HEALTH CONCERNS
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H7N9 avian flu

Guangzhou wet market H7N9 bird flu fears spark five-day ban on the sale of live poultry

The ban was instigated after 33 per cent of samples from 50 wet markets and five live poultry wholesale markets in the city tested positive for the deadly H7N9 bird flu virus up to February 5

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 February, 2015, 2:20pm
UPDATED : Friday, 13 February, 2015, 2:20pm

Guangzhou begun a five-day ban today on the sale of live poultry at all of its wet markets, the Nanfang Daily reported.

The move was instigated after 33 per cent of samples collected from 50 wet markets and five live poultry wholesale markets across the city tested positive for the deadly H7N9 bird flu virus up to February 5.

The sale of live poultry would resume on February 18 – the eve of the start of this year’s Lunar New Year, because of Cantonese culinary tradition, the report said. 

However, it did not mention if the ban would be extended if new cases of the H7N9 virus were discovered. 

In Guangdong, locals believe the freshness of ingredients greatly affects the taste and texture of dishes.

The provincial health department said there have been 45 cases of H7N9 bird flu this year, most in urban cities in the Pearl River Delta, including 11 in Shenzhen, five in Dongguan, three in Guangzhou and one in Zhuhai.

The Guangzhou Daily reported that illegal hawkers have been seen selling live poultry on the street outside wet markets and had even been slaughtering them inside apartments of residential buildings.

It said residents have been urged to tip off local authorities by calling the telephone hotline 12319 if they discovered their neighbours were keeping live poultry at home.

In May and July, Guangzhou and Shenzhen became the first cities in the delta to adopt a trial ban on live poultry sales in certain downtown districts. Retailers could sell only chilled meat from approved slaughterhouses.

The ban was expected to cover all districts in Guangzhou by October, and include the Luohu, Yantian and Nanshan districts of Shenzhen by the end of last year.

However, even in the two trial cities, the effectiveness of the ban was undermined by some vendors illegally changing the dates of slaughter and packaging because few of them had been able to sell all their chilled stock before the ban was enforced.

In September, the provincial government released a plan for public consultation, which has called for a halt to live poultry sales in nine key cities, starting from this year.

However, so far, no exact timetable had been drawn up.