One-third of live poultry markets in China's Guangzhou city infected with bird flu

Tourists catch roosters during an event to celebrate the Chinese New Year at a farm in Guangzhou on Jan 22, 2017.
Tourists catch roosters during an event to celebrate the Chinese New Year at a farm in Guangzhou on Jan 22, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Authorities in China's third-largest city warned that about 30 per cent of its live poultry markets were contaminated with the H7N9 avian flu virus, the China Daily reported on Saturday (Feb 11).

The newspaper said the disease control authority in Guangzhou, capital of the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, urged residents to avoid contact with live poultry after tests in the past week.

Guangzhou, a major port and transportation hub, last month said it would suspend the trade of live and slaughtered poultry for three-day periods through March to prevent the spread of avian flu to humans.

The latest warning will reinforce concerns about the spread of the virus as the death toll in China this winter hit 30 last week and neighbouring South Korea and Japan battle major outbreaks.

Chinese disease control experts have warned the public to stay alert for H7N9 avian flu, with more than 100 cases of human infections reported over the last 2-1/2 months.

In December alone, China had 106 cases of human infections, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission.

The virus is likely to strike in winter and spring, and farmers have in recent years ramped up measures such as cleaning regimes to prevent the disease.

China has confirmed five bird flu outbreaks among poultry this winter, which has led to the culling of more than 175,000 birds.

Many major cities in the world's third-largest producer of broiler chickens and the second-biggest consumer of poultry have also closed some live poultry markets after people and chickens were infected by avian flu strains.

Widespread infection can lead to severe health risks and big financial losses. The last major outbreak in China was in 2013, killing 36 people and causing more than US$6 billion (S$8.5 billion) in losses for the agricultural sector.