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Local authorities set to close live poultry markets in major cities [EPA]
|Chinese officials are taking measures to prevent the spread of H7N9, a deadly strain of bird flu that has already killed 22 people this year.Three members of the same Chinese family contracted H7N9 in Hangzhou, the capital of the eastern province of Zhejiang, the worst-affected by the current spike in cases.
Local authorities are set to close live poultry markets in major cities, according to reports in official media.
Live poultry trading will be halted in cities in coastal Zhejiang province from February 15, and neighbouring Shanghai will stop trading for three months beginning on Friday.
So far this year, China has confirmed 110 human H7N9 cases, including 22 deaths, according to an AFP news agency’s tally of reports by local authorities.
By comparison there were 144 infections and 46 deaths in all of 2013, according to official figures.
Zhejiang alone has seen 53 cases this year, almost half the national total, and 12 deaths.
On Tuesday, Hong Kong’s only wholesale poultry market began culling 20,000 chickens and suspended imports of fresh poultry from mainland China for three weeks after the discovery of the H7N9 bird flu virus in a batch of live chickens from the southern province of Guangdong.
The government order took effect on Tuesday, two days before the start of the Chinese New Year, when poultry sellers generally anticipate a surge in sales.
China’s human H7N9 outbreak began in February 2013 and sparked fears the virus could mutate to become easily transmissible between people, potentially triggering a pandemic.
Both Chinese authorities and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have said there has been no evidence so far of sustained human-to-human transmission.
But limited spread, such as between relatives in close contact, is possible, and there have been previous such family clusters.
The WHO said on Wednesday that the spike in cases this year was not surprising due to seasonal factors, rather than a virus mutation.
“Today there is no evidence that the characteristics of the virus have changed in a way that would explain an increase in cases and change in case fatality,” WHO Representative in China Bernhard Schwartländer told the AFP news agency.
South Korea banned the movement of people who work with poultry and products from two provinces after confirming an outbreak of the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N8 at farms in the country’s south.
Authorities have restricted movement in North Jeolla province, South Jeolla province and Gwangju Metropolitan City, about 240 kilometers (150 miles) from Seoul, for 48 hours until midnight Jan. 20, Lee Dong Phil, minister of the agriculture, food and rural affairs, told reporters today.
The ministry confirmed the first outbreak in Gochang, North Jeolla province on Jan. 17, and at a duck farm in nearby Buan county today, according to separate statements on the ministry’s website. South Korea has culled 90,000 birds at six farms within a 500-meter radius, the ministry said today.
“It was inevitable to announce a stand-still in order to prevent further damage,” Lee said. “We ask all to comply thoroughly with the stand-still instructions.”
South Korea is the world’s third-biggest buyer of corn, used in food, livestock feed and biofuel. The country destroyed 6.5 million chickens and ducks in the previous outbreak spanning December 2010 through May 2011, according to government data.
Shares of Harim Holdings Co. (024660), which manufactures packaged chicken through its subsidiaries, fell 6.4 percent, the most since June, to close at 4,500 won on Jan. 17 in Seoul. The benchmark Kospi stock index declined 0.7 percent.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stanley James at email@example.com
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong confirmed its first case of deadly H7N9 bird flu on Monday in a further sign that the virus is continuing to spread beyond mainland China’s borders.
The case coincides with the 10th anniversary of the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which killed nearly 300 people in Hong Kong and had a significant impact on the city’s travel and retail industry.
A 36-year-old Indonesian domestic helper with a history of contact with poultry and travel to Shenzhen in mainland China just north of Hong Kong has been confirmed infected by H7N9 and has been hospitalized in critical condition, Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man told reporters late on Monday.
(Reporting By Twinnie Siu and Donny Kwok; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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