Mainland authorities have discovered H7N9 on a Guangdong poultry farm, just two weeks after the agriculture minister noted that the country's farms had so far been free from the deadly bird flu strain.
Xinhua reported last night that Guangdong provincial agriculture authorities had confirmed finding traces of H7N9 in chicken samples collected from the Zhuhai Jinfeng Poultry farm in Zhuhai - a facility that supplies poultry to Macau.
The disclosure comes two weeks after Agriculture Minister Han Changfu said on the sidelines of the National People's Congress in Beijing that the outbreak appeared contained to wet markets.
"First, the whole nation has so far not found a single case of poultry infected with H7N9," Han said at a March 6 press conference. "Secondly, no poultry farm has so far been found to have any trace of the virus."
Han said the virus should not deter people from eating chicken and noted that thorough cooking would kill the strain.
Traces of H7N9 in chickens from the Zhuhai farm were first discovered by Macau authorities last week, according to the Macau Daily News. Local authorities culled 7,500 birds in the Nam Yue wholesale market, including those supplied by the farm.
Macau later announced a 21-day ban on live poultry imports from the mainland, the Business Daily of Macau reported.
Xinhua said that samples taken from the Doumen district farm by the provincial centre for animal disease control tested positive for H7N9 on Friday. The results were confirmed by the Ministry of Agriculture's national laboratory on Tuesday.
Experts from the Guangdong provincial agriculture department have overseen the culling of more than 80,000 live chickens since last week. They also provided five tonnes of disinfectant.
The mainland has reported more than 120 human H7N9 cases this year, 36 resulting in deaths, according to Xinhua.
Gong Guifen, secretary general of China Poultry Industry Association, told Xinhua that finding the H7N9 virus on a poultry farm may severely impact the industry. The industry has suffered losses worth more than 40 billion yuan (HK$50.5 billion) since the first outbreak last March.
The Yangcheng Evening News reported yesterday that Guangdong agriculture authorities had issued an urgent notice to local authorities to step up H7N9 surveillance on farms and markets.