Samples from two Shenzhen wet markets have tested positive for the H7N9 bird flu virus that has infected two people in Hong Kong.
Confirmation of the test findings came two days after the municipal government said the border city could not be confirmed as the source of the outbreak.
The Health and Family Planning Commission of Guangdong said yesterday that H7N9 had been detected in three samples taken from poultry stalls at two wet markets in Shenzhen's Longgang district.
The infected samples were among 70 collected on Tuesday from 13 wet markets across the city. An infected blood sample came from a chopping board at a stall selling live poultry at the Henggang market. The other two were found in chicken excrement and a plucking machine from a stall at the Kangqiao market in the Nanwan neighbourhood.
The commission said the risk of bird flu spreading in the province was high and warned the public to stay alert.
But last night traders at the Kangqiao market said sales were continuing. "They came to collect samples but we heard nothing about the test results and trade continued all day long today," one trader said.
University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung said he believed the deadly virus was already spreading in Guangdong and the surrounding areas.
He urged Hong Kong to halt live poultry imports from the mainland. At present, only imports from three Shenzhen farms are suspended. Ho said the Longgang markets may have been responsible for the infection of 36-year-old Indonesian domestic helper Tri Mawarti, who may have handled a live chicken at a flat in Nanwan Street, near one of the infected markets.
The second Hong Kong patient is an 80-year-old who was recently in Shenzhen. The Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection said he had not handled live chickens. His family bought a slaughtered chicken near Fuyong in Baoan district, far from where the positive samples were found.