China’s reopening of live bird markets questioned

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

The H7N9 bird flu strain has claimed the lives of over 500 people in China since 2013
The H7N9 bird flu strain has claimed the lives of over 500 people in China since 2013

Related tags Influenza Avian influenza Transmission and infection of h5n1 Livestock Poultry

Local government authorities in China may not be fully aware of the potential threat posed by bird flu, after human infections of H7N9 were detected this month.

GlobalMeatNews​ understands that the local Chinese government, while doing a lot to tackle bird flu, may not be fully aware of its damaging potential.

In the spring of 2017, many local authorities governing Chinese regions reopened live bird markets after it seemed the worst outbreak of H7N9 avian influenza (AI) in China’s history​ had passed its most potent stage, killing more than 100 people.

But earlier this month, Chinese state media reported live bird markets had been closed in certain districts of two cities after cases of human H7N9 AI were identified.

Multiple human cases

Since 17 May, there have been 17 new cases of human H7N9 AI infection in China, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which is monitoring the unusually high number of bird flu case numbers​ in the country.

Six new cases of human AI infection were reported in the northern province of Hebei; two cases each in Shandong and Sichuan; and one case each in Anhui, Beijing, Chongqing, Jiangsu, Shaanxi, Shanxi and Zhejiang.

WHO figures on the number of human cases with AI suggest infection among people is falling month-on-month since January. However, cases of human infection in May 2017 are still nearly two times higher than they were at the same stage last year.

When asked if the local Chinese government was fully aware of the potential of the bird flu virus, WHO answered by sending an email to this site with web links to 27 announcements made by local government in China since the emergence of H7N9 in March 2013. Since the AI strain was discovered more than four years ago, 579 people have died, according to WHO.

The announcements made by Chinese officials sent to this site cover communication on the importance of H7N9 control and its related impact.

Within a week of the first outbreaks of H7N9 in 2013, China’s Ministry of Health released a number of guidelines and protocols to prevent an epidemic. An announcement from central government was followed by state government announcements on disease control measures.

State government intensified communications explaining how to prevent human cases of H7N9 in the winter of 2016-17, following an upsurge in the number of human cases.

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