China reports first 2 human fatalities from bird flu this winter

There have been outbreaks of bird flu across East Asia this winter, with China reporting its first two fatalities on Dec 21, 2016.
There have been outbreaks of bird flu across East Asia this winter, with China reporting its first two fatalities on Dec 21, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Two people in the Chinese province of Anhui have died of bird flu infection, the first fatalities among this winter's avian flu cases in China, as neighbours South Korea and Japan tried to curb their own outbreaks of the virus.

Anhui has reported five cases of H7N9 avian flu since Dec 8, including two deaths, the province's health authority said in a statement dated Dec 21, posted on its website.

It did not say whether the other three people had recovered or not.

The Anhui cases bring the total number of people infected with the H7N9 virus in mainland China this month to at least seven.

Health authorities in Shanghai said on Wednesday (Dec 21) a man diagnosed with the H7N9 strain was being treated there, after travelling from the neighbouring province of Jiangsu. Shanghai is China’s biggest city with more than 24 million residents.  

The local government in Jiangsu was looking into the origin of the infection, the provincial health authority said on Thursday.  

In Xiamen, a city in Fujian province also in the east, the authorities ordered a halt to poultry sales from Thursday in the Siming district, after a 44-year-old man was diagnosed with H7N9 flu on Sunday, state news agency Xinhua reported on Wednesday.  

The patient was being treated in hospital and was stable, Xinhua said. The city has a population of about 3.5 million.  

Hong Kong this week reported its first human bird flu infection for this season.  

The cases come as South Korea and Japan have ordered the killing of tens of millions of birds in the past month, fuelling fears of a regional spread.  Bird flu is most likely to strike in winter and spring.  

Farmers have in recent years increased cleaning, animal detention techniques and built roofs to cover hen pens to prevent infection from wild birds, among other steps, in an effort to stop the disease.  

The last major bird flu outbreak in mainland China three years ago killed 36 people and led to more than US$6 billion in losses for the agricultural sector.