Shanghai bird flu fears cause cull of 20,000 birds
The spread of H7N9 bird flu in the Yangtze River Delta region of China during the last month has resulted in Government officials ordering the culling of approximately 20,000 birds found at two poultry markets in Western Shanghai.
According to Chinese media, the action to cull the entire stock of the two markets was taken after tests on pigeons in Huhuai market were shown to carry the virus.
The H7N9 strain of avian flu has not been previously found in humans but has recently caused six deaths and eighteen people to be hospitalised. After the embarrassment and mismanagement that occurred during the SARS outbreak in 2003, Chinese officials are being called on to be more timely and transparent with how they deal with the latest outbreak.
The outrage is particularly strong on Chinese internet forums where officials have been lambasted over the news that the public had only been notified about the outbreak half a month after the initial two H7N9 deaths occurred.
To deal with the situation proactively, officials have instigated a ban on poultry trading in several cities in the region and closed several markets in Shanghai. This will undoubtedly cause many local poultry vendors great financial concern as they now look for ways to prevent the possibility of a larger scale culling of their poultry.
The World Health Organisation has not ruled out pigs as the carrier of the disease since thousands of dead pigs ended up in the Huangpu River at the beginning of this year. This message has contrasted with Chinese official assurances that there is no link between dead pigs and the recent outbreak of H7N9.
In a country where it is difficult to get a clear picture of the latest developments, Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper has noted that the Beijing Government will “inevitably repeat the mistakes” of the SARS outbreak by covering up the latest developments. Taipei’s Liberty Times also noted that “disease prevention on mainland shows no signs of improvement”
So far there has been no evidence of human-to-human transmission and centers for disease control in several countries have started to develop a vaccine in case it is needed.