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 for heavy financial losses.
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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, local 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 late on Wednesday.
The patient is being treated in hospital and is 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 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.
Bird flu is most likely to strike in winter and spring and farmers have in recent years increased cleaning regimes, 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 Lunar New Year celebrations at the end of January.
In 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, 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 $6.5 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.