Deadly flu outbreak in China

Burnet Institute

08 April, 2013

Professor Anne Kelso AM presents at The Indo-Australian Biotechnology Conference at the Burnet Institute.

Australia’s leading influenza expert, Professor Anne Kelso AO says a deadly influenza virus outbreak in China that has already caused six deaths has potential to spread.

Professor Kelso from the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza presented a risk assessment of the recent outbreak at the Indo-Australian Biotechnology Conference at the Burnet Institute.

Since 31 March this year, 21 cases of the influenza, H7N9, have been detected in four adjoining provinces in eastern China with the virus often leading to severe pneumonia.

When a pigeon in a market was found to be carrying the virus mid-last week, China responded by shutting down the live poultry trade in the area and culled up to 100,000 birds.

Professor Kelso said human-to-human transmission of H7N9 hasn’t been confirmed, but with Shanghai a major travel and business hub, it’s important to prepare for an outbreak.

“So what now? In China there is enhanced surveillance of humans, poultry and animals, there’s developing and sharing of clinical treatment protocols and hopefully there will be anti-viral drug treatment available for severe cases,” Professor Kelso said.

“So we’re all developing diagnostic tests and looking forward to having some viral material to use in the next day or so as reference material for that purpose.”

Professor Kelso said that reference material will be provided to labs around the region for their own diagnostics development in the event it’s needed.

“We’re worried about this outbreak but at the moment we don’t know how worried we need to be – we just need to be ready for the possibility that it will spread outside of the immediate area,” she said.

“The successful control depends on strong global cooperation between all of us as scientists, public health agencies and governments.

“I want to especially thank the WHO centre in Beijing who have done a really extraordinary job by working with us very closely and enabling the rest of the world to be prepared if needed.”

Burnet Institute is hosting The Indo-Australian Biotechnology Conference from 8-9 April.

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