Shanghai begins culling poultry as new bird flu strain spreads

As the new bird flu strain spread with more people contracting the deadly virus, Chinese officials in Shanghai closed a live poultry trading zone and began slaughtering all birds there on detecting H7N9 influenza from samples of pigeon from the market.

Six people have died of virus and 14 H7N9 cases were confirmed in China so far - six in Shanghai, four in Jiangsu, three in Zhejiang  and one in Anhui, in the first known human infections of the lesser-known strain.

Of all, four died in Shanghai and two died in Zhejiang.

Meanwhile, a person close to a dead H7N9 bird flu patient in Shanghai has been under treatment in quarantine after developing symptoms of fever, running nose and throat itching, the Shanghai Municipal Health and Family Planning Commission said, state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

China's Ministry of Agriculture yesterday said it found the H7N9 virus from pigeon samples collected at the Huhuai wholesale agricultural products market in Songjiang district of Shanghai.

After gene sequence analysis, the national avian flu reference laboratory concluded that the new strain of virus found on pigeons was highly congenetic with those found on persons infected with H7N9, the ministry said.

Adopting precautionary measures, Shanghai municipal agricultural commission has ordered proper disposal of the culled birds, their excrements and contaminated food as well as disinfection of the market and vehicles that carried them.

The commission has said that it will also investigate and track where the pigeons came from.

Meanwhile, on finding the samples affected with virus, the agency ordered the closure of the live poultry trading areas of two markets in Minhang district.

Of all six infections reported from Shanghai to date, four have died, according to the Shanghai Municipal Health and Family Planning Commission. 

Of the rest two, a 67-year-old woman was in critical condition and a four-year-old baby was recovering from mild illness, it added.

Of the latest two deaths, a 52-year-old woman surnamed Yu died at Huashan Hospital on Wednesday and was confirmed infected with the H7N9 strain yesterday. The other case involved a 48-year-old man surnamed Chu, a poultry transporter from Rugao in neighbouring Jiangsu Province. A 64-year-old farmer died in Huzhou, becoming the sixth victim of the virus.

China's health authorities have promised transparency and cooperation to the World Health Organisation in regards to human infections of the new strain of bird flu.
The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday stated no human-to-human transmission of H7N9 has been discovered and no epidemiological connection between these cases has been found.

Health authorities and hospitals in many Chinese provinces have been on high alert for the virus.

The health authorities in the southern Guangdong Province have set up an expert team headed by Zhong Nanshan, a renowned medical expert, who helped identifying the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, to offer advices on epidemic control and prevention.

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