If H5 viruses were to change and become easily transmissible from person to person while also retaining its capacity to cause severe disease, the consequences for public health could be very serious, says the WHO.
Though the outbreaks are concentrated in two provinces, it could strain China's resources. The country is already trying to contain the coronavirus outbreak that has infected over 42,628 people in the country so far.