H7N9 response discussed during World Health Assembly

A special presentation on the response to the recent emergence of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus in China was held during the 66th World Health Assembly in Geneva, organized by China and the World Health Organization.

More than 300 delegates attended the evening side event on 21 May to hear how China implemented H7N9 prevention and control measures following the first reported cases in March 2013. They were also told of the important collaboration China has undertaken with WHO, other UN agencies and global flu experts as part of the investigations to understand how the virus has been able to emerge and infect humans.

At the event, Dr Margaret Chan, the WHO Director-General, praised the actions taken in China and in her opening address to the Assembly she thanked China for collecting and communicating such a wealth of information, and for collaborating so closely with WHO.

"Chinese officials have promptly traced, monitored, and tested thousands of patient contacts, including hundreds of health care workers. At present, human-to-human transmission of the virus is negligible. However, influenza viruses constantly reinvent themselves. No one can predict the future course of this outbreak." Dr Chan said in her opening address.

Also participating at the side event was Li Bin, China’s Minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC).

After the presentation, a news conference was held with Dr Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General for Health Security and Environment at WHO, Dr Juan Lubroth , Chief Veterinary Officer for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Dr Bernard Vallat, Director-General for the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

At the end of March this year, China reported the first-ever human infections with the H7N9 avian influenza virus. Within three weeks, more than 100 additional cases were confirmed. Although the source of human infection with the virus is not yet fully understood, the number of new cases dropped dramatically following the closing of live poultry markets.

"Going forward, we must maintain a high level of vigilance. I cannot overemphasize the importance of immediate and fully transparent reporting to WHO, and of strict adherence to your obligations set out in the International Health Regulations." Dr Chan stressed.

For more information, please contact

Mr Gregory Härtl
Telephone: +41 22 791 4458
Mobile: +41 79 203 6715
E-mail: hartlg@who.int

Mr Glenn Thomas
Telephone: +41 22 791 3983
Mobile: +41 79 509 0677
E-mail: thomasg@who.int

Helen Yu
Communications Officer, WHO in China
Tel: +86 10 65327191
E-mail: yuji@wpro.who.int