SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2016

U.N. will travel to China to assess H7N9 outbreak

International health experts with the United Nations will travel to China this week for a week-long joint assessment of the H7N9 avian influenza outbreak, according to a news briefing on Tuesday.

Beijing invited the international health team, which will be comprised of experts from the World Health Organization, the United States, the European Union and Australia. The H7N9 bird flu infected 63 people and killed 14. Some who contracted the virus are recovering from a critical state.

The health team will look at issues around the virus reservoir and examine its transmission from animals to humans.

China is also monitoring 1,000 other people based on the assumption of a consistent source of the virus.

Glenn Thomas, a spokesperson with the World Health Organization, said on Tuesday there was no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission of the virus. Thomas said the WHO is on alert for mutations to the virus that could increase human transmissibility.

The virus source has yet to be identified and further cases of infection are expected. The cases are limited so far to six eastern provinces and municipalities in China.

Silvano Sofia, a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization spokesperson, said the organization is strengthening its diagnostic capabilities. The H7N9 virus was confirmed in samples derived from ducks, pigeons, quails, chickens and the environment. The FAO is working with Chinese authorities to trace the sources of the infected poultry back to the farms of origin.