While the coronavirus death toll in China mounts to 304 and infected 14,000, the Asian country has reported an outbreak of a "highly pathogenic" strain of the H5N1 bird flu in Hunan province, which is situated on the southern border of Hubei province, the epicentre of the Wuhan coronavirus.

The bird flu outbreak was reported on a firm in the city of Shaoyang at Hunan, said China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs. As per the reports among 7,850 chickens on the firm, 4,500 died of the deadly H5N1 avian flu.

Poultry farm
Poultry farm Pixabay

The bird flu outbreak

The government of China said it culled 17,828 chickens as a result of the H5N1 outbreak, reported Reuters. It should be noted that as per the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the bird flu is considered as "high pathogenic" based on its ability to kill birds. On the website of the USGS, it was mentioned that "The designation of low or highly pathogenic avian influenza refers to the potential for these viruses to kill chickens. The designation of 'low pathogenic' or 'highly pathogenic' does not refer to how infectious the viruses may be to humans, other animals or other species of birds."

In addition, USGS mentioned that most strains of the bird flu are not highly pathogenic and they cause a few signs of the disease in infected birds. But in poultry firms, some low-pathogenic strains can mutate into "Highly pathogenic avian influenza strains that cause a contagious and severe illness among poultry and sometimes wild birds, and often death."

H5N1 transmission to humans

It should be mentioned that as per the World Health Organization (WHO), H5N1 can be transmitted to humans through contact with dead birds or a contaminated environment, but it is rare in humans. WHO also added that this bird flu virus doesn't infect humans easily. It spread from person to person is unusual and the mortality rate in humans is 60 percent. In addition WHO clarified that "There is no evidence that the disease can be spread to people through properly prepared and thoroughly cooked food."

As of now, no human cases of the Hunan H5N1 virus have been reported.

First virus fatality outside of China

WHO said that a 44-year-old a male Wuhan resident died on Saturday, February 1 as a result of the coronavirus infection in the Philippines. The man, who travelled to the Philippines recently, appears to have been infected before leaving China. He is the first known person to have died outside China from the virus.

After the death of the Wuhan man, Rabindra Abeyasinghe, the WHO representative to the Philippines, said, "This is the first reported death outside China. However, we need to take into mind that this is not a locally acquired case. This patient came from the epicentre of this outbreak."

As told by Philippine health secretary Francisco Duque, the deceased man arrived in the Philippines along with a Chinese woman who had also tested positive for the virus. The woman was Philippines' first case of the coronavirus and currently, she is recovering in hospital.

Coronavirus epidemic

After WHO announced the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency, several countries have closed their borders to arrivals from China. While Russia, Japan, Pakistan and Italy announced travel restrictions, US and Australia also stated that they would deny entry to all foreign visitors who had recently been in China. But WHO said on Friday, January 31 that such restrictions can cause more harm than "good by hindering info-sharing, medical supply chains and harming economies."

In addition WHO warned that closing borders won't help, instead, it could accelerate the spread of the virus, with travellers entering countries unofficially. They recommended the introducing screening at official border crossings.