Shanghai authorities have begun culling of birds in an agricultural products market as the death toll from the rare but deadly bird flu virus rose to six in China on Friday.
So far, China has confirmed 14 H7N9 cases - six in Shanghai, four in Jiangsu, three in Zhejiang and one in Anhui province.
These are the first known cases of human infections from this lesser-known strain of flu, reports said.
The latest reported death was that of a 52-year-old woman surnamed Yu who died at Huashan Hospital on Wednesday and was confirmed infected with the H7N9 strain on Thursday.
The financial hub of Shanghai has reported six infections till Friday and four among them have died.
Of the rest two, a 67-year-old woman was in critical condition and a four-year-old baby was recovering from mild illness, the Shanghai Municipal Health and Family Planning Commission.
State media quoted China's Ministry of Agriculture as saying that it found the H7N9 virus from pigeon samples collected at the Huhuai wholesale agricultural products market in Songjiang district of Shanghai.
“After gene sequence analysis, the national avian flu reference laboratory concluded that the strain of the H7N9 virus found on pigeons was highly congenetic (common genetic origin) with those found on persons infected with H7N9 virus,” the ministry said.
The Shanghai municipal agricultural commission said it had “ordered proper disposal of the culled birds, their excrements and contaminated food as well as disinfection of the market and vehicles that carried them and other things that have contacts with them”.
It had also ordered the closure of the live poultry trading areas of two markets in Minhang district after samples there were found with H7 bird flu virus.
State-controlled news agency Xinhua reported that a person who had close contact with a dead H7N9 bird flu patient in Shanghai was quarantined after developing symptoms of fever, running nose and an itchy throat.
The report said that health authorities and hospitals in many Chinese provinces have been put on high alert for the virus.
“The health authorities in the southern Guangdong Province have set up an expert team headed by Zhong Nanshan, a renowned medical expert, to offer advices on epidemic control and prevention. Zhong, director of the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Diseases, is credited with helping to identify and then stem the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS),” it added.