China confirms third case of human bird flu this week

Workers wearing protective suits cull ducks after some tested positive for H5 bird flu at a poultry farm in Aomori, northern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo, on Nov 29, 2016.
Workers wearing protective suits cull ducks after some tested positive for H5 bird flu at a poultry farm in Aomori, northern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo, on Nov 29, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

Two new cases found as South Korea, Japan fight to contain outbreaks of different strains

BEIJING • China has found two more cases of human bird flu infection, bringing the total this week to three, stoking fears about the spread of the deadly virus at a time when other Asian nations are battling to control outbreaks of the disease.

The discoveries come as health officials in nearby South Korea and Japan have been scrambling to contain outbreaks of different strains of the virus, with the poultry industry there bracing itself for heavy financial losses.

A man diagnosed with the H7N9 strain of bird flu is being treated in Shanghai, after travelling from the neighbouring province of Jiangsu, the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning said on its website on Wednesday. Shanghai is China's most populated city with more than 24 million residents.

In Xiamen, a city in China's eastern Fujian province, the local authorities ordered a halt to poultry sales from yesterday in the Siming district after a 44-year-old man was diagnosed with H7N9 flu on Sunday, state news agency Xinhua reported late on Wednesday.

The patient is being treated in hospital and is in stable condition, Xinhua said, citing Xiamen's diseases prevention and control centre. The city has a population of about 3.5 million.

The latest incidents come after Hong Kong confirmed an elderly man was diagnosed with the disease earlier this week.

The cases in China and Hong Kong come as South Korea and Japan have ordered the killing of tens of millions of birds in the past month, stoking fears of regional spread.

The cases in Japan - outbreaks before the Miyazaki one were all confirmed as H5N6 bird flu - are the first in nearly two years, with the bird cull now standing at its highest in six years.

South Korea too has ordered a record cull of 20 million birds since first reporting the H5N6 virus just over a month ago.

Bird flu is most likely to strike in winter and spring and farmers have in recent years increased cleaning regimes, developed animal detention techniques, and built roofs to cover hen pens, among other steps, to prevent the disease.

Still, concerns about the spread of the virulent airborne bird flu comes as farmers in China are preparing for the year's peak demand during Chinese New Year celebrations at the end of next month. In the light of the recent outbreaks in nearby countries, they are feeding their flocks more vitamins and vaccines and ramping up hen house sterilisations in a bid to protect their birds.

On Wednesday, the authorities said they would ban imports of poultry from countries where there are outbreaks of highly pathogenic bird flu. It already prohibits imports from more than 60 nations, including Japan and South Korea.

The last major bird flu outbreak in mainland China in 2013 killed 36 people and caused about US$6.5 billion (S$9.4 billion) in losses to the agriculture sector.

According to the website of China's Ministry of Agriculture, delegations from Japan, South Korea and China gathered in Beijing last week for a symposium on preventing and controlling bird flu and other diseases in East Asia.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2016, with the headline 'China confirms third case of human bird flu this week'. Print Edition | Subscribe