China ordered local governments to collect tissue samples from birds at poultry markets nationwide in the hunt for the cause of an outbreak of H7N9 avian flu that’s killed seven people.
Markets selling live poultry have until the end of the month to collect blood samples and swabs from the throat and cloaca, or posterior opening, from at least 30 birds each for testing of the virus, the Ministry of Agriculture said in a statement today. Poultry farms and slaughterhouses are also required to submit samples for testing, the ministry said.
China advised its citizens to avoid contact with live poultry, and pledged openness in divulging details of the H7N9 outbreak. At least 24 people across eastern China have been infected with the new strain, which health authorities say doesn’t appear to be spreading from human to human.
Samples must be collected from every market in provinces where infections have been confirmed, the agriculture ministry said today. In provinces neighboring regions where infections have been reported, samples must be collected from at least one market in every county or county-level city. Other provinces must collect samples from at least one market in every prefecture-level city, according to the ministry.
Birds found to carry the H7N9 virus will be slaughtered, the ministry said today.
The flu strain was first reported in a 87-year-old male in Shanghai on Feb. 19. The Chinese financial capital has been hit hardest, with 11 infections and five deaths. Municipal government data show 111,122 birds have been culled in the city as of April 7. The virus was detected in samples from pigeons at a local marketplace, the official Xinhua News Agency reported last week.
The cities of Shanghai, Nanjing and Hangzhou have ordered live poultry markets to close and have seized birds, according to reports in the state-run CCTV and Xinhua.
Shanghai residents have also been asked to report to health authorities if their neighbors are raising chickens or pigeons, the Shanghai Daily newspaper said today, citing an official from the city’s health hotline. Authorities will conduct inspections on those households to check for the virus and carry out disinfection work, according to the report.
Health authorities are still investigating how individual patients in China were infected by H7N9, and the WHO isn’t recommending travel or trade restrictions be applied at this stage, said Michael O’Leary, China representative of the Geneva- based United Nations health agency.
There has been no human-to-human transmission of H7N9, O’Leary said at a Beijing briefing yesterday.
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