MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2016

WHO experts visit China to examine H7N9 avian flu

An expert team from the World Health Organization and the China National Health and Family Planning Commission is visiting areas affected by the H7N9 virus in China, according to a media briefing on Friday.

Michael O'Leary, the WHO representative in China, will accompany the team, which includes international and Chinese experts in clinical management, laboratories and epidemiology. The H7N9 avian flu virus has infected 87 people in China, killing 17 of them.

O'Leary said more than 15 experts are coming together to visit Shanghai and Beijing to learn more about the deadly avian flu virus.

"The team as a whole constitutes above 15 people," O'Leary said. "Five or so of those are from the Chinese government, from our colleagues at China CDC, and the ministries. Four are WHO experts, there will be two of us from the country office here, we also have one from our regional office in Manila and two from our headquarters in Geneva... The ones from Geneva and from Manila are some of our top experts in the subject area, in the international expert team that's coming consists of people from four countries. From the US, from the (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). There's a collaborating centre on influenza, also a collaborating centre in Melbourne, Australia. In influenza as well with the mission, we have an expert from Hong Kong, who additionally has considerable experience in the animal side of virology, and an epidemiologist and expert from the (European Centre for Prevention and Control)."

O'Leary said the team's permitted visit is an example of international cooperation in action and a demonstration of China's openness in investigating the situation.

"This demonstrates, in our view, the openness of the government," O'Leary said. "This is very quick to invite in an international team. It's because the interest is strong internationally and strong in China. And we all want to figure out what the purpose is. So, we're really working together on that."

O'Leary said on Friday that there were no findings yet to report, but following the visit to Shanghai and a return to Beijing, the team will discuss its findings and make initial recommendations. China's National Health and Family Planning Commission will release its findings from the mission at a later date.