WASHINGTON (WTHR) — China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said in a statement on Saturday, which was obtained by Newsweek, that poultry in Hunan province in southern China had become sick with the H5N1 virus.
Hunan province neighbors the Hubei province, which includes the city of Wuhan — the outbreak epicenter of a different new virus in the coronavirus family.
Reuters reports that 17,828 chickens were culled, or selectively slaughtered, following the outbreak. The case reportedly began on a farm with 7,850 chickens, of which 4,500 died from the form of bird flu.
The World Health Organization says, in rare cases, H5N1 can spread from animals to humans, but that transmission is unlikely. "The consequences for public health could be very serious," the World Health Organization says, as fears are that the virus could mutate, allowing it to spread easier from animals to humans.
Dr. Stohr and Dr. Jorgen Schlundt of the World Health Organization's Food Safety Program said in 2004 that there was no evidence that humans could get avian flu from eating birds.
According to the United Nation's Health Agency's Abebe Haile Gabriel, "H5N1 causes major losses of nutritious food and threatens farmers' livelihoods, particularly in resource-poor environments where governments have difficulty providing financial compensation for losses." Gabriel went on to say, "we're looking at a quickly spreading disease that has devastating effects on livelihoods in communities."
In 2004, the UN Health Agency said a 7-year-old boy from Thailand along with a 6-year-old boy both contracted the H5N1 virus strain. Their symptoms included acute respiratory syndrome, but both were alive at the time of the report. At the time, the agency said the H5N1 virus had just claimed the lives of five people in Vietnam.