New Bird Flu Strain In China

Published on Author helvey
Tests for the H7N9 virus under way at the Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention in Beijing.
Flu test at Beijing CDC.

A new strain of avian influenza has been documented in China. It has already resulted in one death (an elderly woman this past december) and another confirmed infection was observed in January. If we see an outbreak of this new strain, it will we be interesting to see if there is any economic impact. Perhaps tourists will tire of hearing about deadly viruses in China and will wish to avoid any potential contact with the avian flu, chooseing safer destinations instead of China. Furthermore, if this trend continues, perhaps foreign companies will choose to take their offices/factories/etc. elsewhere, rather than risk possible exposure to a potentially deadly strain of avian influenza.Also, if China develops a reputation for fostering deadly viruses, it’s economy stands to take a hit. If such a reputation is enough of a deterrent, China’s economy could experience both of the aforementioned deleterious outcomes. [Verbose!!]

This strain is no joke, either. As Shu Yeolong, a researcher from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing and an author of the recent report, recently stated, “A genetic analysis of the H10N8 virus shows a virus that is distinct from previously reported H10N8 viruses, having evolved some genetic characteristics that may allow it to replicate efficiently in humans.” Also, in a Lancet article published on The Lancet, a leading online general medical journal,  article reported, “The pandemic potential of this novel virus should not be underestimated.” Well, let’s hope it doesn’t make it to the pandemic level, for both China’s sake and ours.

5 Responses to New Bird Flu Strain In China

  1. I understand that new outbreaks of the avian flu and such viruses should never be underestimated, but at the same time I think this is being overstated. People often freak out about these things, even when there is no evidence to support such reactions. For instance the only person who has died from this strain was a 73 year old woman with high blood pressure and heart problems. Also there has been no evidence to support there has been person to person transmission of the virus. Now if this does become a pandemic, I will gladly admit I was wrong, but I don’t believe this is likely.

  2. I agree with Mitchell that the likelihood of this new strain becoming a pandemic is slim, but I also think Helvey is correct. Just the potential of having a pandemic could cause enough panic to keep foreign companies and tourists out of China, which, at a time where the Chinese economy suffering from a slow down, could further add to their problems.

  3. I concur with both arguments. However, a similar event happened in Argentina a couple of years ago and it faded away fairly rapidly. Influenza ‘A’ hit several cities, including Buenos Aires and Cordoba. Due to media overflow, a panic chain reaction erupted frightening the population. Even though it was a serious matter and many people died because of it, the media overstated the problem creating unnecessary agitation. I believe the new strain might affect the economy in the short run, but it will not be as significant to affect China’s economy in the long run.

  4. While I agree with both of the arguments, I think, as Moure said, the new strain can affect the economy in the SR, but not significantly in LR.

    However, we always have to be careful with the flu/disease. A few years ago, there was swine flu in China, which killed lots of people. In this case, the negative economic impacts were huge, and it had both SR and LR impacts on the economy (negatively).
    It is possible that this flu can cause a disastrous disease in the future. The Chinese government should pay close attention to this new flu.

  5. In the past China was a source of new strains, thanks to the proximity of hogs, fowl and humans. Cross-transmission may not be easy, but this makes it easier and given the rate of evolution of viruses fosters strains that can be transmitted.
    Now SR vs LR depends on the magnitude of the epidemiological “hit” – something that kills a significant fraction of the population would clearly have an impact beyond the SR. Otherwise this would be like SARS – and the disruptions would be domestic, we have to be careful not to exaggerate the international dimension. Yes, international business travel might slack off, but how crucial are ex-pats in the short run. [They’s no reason to think they’re central in the long run!]
    And have any of you heard about Feb Break 2009, from which a student or two brought back cases of H1N1 “swine” influenza, which led to 103 diagnosed cases and multiple students quarantined?