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China steps up response to bird flu

06 April 2013, 15:45

Shanghai - Cities in eastern China where an H7N9 bird flu outbreak has killed six people moved on Saturday to prevent the virus from spreading by banning live poultry trade and culling fowl.

Nanjing city shut markets selling live poultry to its more than eight million residents, while Hangzhou culled birds after discovering infected quail, the official Xinhua news agency said.

China has confirmed 16 cases of the H7N9 strain of avian influenza, the health ministry said on Saturday, since announcing a week ago that the virus had been found in humans for the first time.

People 'worried'

The human infections have been confined to eastern China, with commercial hub Shanghai recording six including four deaths, and the other two fatalities in the neighbouring province of Zhejiang.

Other cases are scattered across the provinces of Jiangsu and Anhui.

Shanghai had ordered a ban on live poultry trading and markets after culling more than 20 500 birds at an agricultural market in a western suburb on Friday.

At a local market in Shanghai's city centre, two live poultry booths were dark and the cages within empty, as a uniformed worker sprayed disinfectant from a tank on his back.

"People are worried," said Yan Zhicheng, a retired factory manager who like many elderly people makes a daily trip to market.

"Shanghai people eat a lot of duck and chicken. Now we can't touch them."

Chinese authorities maintain there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission, a conclusion echoed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

State media said the government had sought to improve transparency on the disease after being accused of covering up the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed about 800 people globally.

The United Nations on Friday drew up a list of recommendations to try to curb the spread of H7N9 including regular hand washing, keeping animals away from living areas and avoiding eating sick animals.




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