The effects of the current outbreak of the H7N9 avian influenza in China has been as varied as causing the sales of KFC to drop and causing the stock-prices of rubber-glove manufacturers to be on the uptrend..but there’s no mistaking the fact that to date, there has been 9 deaths and 28 confirmed cases (see here).
But a mystery is brewing..the first known human case was in eastern China on Feb. 19, but this was not announced to the public until March 31, some 6 weeks later. This delay in announcement is even being questioned by the heavily censored news media, such as the Communist Youth Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Youth League.
Was there deliberate concealment by the health authorities? The answer may not be that straightforward. Possible reasons for the delay may include that the new virus strain shows unusual properties and that Chinese laboratories might have been doing tests to detect the previous H5N1 strain instead. To recap, the H5N1 outbreak struck in 2003 where a total of 247 people died. Measures instituted at that time included the controversial administration of several million vaccines to the chicken population at a significant economic cost. This could also be a reason why the news has been suppressed.
Avian influenza (also called avian flu, bird flu) is a flu virus that infects poultry but can be transmitted to man by direct or indirect exposure to infected live or dead poultry or contaminated environments. It is generally classified of low virulence (it does not spread to man easily). There is no evidence that the disease can be spread to people through properly cooked food. You can get more info from the WHO Fact Sheet here.
In South Africa, its HIV/AIDS; but the commonest ailment in China is diabetes. According to the BBC, China faces a diabetes epidemic, what with almost one in 10 adults having the disease, while more cases remain undiagnosed.
Given China’s huge population, this means that there are some 90 million diabetics; more than anywhere else in this planet. Even the US, with a similar prevalence of 1 in 10 plays second fiddle in terms of numbers simply because of China’s sheer size.
This represents a major public health problem for the authorities in Beijing as diabetes is a major factor in illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. Add to this the fact that this disease does not have many symptoms during the early stages and we have a potential gigantic health problem in the next few decades.
The reason for this upsurge in diabetes is the rapid economic development in China where a combination of urbanisation, lack of exercise, changing eating habits and higher stress have all resulted in obesity and sedentary lifestyle. Prosperity has resulted in the average Chinese going from a situation where he has not enough food and has to resort to manual labour to eke out a living, to a situation of having enough (or too much) food and doing less exercise.
As if not to make matters worse, diabetes is a disease which is difficult to diagnose in the early stages, largely because it is silent and wreaks serious damage before symptoms appear. It basically affects every blood vessel in the body and therefore will damage practically every organ in the body. Read more here.
Given the difficulty in diagnosing diabetes early, an extremely simple test to see whether you have diabetes is by measuring the amount of glucose in the blood. This is easily done by doing an instant finger-prick test at the pharmacy. If the result is suspicious, further blood tests will have to be done at the doctor’s office to confirm.
- Diagnosing Crucial Diabetes Signs (slideshare.net)