Beijing joins list of mainland cities reporting bird flu cases in humans
Mainland steps up fight against H7N9 virus, with authorities warning worse is on the way
Beijing authorities have reported the city’s first human case of H7N9 bird flu infection as the mainland tries to contain pockets of outbreaks across the nation.
Several provinces have announced suspension of the live poultry trade, with Guangzhou officials warning nearly a third of its markets engaged in the business were contaminated with the virus.
At least 130 cases of human infection have been reported across the mainland this year. Dozens of people have died from the virus, including 21 in Jiangsu province and 11 in neighbouring Anhui, according to state media.
In Beijing, a 68-year-old man became the city’s first confirmed human case this year. He was in critical condition after seeking medical attention on January 29, according to the Beijing Evening News. The man, from Langfang in Hebei province, may have been in direct contact with poultry, but his close contacts have been cleared of the virus.
In Jiangsu, one of the hardest-hit provinces, 21 of 49 people infected with the H7N9 strain last month died, Xinhua quoted the provincial health and family planning commission as saying. In December, 14 of 54 people died from the virus.
In Zhejiang, the provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed at least 35 human infections of the H7N9 strain since January. All markets across the province halted live poultry trading by Saturday due to the severity of the outbreak, Xinhua reported.
In Anhui, the government has reported 20 cases with 11 patients dying.
The China Centre for Disease Control and Prevention warned last month that the peak season for bird flu would come one month earlier than usual. It expected a higher number of cases spread across a greater area compared to previous years.
Authorities in cities prone to outbreaks recently started sending out mobile phone alerts urging people to remain vigilant.
“Civilians should avoid dense and polluted public venues and minimise contact with poultry, especially dead ones,” reads one warning from Beijing health authorities.
Tourists were urged to avoid contact with wild birds and stay away from areas where birds were slaughtered even in rural areas.
The live poultry trade has also been halted in Hunan, Sichuan and Guangdong. Authorities in the provincial capital carried out tests last week and found about 30 per cent of its live poultry markets were contaminated with the H7N9 virus, China Daily reported on Saturday.
Preventative measures have been stepped up in Hunan province, including checkpoints set up on highways in some counties and disinfectant sprayed on vehicles transporting poultry.
The province has reported 24 infections and five deaths in Changsha.
Neighbouring Hubei has recorded 19 human cases since January, while four have been announced in Sichuan, 11 in Fujian and one in Yunnan – a three-year-old girl originally from Jiangxi province who succumbed last week, according to Xinhua.
Meanwhile in Taiwan, a 69-year-old patient in Kaohsiung was confirmed to have H7N9 and remains in critical condition. The Taiwanese patient reportedly worked in Guangdong, according to United Daily News.
Taiwan is battling the H5N6 strain of the bird flu – the same one that has ravished Japan and South Korea. More than 3,000 turkeys in southern Taiwan were confirmed on Saturday to have died from H5N6.
The H7N9 strain was first reported to have infected humans in China in March 2013. It is most likely to strike in winter and spring, when cooler temperatures allow it to survive.